Organizational Power Politics: Tactics in Organizational Leadership

By Gilbert W. Fairholm | Go to book overview

6
Tactics Used with Superiors

Conventional wisdom leads us to believe that power is directed downward. The fact is that it flows in both directions. Some of the most important of our power relationships are those we have with our superiors. These relationships often constitute critical relations in the sense that success here determines our overall success in the group. They define much of what conventional wisdom calls office (organizational) politics.

These superior-directed contacts constitute some of the critical contingencies in our overall association with the organization ( Pfeffer, 1992). Our power behaviors toward superiors are central to attainment of our formal agendas. Indications are that our uses of power in these situations are somewhat less specific, less direct, and less overt than are the tactics we use toward other organizational targets ( Porter, Allen, and Angle, 1981). Nevertheless, this poweruse strategy constitutes a critical element of organizational politics.

Porter, Allen, and Angle ( 1981) suggest that while every relationship between subordinates and superiors may not be power-related, the probability is that most are ( Bacherach and Lawler, 1986). Obviously, normal downward-directed relationships between superiors and subordinates are power-tinged. Issuing orders, giving instructions, evaluating the work of subordinates all have power aspects. These uses of power are understandable to most. But power is, or can be seen, in most reverse relationships. That is, power is a part of the relationships from subordinates upward as well as from superiors downward. Both participants in this kind of relationship have and use power routinely ( Mechanic, 1962).

How much power use is implicit in normal business relationships with superiors? Any attempt to secure a favorable decision from a superior is a potential

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