Academic journal article Management Revue

Micro-Political Games in the Multinational Corporation: The Case of Mandate Change**

Academic journal article Management Revue

Micro-Political Games in the Multinational Corporation: The Case of Mandate Change**

Article excerpt

Micro-political conflicts associated with corporate internationalization have been neglected by and large in the literature so far. Despite early consideration by the behavioral theory of internationalization, the specific strength of a micro-political approach, i.e. combining actors' idiosyncratic action with structural and institutional constraints, remained more or less unused in studies on corporate internationalization. Screening the relevant literature, discussing the strengths of micro-political approaches and proposing mandate changes in multinational corporations as an particularly interesting empirical field, the paper also outlines for some directions for further research into the micro-politics of multinational corporations.

Key words: multinational corporations, micro-political processes, game playing, mandate changes

1. Introduction

Like all other forms of politics, micro-politics is an attempt to exert a formative influence on social structures and human relations. The aim of micro-politics is to secure options, to realize interests, and to achieve success through efforts that are often but not exclusively motivated by personal interests or individual career plans. Micropolitical conflicts are thus everyday occurrences at large companies, which multinational corporations (MNCs) usually are. However, already the question of which actors are involved in micro-political conflicts in multinational corporations is still largely unclear. In the early 1960s, J.G. March devised a general list of relevant political actors in firms including investors, investment analysts, suppliers, customers, governmental agents, employees, trade associations, political parties and labour unions (March 1962: 672£). Taking the perspective of a large and differentiated multinational corporation this list would seem to be an oversimplification which, in particular, does not do justice to management, with its different hierarchical, functional and organizational backgrounds, not to mention its national and cultural ties that are especially important here.

The large number of potential micro-political actors in multinational corporations as well as their heterogeneity indicates for one the specific significance of coalitions. According to March (ibid), negotiations between political coalitions determine the composition and goals of an organization. For two, the heterogeneity of the actors involved in the political processes at a business firm illustrates that micro-politics can have very different thematic reference points and ranges. Micro-politics can affect a multinational corporation as a whole, for example, when global business strategy is their concern. However, this can also apply to medium-range issues, e.g., when actors disagree on which subsidiaries and/or countries should be up- or downgraded. Finally, micro-political conflicts can also occur at the department level of any unit of a multinational corporation, e.g. about the development and maintenance of external relations with key stakeholders.

Following Tom Burns (1961/1962), who is credited as being the person who coined the sociological term micro-politics, micro-political processes create and change organizational structures. Thus, reorganization processes in private enterprises and public institutions used to be the focus of attention of earlier empirical studies of organizational micro-politics. However, the individual reorganization fields studied varied significantly. In addition to the question of technology diffusion, HRM issues as well as questions relating to strategic business planning, quality management and ecological management have been investigated. However, micro-political conflicts associated with corporate internationalization have been neglected by and large so far (Bélanger/Edwards 2006). To start addressing this gap is the main purpose of this paper. The paper thereby first provides a short discussion of relevant strands of literature, encompassing the behavioral theory of internationalization, neo -institutional approaches dealing with corporate internationalization as well as the literature on conflict management in multinational corporations (section 2). …

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