Organizational Power Politics: Tactics in Organizational Leadership

By Gilbert W. Fairholm | Go to book overview

4
Power-Use Tactics: Application of Power on the Job

Power has little direct utility as an abstract concept. We think about power only in terms of its use in specific relationships and in specific politically charged situations. It is a concrete, not an abstract, phenomenon. Yet this tactical aspect of analysis has received little attention. Some recent work seeks to begin this tactical phase of analysis. To date it is spotty and suffers from lack of a specific language of power.

On balance working, tactical power use may be the most fruitful line of inquiry into power use and theory building. It also holds promise of illuminating many of the quandaries of organizational life and its development toward organizational health. It also has the potential to legitimize organizational politics as an additional tool all organization members can use openly. The power process involves a collaborative relationship between an individual and a target. Power users enjoy differing styles, philosophies, and approaches. In general, however, they perform a discrete set of functions toward the target. These functions include intervening in the relationship to promote desired action by the target. That is, they promote change from the current level to some ideal or desired level of action.

A study of specific tactics used today points to a wide range of power tactics operating in our groups and organizations. (See the Appendix.) Using survey techniques coupled with interview and observational data, the author surveyed a variety of individuals in several types of organization. The focus was to explore the kinds of operational (tactical) behavior they engaged in routinely on the job.

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