Internal Politics in Public Administration Systems : An Empirical Examination of Its Relationship with Job Congruence, Organizational Citizenship Behavior, and In-Role Performance
Vigoda, Eran, Public Personnel Management
Politics is one of the most common yet least studied phenomena in organizations. This study examines employees' perceptions of organizational politics in the public sector and suggests that it mediates the relationship between job congruence (e.g., person-organization fit and level of met-expectations) and employee performance (e.g., organizational citizenship behavior [OCB] and in-role performance). A survey was conducted among 303 individuals in public personnel from two local municipalities in the north of Israel (first survey). Supervisors completed an assessment of employees' OCB and in-role performance six months later (second survey). Path analysis using LISREL VIII was implemented to evaluate two alternative models, direct and indirect. Findings of the study show that the indirect model fits the data better than the direct model, and therefore supports a mediating effect of perceptions of organizational politics scale (POPS) on the relationship between job congruence and employee performance. Structural coefficients among the research variables promote the theory on the affect of job congruence and POPS on OCB and in-role behavior. The findings contribute both to the understanding of antecedents of POPS as well as to the exploration of some of its consequences. The paper concludes with several implications and suggestions for further inquiry into politics in public administration systems.
During the last two decades the concept of Organizational Politics (OP) has received increased attention in management literature. This attention relied partly on the expectation of finding new answers to some old questions, such as what (dis)motivates individuals at work and how can we better explain variations in employees' behavior and productivity? As a result, studies became particularly interested in the potential relationship between workplace politics and individuals' performances. The primary goal of these attempts was to examine whether internal politics plays a significant role in setting organizational outcomes, and if so, what are the nature and characteristics of this relationship.
Politics and political behavior in organizations seemed a promising field for theoretical inquiry, not only because of their practical implications, but for some other reasons as well. First, modern societies searched for better efficiency and effectiveness in organizations in order to successfully respond to the increasing demands of their citizens. Scholars were urged to provide new explanations of and remedies for the decline in organizational outcomes in both the business and the public sector. Internal politics and power relations between organizational members appeared to account at least for some of these problems.
Second, politics represented a creative approach to the understanding of organizational dynamics, which for many years had been particularly overlooked. Many scholars agreed that politics was a common phenomenon in every organization,[1-8] yet few comprehensive attempts were made to fully understand it. Studies were preoccupied with other, mainly formal, aspects of workplace activities and preferred categorizing the political arena as a less significant dimension of the organizational nature. Consequently, the field was much understudied until the 1970s and 1980s.
Third, this approach was interdisciplinary, and employed classic terminology rooted in conventional political science and sociological theory. The common perception was that politics in the workplace was a necessary evil that no individual or society could avoid, but it was no different from many other difficulties that had to be borne. Therefore, management literature consistently considered politics, power, and influence relations among stakeholders as illegitimate, informal, and dysfunctional, as against authority and formal organizational design, which were described as apolitical and functional. Scholars like Block stated bluntly that "politics (in organizations) is basically a negative process. If I told you you were a very political person, you would take it either as an insult or at best as a mixed blessing." OP was presumed to describe a dark and exceptional aspect of workplace activity.
With growing interest in workplace politics, some studies have suggested promoting a more empirical approach to the examination of its outcomes. However, only recently have a few scholars responded positively to this challenge, and most of them have focused on employees attitudes as the prime outcomes of OP.[12-14] As a result, scant empirical evidence exists today that can support the (possibly negative) effect of internal workplace politics on employees' outcomes, and especially on objective performance evaluations. The main goal of this study is to contribute to the development of theoretical thinking on OP, and more specifically to demonstrate the relationship between job congruence, perception of organizational politics, and two constructs of employees' reactions: In-role performances and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB).
The thesis developed here is that employees respond to the political climate of their work environment both formally and informally. Job congruence is expected to affect individuals' perception of politics, and both politics and congruence with the work sphere are presumed to have an influence on employee performance. Note that while the focus of this study is on public personnel management, much of the theory developed, as well as the findings and the conclusions, are also relevant to the private sector.
Theory, hypotheses, and models
OP is a complex phenomenon that appears to have no clear definition. Scholars have treated this slippery concept in many ways. They described it as ways to get ahead in an organization, as dynamic processes of influence that produce organizationally relevant outcomes beyond the simple performance of job tasks, or as the management of influence to obtain ends not sanctioned by the organization or to obtain sanctioned ends through none-sanctioned influence means.[15,16] Ferris, Fedor, Chachere and Pondy suggest that OP is a social influence process in which behavior is strategically designed to maximize short-term or long-term self-interests, which is either consistent with or at the expense of others' interests. Pfeffer defined OP as those activities carried out by people to acquire, enhance, and use power and other resources to obtain their preferred outcomes in a situation where there is uncertainty or disagreement. This perception is much in line with Mintzberg who argued that politics refer to "individual or group behavior that is informal, ostensibly parochial, typically divisive, and above all, technically illegitimate--sanctioned neither by formal authority, accepted ideology, nor certified expertise." Most of these definitions correlate OP with personal struggles, conflicts, influential activities, and, most importantly, inequity and unfairness, which result from the strong ambitions or aspirations of those who hold power in the workplace.
Perception of organizational politics
A variety of perspectives and methods were advanced to understand politics in organizations.[20-29] One of the most common approaches is relatively new and began to flourish at the end of the 1980s. Progress was made with the works of Ferris, Kacmar, and their colleagues, who focused on employees' subjective perception of organizational politics rather than on political behavior or influence tactics per se. Concentration on perception of politics instead of actual political behavior appeared to stem from the fact that the former is more easily defined, explained, and empirically measured. However, perception reflects individuals' opinions of the social-political atmosphere of a work unit, and as such it can be categorized as an indirect measure of OP. Not surprisingly, this variable faced some criticism regarding its ability to represent the entire political environment in organizations. Nevertheless, a consensus exists that it embodies an important dimension of the intraorganizational climate created by power struggles and influence tactics of all organizational members.
As was suggested by Ferris, Kacmar, and their colleagues, perception of organizational politics represents the degree to which respondents view their work environment as political in nature (promoting the self-interests of others), hence, unjust and unfair from the individual point of view.[31,32] This approach is rooted in Kurt Lewin's argument that people respond to their perception of reality, not to reality itself. Politics in organizations should similarly be understood in terms of what people think rather than what it actually represents. This idea yielded a scale for the measurement of political perception termed the "Perception of Organizational Politics Scale" (POPS). Different studies resulted in several versions of this scale.[34-36]
Several of these studies sought to examine the antecedents of POPS and argued the existence of three groups of influences.[37,38] The first group consisted of general personal influences like age, sex, and self monitoring. The second group was termed organization influences and included variables like centralization, formalization, hierarchical level, and span of control. The third group of antecedents, named job/work environment influences, was based on variables such as job autonomy, job variety, feedback, advancement opportunity, and interaction with others. Most studies accepted this theoretical framework and showed its usefulness for the understanding of workplace politics. However, few tried to elaborate on other factors that may be important in that regard. This should be noted, since the ratio of explained variance in most of these studies was moderate and ranged around 0.30-0.41.[39,40] Therefore, some further efforts in pointing out other predictors of political perceptions may contribute to our knowledge of this intriguing manifestation.
Relying on the above, the present study suggests taking a step forward and examining the effect of job congruence on perception of organizational politics and employee performance. Studies have mentioned job congruence as an important determinant of employees' productivity and performance. For example job congruence was found to be related to job stability/persistence and to performance evaluations in 774 employees in Israel. Other studies also mentioned the importance of job congruence, organizational climate, and general culture as crucial factors that may facilitate employees coping abilities in a new work environment and during the initial integration stages in organizations. Additional studies suggested that newcomers are aware of the ongoing politics within the organization but must go through a learning process of gaining the acceptance of others. Job congruence can help them to successfully cope during this period and adapt to the political environment.[43,44] Therefore, it is only natural to try to relate job congruence to organizational politics, which represents a meaningful domain of workplace atmosphere.
Job congruence and organizational politics
Job congruence generally refers to the basic compatibility of an employee with his/her workplace and specific job. It also reflects a level of fulfilled aspirations and expectations of the work environment in its broad sense. This study treats job congruence as being comprised of two constructs: employees' level of met expectations (ME) and person-organization fit (POF). These are two well established factors reflecting the adaptability of an individual to his/her work surroundings. Studies defined ME as the discrepancy between what a person encounters on the job in the way of positive and negative experiences and what he/she expected to encounter. Bretz and Judge (1994) defined POF as the degree to which individuals (skills, needs, values, and personality) match job …
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Publication information: Article title: Internal Politics in Public Administration Systems : An Empirical Examination of Its Relationship with Job Congruence, Organizational Citizenship Behavior, and In-Role Performance. Contributors: Vigoda, Eran - Author. Journal title: Public Personnel Management. Volume: 29. Issue: 2 Publication date: Summer 2000. Page number: 186. © 2009 International Personnel Management Association. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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