Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Sanctioned versus Non-Sanctioned Political Tactics

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Sanctioned versus Non-Sanctioned Political Tactics

Article excerpt

Organizations are becoming increasingly political entities and the field of political behavior is vastly recognized as important in the everyday life of organizational members. In general, the competitive nature of business today has made the use of politics more prevalent. Several reasons for this tendency can be drawn from a broad framework developed by Pfeffer (Pfeffer, 1981; Pfeffer 1992a) in which interdependence, heterogeneous goals and beliefs, scarcity and distribution of power increase the use of politics in organizations. For example, the trend toward flat organizations with fewer hierarchical levels results in fewer opportunities for vertical advancement. Likewise, downsizing underscores for people the risk of losing one's position. Also, in today's organizations, the traditional authority structure has been weakening. As a result, the use of political behaviors has become more prevalent. For example, in a typical matrix structure, coordination and balance between product and function is achieved m ainly by political means and negotiation. Therefore, the relevance of understanding political tactics is critical in helping people work together more fluidly and effectively. Given the trends toward flatter organizations, downsizing, teamwork, and the elimination of hierarchical lines, knowing more about the ways people use political tactics will help organizations function more effectively, recognizing and reducing dysfunctional political tactics.

The purpose of this study is to take a preliminary step in understanding the differences in the positive and negative aspects of politics at work, providing insights into the various ways that people use and perceive political tactics. Thus, this study considers both sanctioned and non-sanctioned political tactics in two ways: people's frequency of use of political tactics and their perceptions of the tactics' social desirability. In this article, we first review the literature on organizational politics, considering the various ways that politics at work has been defined. Next, we specifically consider political tactics, offering hypotheses on categories of political tactics, people's perceptions of the social desirability of political tactics, and differences in people's frequency of use compared with their perceptions of the social desirability of political tactics. Using data collected from MBA students, we next present results of exploratory analyses that consider respondents' reported frequency of use v ersus perceptions of the social desirability of both sanctioned and non-sanctioned political tactics. Finally, we discuss our results, suggesting implications for researchers and practitioners alike, as well as recommending several directions for future research on political tactics.

Literature Review and Definitions of Organizational Politics

Researchers agree that political behavior is a normal part of doing business (Ferris et al., 1996; Ferris and Kacmar, 1992; Williams and Dutton, 2000). Nonetheless, researchers also agree that this concept has received insufficient attention in the organizational literature (Drory and Romm, 1990; Ferris et al., 1996; Ferris and Kacmar, 1992; Gandz and Murray, 1980). In addition, there is no common basic definition that captures the entire complexity of organizational politics (Drory and Romm, 1990). While consensus has not yet been achieved in defining organizational politics, there are two primary definitions that capture much of the research in this area (Cropanzano et al., 1997). One perspective is a general one that defines politics as a very broad and general set of social behaviors that can contribute to the basic functioning of the organization (Pfeffer, 1981). In this view, politics can be either functional or dysfunctional.

The second more common view of politics among researchers is a more narrow and specific one (Cropanzano et al., 1997). This definition of politics focuses on behaviors that are self-serving and not sanctioned by the organization (Farrell and Petersen, 1982; Ferris et al. …

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