Internal Politics in Public Administration Systems : An Empirical Examination of Its Relationship with Job Congruence, Organizational Citizenship Behavior, and In-Role Performance

Article excerpt

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.[9] Scholars like Block stated bluntly that "politics (in organizations) is basically a negative process. …

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