If Politics Is a Game, Then What Are the Rulesh?: Three Suggestions for Ethical Management
Russell Cropanzano Alicia A. Grandey Colorado State University
The word politics conjures up negative images of favoritism, lies, old boy networks, and exploitation. As is seen here, these images are not entirely wrong; politics is often extremely painful and destructive. On the other hand, politics can challenge the status quo, provoke new ideas, and allow business firms to prosper. Political behavior seems to have strong detractors and equally strong proponents. The only thing that all observers agree on is that there is no escaping it.
In noting this, our objective is not to provide another scholarly description, as some excellent ones already exist (see especially Bacharach & Lawler, 1980; Mintzberg, 1983; Pfeffer, 1981, 1992). Nor do we intend to lament or celebrate the existence of politics. Rather, the question that occupies us here is a practical one: How can a well-intentioned manager behave ethically in an environment that is virtually defined by self-serving social maneuvering? If politics is systemic to organizational life, can ethics also be? To answer this question more fully, we first investigate the concept of organizational politics. Having done that, we then offer three sets of guidelines to help managers navigate this problem. The first involves rules-oriented formalist ethical systems. The second involves outcome-oriented ethical systems. The third involves applying three sets of ethical standards simultaneously.
There is more agreement on the ubiquity of organizational politics than there is on its definition. Most generally, organizational politics is a means