Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Patterns Of Political Behavior In Organizations Business Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Business
Wordcount: 5485 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

Reference this

Organizational politics is one of the main areas of concerned to scholars in organizational political scenario. Many studies (Bacharach & Lawler, 1980; Gandz & Murray, 1980; Mayes & Allen, 1977; Pfeffer, 1978, 1981; Tushman, 1977) have attempted to remedy the neglect of power and politics that scholars such as Mowday (1978) and Madison, Allen, Porter, Renwick, & Mayes (1980) have seen as characteristic of the organizational literature. Despite the increase in consideration of politics, still some factors of political phenomena, continue to be overlooked in the organizational literature.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

This study bickers for the theoretical importance of individual political behavior while proposing three key dimensions of political behavior, and proposes a typology based on these dimensions. Moreover, some variables useful for predicting the form of individual political acts are also proposed.

Conceptual Model

For purposes of understanding organizational political behavior, Farrell and Peterson (1982) proposed a three-dimensional typology. The dimensions are:

where the political activity takes place — inside or outside the organization,

the direction of the attempted influence — vertically or laterally in the organization, and

The legitimacy of the political action.



Whistle blowing


Leaking information


Exchange of favors



Symbolic protest



By- passing the chain of command

Complaining to a supervisor

Mentor- protege activities


Exchange of favors

Coalition formation



Activities generally accepted in an organizational context



Literature Review

Literature on organizational power and politics may be considered as a new area of politics in organizations. Issues related to inter-organizational power and politics were main areas of concerned to writers such as Weber and Michels (Farrell & Peterson, 1982)

After the development of scientific management, attention has been diverted to motivation and productivity. But very rarely organizational scholars returned to the perspectives of power and politics- e.g. March (1962) and Mechanic (1962)-until the resurgence of such literature in the late 1970s.

Many studies are largely descriptive rather than based on theoretical ground. Sometimes, it is suspected that among the factors behind the revival of interest in organizational power and politics is the penetration of organizations by employees socialized into politics during the pro- tests of the 1960s. Further, political behavior in organizations recently has been highlighted against a societal background of decreasing trust in authority and by an increase in journalistic revelations of wrongdoing (Farrell & Peterson, 1982).

scholarly literature show an increase in Marxist and conflict theories of organizations (e.g. special issue of Socio- logical Quarterly, Winter, 1977). Pfeffer, observed that the dominant managerial perspective within organizational studies has neglected “one of the most important issues and activities that conflict in preferences among organizational participants and the resulting contest over the organization” (1978, p. 29). Moreover, various attacks e.g. March and Olsen (1976) and Weick (1979)-on the goal approach and the general rational model of organizations may have made political models of organizations seem more relevant (Farrell & Peterson, 1982)

The interest in organizational politics and organizational power is comprised on several different work types. First, many authors, (Butler, Hickson, Wilson, & Axelson, 1977-78; Mayes & Allen, 1977; Tushman, 1977) have supported that organizations be viewed as political arenas or have provided a conceptual framework to permit such an approach.

These calls for political analysis of organizations are an essential starting point. Dachler and Wilpert (1978), although not explicitly concerned with politics, provided a conceptual framework for participation in organizations. The implications of participation for democratization and the diffusion of decision making suggest that this might also be seen as a call for political analysis. Second, the theme of power in organizations is receiving substantial attention. Although organizational theorists generally have treated power as distinct from organizational politics, the two concepts are linked theoretically and empirically to each other.

Madison et al. study suggested among their sample of managers “the successful practice of organizational politics is perceived to lead to a higher level of power, and once a high level of power is attained, there is more opportunity to engage in political behavior” (1980, p. 94). Whereas, contemporary writers, in returning to the Weberian interests of power and authority, focused on bases of power (Salancik & Pfeffer, 1974), loci of power (Madison et al., 1980), influence processes (Mowday, 1978), and the measurement of power.

Power can be explained by linking it to environmental uncertainty and resource control. But we focused only on either the upward or downward flow of power. The organizational literature on power would benefit from Gamson’s (1968) widely acclaimed synthesis of the social control and influence literatures. Incorporating Gamson’s work would ensure that future discussions of power would be more comprehensive and would permit greater integration of structure, authority, power, and politics.

Although, studies of political behavior are quite few. There are, however, studies of attribu- tions of politicization and perceived organizational politics (Gandz & Murray, 1980; Madison et al., 1980). Some studies also focused on group behavior, especially inter organizational power relations e.g. Salancik and Pfeffer (1974)-and coalitions e.g. Bacharach and Lawler (1980).

Work on political behavior by individuals is scarce although recent research on the filing of grievances (Dalton & Todor, 1979; Muchinsky & Maassarani, 1980) provides a good example. The relative neglect of individual political behavior in the current wave of interest in organizational research seems strange (Farrell & Peterson, 1982).

American values emphsis more on individualism and as a result heavy stress on individual behavior is natural. Also, a lot of studies on organizational politics (Burns, 1962; Mechanic, 1962; Strauss, 1963) considered political actions by individual members of organizations.

But, this area has been neglected and did not receive enough consideration. It is also acknowledged that this neglect of individual political behavior has three main basis: (1) failure to make a distinction between required job behavior / attitude from political behavior (2) unable to distinguish calculated from accidental political behavior, and (3) failure to distinguish clearly between macro and micro analysis’ levels (Farrell & Peterson, 1982).

Political behavior may be defined as facilitating the “non- rational influence on decision making” (Miles, 1980, p. 154) and existing as a “backstage” doings (Burns, 1962, p. 260). On the other hand, definitions of organizational politics focuses on the exercise of power (Miles, 1980), the manipulation of influence (Madison et al., 1980), or the mobilization of resources in competition (Burns, 1962) do not make a clear distinction in political behaviors from those actions required while filling organizational positions.

Farrell & Peterson (1982) in their study are agree with Mayes and Allen that “a suitable definition of organization politics must allow exclusion of routine job performance from consideration” (1977, p. 674). Porter, Allen and Angle (1981) also eliminated behaviors which are required or likely to occur, from their discussion of organizational politics, while treating political behavior as discretionary. They also believe that political behavior exist in informal structures and commune to the promotion of their own and group motives then being a part of formal rules and regulations which are regulated by organizational values and objectives.

Moreover, analysis of political behaviors in organizations should focus on desired or overt actions by members while keeping in mind that unintended actions or even personal idiosyncracies may have political effects (Farrell & Peterson, 1982).

Individual Political Behavior

Sometimes people show political behaviour to achieve their objectives, which they may not be able to achieve otherwise, other than this, they may indulge themselves in political behaviour to gain favours / benefits even at the cost of group benefits. They talk about different persons having power in the organizations, for gaining some benefits indirectly on the basis of inter organizational political behaviour. In addition to this, existing analyses of organizational politics may smudge the difference among different units of analysis by having discussions about the individuals’ power, units, and inter organizational political networks in the same phase. In their discussion, they may mix both macro and micro levels of analysis at the initial phase of dialogue, but sometimes, it is very difficult to assess the similarities or differences at each level of their discussion and any relation between them (Farrell & Peterson, 1982).

It also looks suitable that the term political behavior should be put to one side for political actions of individual member of the organization (Farrell & Peterson, 1982). Froman (1962) defined Political behavior in organizations “as those activities that are not required as part of one’s organizational role but that influence, or attempt to influence, the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within the organization”. This definition also highlights that individual political behavior in general may be enough to encompass different examples of organizational politics as whistleblowing, filing of grievances, using symbolic protest gestures, spreading rumors, leaking information to the media, disseminating ill news to keep someone under pressure and then ultimately gaining their interests, and at extreme filing lawsuits (Farrell & Peterson, 1982).

Although organizational members widely acknowledged that political behaviour does exist in organizations, but efforts made to integrate them with organizational theory are not enough (Farrell & Peterson, 1982).

It has also been widely acknowledged by Political scientists and sociologists that one of the most principal political acts is the “personalized contact” (Verba, Nie, & Kim, 1971) whether it is for any social gain or any an individualized desired outcome.

Hirschman (1970) in his study referred to this type of interest enunciation as “voice” and confirmed that it could be applied with alike benefit in different social groups settings.

Kolarska and Aldrich (1980) also redefined this “voice” by making a clear differentiation between indirect and direct “voice”. He referred direct voice to ” appeals to authorities within the focal organization” and indirect voice refers “to appeals to outside authorities or agents”.

Voting in many cases is necessary part of organizations’ smooth functioning (Farrell & Peterson, 1982). Zaleznik (1970) squabbles that sometimes the flow of funds and subordinate eagerness for management’s projects may comprise referenda. Moreover, in many organizations the procedure of selecting top management and business control authority can be similar to each other under certain conditions (Lipset, Trow, & Coleman, 1956).

In individual political behaviour, whenever persons failed to achieved their objectives, as problems and issues arise with internal procedures, then proxy fights and meeting room showdowns starts, then it recalls the organizational counterparts ethical concerned committees to its investigations and proper reporting (Lipset, Trow, & Coleman, 1956).

Similarly, alike behavioral group can always add further values to existing theoretical grounds. Patterns of Political Behavior

Given the diversity in political behavior in inter-organizational relationships, it looks before time a point of presenting a proposed set of dimensions related to political behavior (Farrell & Peterson, 1982).

For purposes of understanding organizational political behavior, Farrell and Peterson (1982) proposed a three-dimensional typology. The dimensions are:

where the political activity takes place — inside or outside the organization,

the direction of the attempted influence — vertically or laterally in the organization, and

The legitimacy of the political action.

These dimensions represents tactical choices which are made by organizational members in seeking resources or mobilizing, existing / in hand resources to effect the sharing of advantages and disadvantages in inter organizational settings.



Whistle blowing


Leaking information


Exchange of favors



Symbolic protest

The internal-external dimension of political behavior is concerned with the focus of resources sought by those engaging in political behavior in organizations (Farrell & Peterson, 1982). In cases, such as whistle blowing, lawsuits, leaking information to the media, or forming alliances with persons outside the focal organization, organization members attempt to expand the resources available for mobilization by going outside the boundaries of the organization and attempting to involve “outsiders.”

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

Internal political behaviors, on the other hand, utilize resources which are already within the organization, as in the exchange of favors, trading agreements, reprisals, obstructionism, symbolic protest gestures, “touch- ing bases,” forming alliances with other organization members and, in coercive organizations, riots and mutinies (Farrell & Peterson, 1982).

It also seems possible that organizational members may grow from internal to external ac- tivities as they tend to deem that only possibility to gain success is if resources outside the organization can be mobilized.

Kolarska & Aldrich in their study reported that appeals to interest groups (indirect voice) outside the organization, could be resorted to due to many factors: People may use indirect voice when they feel that direct vice has failed and they are afraid of utilizing direct voice, sometimes may be due to not believing in the effectiveness or efficiency of using direct voice and finally when they do not know the appropriate way of using direct voice (1980, p. 44).

Weinstein observed that whistle blowing may be defined as “attempts to change a bureaucracy by those who work within the organization but do not have any authority” (1979, p. 2). Hierarchy in authority always play a leading role in most organizations and the proposed vertical-lateral dimension of political behavior identify the distinction between influence processes relating superiors to subordinates and those relating equals, and related political activities as complaining to a supervisor / management , bypassing the chain of command / authority, apple polishing and mentor protege activities all can be best portrayed as vertical political behavior ( Farrell & Peterson, 1980).

Mechanic’s (1962) emphasis on power sources of participants related to lower organizational levels, points out that implicit trading agreements sometimes enhance relations between physicians and ward attendants in states where attendants mitigate the M.D.s lot of activities and duties in favour of increased power over patients.

political behaviors also received comparatively less organized consideration but would include exchange of favors, help, organization of alliance, and discussion with an occupational senior outside the organization (Farrell and Peterson, 1980).

Some examples are there in the leadership literature discussing lateral relations (Hunt & Osborn, 1981; Osborn & Hunt, 1974; Sayles, 1964). These “discussions” between a leader and other people near to his / her organizational level, beyond the scope of their chain of command, sometimes are very critical but frequently neglected.

It is often called the leadership ‘lateral relations,” conceivably, a relatively common term is “politics”.

Whatever the name it is called with, these discussions can fabricate discretion by making a more steady flow of diverse resources, thus lowering level of uncertainty and as a result increasing interdependency (Hunt & Osborn, 1980, p. 57).

Dalton’s (1959) classic study of managers clarified the significance of discretionary lateral political behaviors. Employees of the Milo Company were promptly socialized concerning the significance of Masonic and Yacht Club memberships (Farrell and Peterson, 1982). It is sometimes formal requirement for promotion of executives that they should have political abilities and skills other than having formal requirements because it “utilize and aid necessary cliques, and control dangerous ones” (Dalton, 1959, p. 181).

In discussing lateral relations among inbound agents of the organizations, Strauss, explained that “to some extent agents operate on the principle of ‘reward your friends, punish your enemies,’ and are involved in a network of ex- change of favors-and sometimes even reprisals” (1963, p. 174). Lateral political actions may transpire at almost every level of organizations even though it looks like that persons at lower organizational level, lack considerable resources, and may be motivated to augment their power and/or authority by adhering forces with seniors / management (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

It also seems that mostly, in large organizations, middle level management adopts vertical political behaviors. Subsequently, the final dimension i.e. legitimate-illegitimate, concedes that organizations, peculiarity are made between routine politics and tremendous political behavior that defy the “rules of the game” (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

although off the record and illicit, organizational politics is generally acknowledged as a actuality by organizational participants, particularly those who tend to believe that it is some sort of “playing hardball.”

Kolarska and Aldrich described in their study, for example, that research in Poland “uncovered the existence of a set of moral norms regulating in- terorganizational exchange. One norm concerned the impropriety of using forms of voice such as lawsuits, press leaks, and appeals to supervising organizations (indirect voice)” (1980, p. 52).

Sometimes norms, obviously change and develop overtime, and one would by a hair’s breadth look forward to be a young executive to respond to protest against work having fear of gray beguile and suited manager (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

In political behaviors which are generally acknowledged as legitimate would definitely include favors exchange, forming coalitions, and in quest of sponsors at top management levels (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

Similaryly, Less legitimate behaviors include whistleblowing, revolutionary coalitions, menaces, and even sabotage e.g. during the Vietnam War, a new illegitimate activity gained substantial publicity i.e. the killing of officers in military units or “fragging” (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

Typically, legitimate politics is likely to be betrothed in by upper level management of organizations and by also by those whose commitment is sturdily with the organization. Illegitimate political behavior is commonly defined as actions taken by alienated members and those who observe that they will loss less comparatively (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

A Typology of Political Behavior

A cross-tabulation of the three dimensions of political behavior (internal-external, vertical-

lateral, and legitimate-illegitimate) help to develop the multidimensional typology of political behavior in organizations. It produces an eight-celled matrix by cross classifying these dimensions.

Regardless of the transformed interest in organizational power, authority and politics, no other system appeared that could explained the diversity and interrelationships of these behaviors. The typology proposed by Mayes and Allen (1977) structured organizational politics related to routine job behaviors, but it was unable to deal with some particular political behaviors (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

Figure 1 is not comprehensive of all political actions taken in an organizations, but it include those structures of political behavior which received either scholarly and /or journalistic consideration (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

Other than this, these three dimensions are adequate to make the typology comprehensive with regard to all aspects of organizational political behavior (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

It is also argued that the four dimensions / types of political behavior included in the “legitimate” category comprise the majority of all organizational political activities.

Cell I behaviors include normal internal political behaviors which seems to be the most recurrent in organizations with hefty distinctions in benefits / rewards, and in organizations where sharing of decision making process is limited (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

obstructionism is generally a tactic used by those members who defy organizational policies through undue observance to rules and regulations (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

Sometimes employees / members in lower level of organizations oppose or stand against top management when they observed that their participation in policy making process is limited and these policies will ultimately affect them.

Lateral political behaviors, discussed in Cell II, are subject to increase under slack or not poorly managed control, provided that there is comparatively greater or equal positional power in non line-and-staff organizations (Cleland, 1967).

In external-vertical behaviors e.g. lawsuits or indirect voice (Cell III) commonly take place in areas where the legitimacy of conflict is established in sound way (Farrell and Peterson, 1982). But there is also a need of such social set ups where disputes clash in opinions or actions related to work environment can be resolved through peaceful discussion and mutual understanding .

By using occupational and informal relations or liaison with outside the organization (Cell IV), members of the organizations commonly put on access to information, power sharing, personal information and other resources (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

Sometimes maintaining liaison, although looks unnecessary , play key role in gaining legitimate rights that otherwise cannot be achieved in a smooth and timely manner.

Illegitimate actions in whatever capacity and nature of , can be a real threat in terms of loss of membership or even severe sanctions (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

Mutinies and riots are examples related to vertical-internal illegitimate behavior (Cell V). Frequently, in organizations, members get them indulge in some sort of symbolic protests to get them realized by top management or to get them fulfilled their demands. Even in certain cases anarchic dress, button wearing, and “blue flu” can be diminutive appearances of organizational upheaval (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

A variety of illegitimate behavior that, on the contrary, has acquired a lot of journalistic attention is whistleblowing (Cell VII). It has alos been called as “internal muckraking” (Peters & Branch, 1972), occurs when members of the organizations go public and disseminate to the media, details of organizational delinquency, misbehavior, neglect or unreliability which make vulnerable interest of peoples associated with it.

Organizational defections (Cell VIII) arise when executives / member(s) of top management either move to a competitor or start their own business, thus ditching loyalty to the parent business (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

In situations of organizational dishonesty or deceit, still, there is problem of dual membership and unpredictable or unreliable loyalties e.g. a devoted journalist who get into “bunny ears” to write a first-rate story (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

Expected types of Political Behavior

A handsome empirical studies for predicting the process through which individuals decide on the sort of political behavior they engage themselves in have not been conducted. An exchange framework, which allows certain predictable scenarios about such choices (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

Usually an exchange approach is generally appropriate for studying of political behavior as this theory put great emphasis on the person-organization association and it also emphasis on the distribution of limited resources. These four basis allow to illustrate, from the viewpoint of organizational performer, the milieu of the political swap (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).


In investments, all those wherewithal, efforts and resources are include which are committed by organizational members, to create and /or enhance strategic relationship with this hope that this relation will be a source of increase in future gain (Farrell & Rusbult, 1981).

Generally, workers become invested in a business as they get hands on non-portable training, experience, friendship, and seniority, these “side-bets” as Becker (1960) describes, dwindle in an individual’s tendency to quit a firm by escalating the cost associated with exit. It is believed that investments also reduce the chances of organizational member in illegitimate political behavior since such behavior keeps the investments at menace and there also exist anticipations of better results in the times to come (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

On the other hand, those with comparatively stumpy investments, lose less by illegitimate political behavior. In certain circumstances investments can be encouraged. Kolarska and Aldrich e.g. described the deeds of authorities who tried “to socialize the dissidents in- to the special organizational knowledge of the inner professional circle” (1980, p. 51).

Investments also have the power of influencing the political behaviour of individual and firms as a whole as well. Vertical behavioral actions may be amplified i.e. Mechanic (1962) points out that as investments in specialized skills, fields and knowledge make dependence; so, in this way top level members’ power to technical staff is lessened. The probability of internal or external political behavior may be formed by the levels of investments, i.e. nature of political behaviour may vary with the level of investments (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

It also considerable that whenever levels of investment are high and handy in occupations or called by Thompson (1967) as “late-ceiling” occupations, where employees look for benefits by going outside the firms. In early-ceiling professions, individuals “seek leverage in the negotia- tion process through collective action” (Thompson, 1967, p. 113).


Alternatives are those opportunities, which may be availed if first options are otherwise not fulfilled. But the quality of an individual’s alternatives is enhanced, when there are some suitable and favourable labor market, the individual has obtained skills or knowledge in the demanding field, and when the individual puts much efforts in searching for alternatives. In certain organizations, either, alternatives do not exist or may be very limited. Employees, of company situated at remote place, may be imprisoned of their employers. (Farrell and Peterson, 1982). In a nutshell, members of the organizations will not leave it, if alternatives are poor, but this tendency thus evokes the chances of internal protest / strikes.

Hirschman discussed that “the voice option is the only way in which dissatisfied customers or members can react whenever the exit option is unavailable” (1970, p. 33).

Sometimes alternatives are there, which remain unnoticed, because subjective perceptions play a vital role, whenever there is unavailability of objective data. Another perceptual alteration takes places when alternatives are few: “a lack of alternatives raises people’s perceived investments in an organization and increases the potential payoff of voice” (Kolarska & Aldrich, 1980, p. 53).

As a lot of studies describe that when different opportunities are available, and each opportunity has different set of benefits or rewards, then individual member may exchange corporate membership for the risks and defy of independent entrepreneurship (Perrucci, Anderson, Schen- del, & Trachtman, 1980; Wright, 1980).

only a number of journalistic and legal studies reported the cases where individuals in business firms and government agencies , regarded the public interest as overriding the firm’s interest, they provided their services and decided to “blow the whistle” to notify public or legal authorities that their firms was involved in corruption, socially harmful actions, or illegal activities (Farrell and Peterson, 1982).

While there were inimitable aspects in each case, the whistle-blowers seem to have had in general a strong sagacity of professional standards, an elevated level of personal self-esteem, and social guidance or support from a his / her social circle, which enabled them to overcome both slightly pressures from concerned firms to remain “team players” and obvious challenges of blacklisting, social ostracism, and dismissal (Janis & Mann, 1977, p. 273).


Trust may be defined as the apparent inevitability to influence (Gamson, 1968). In organizational context, when the lower level members hold high echelon of trust, they tend to believe that upper level management’s actions will create favourable scenarios and required outcomes without taking any action by the lower level members.

On the other hand, those who have low level of trust, hold no hope for having required results (Farrell and Peterson, 1982). Concept of trust, well acknowledged in literature of society and the state (Gam- son, 1971; Miller, 1974), is also applicable to political behavior in organizational contexts.


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: