“Powers tend to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. ” – Lord Acton (1887) Introduction: Power is an integral invisible force which permeates throughout an organization. We can only feel the power and see the way other people react and behave when the power is used on them. The purpose of my essay is to show how Power and politics are played in my organization and how these are affecting the organization.
To drive home this point in my paper I intend to critically analyze the issue related to power and politics in the context of my experiences of working within the ABC Company. I shall undertake this analysis through drawing wide range of relevant theories and concepts related to power and politics. My organization ABC is a leading media company in Bangladesh. Its head office is in London but it is operating its activities independently in Bangladesh. The Country Director (CD) is the head of this company.
As he is not a technical person, so Head of the Production’s (HOP) decision is to count which program should go for broadcast or on air. Before going for broadcast all the programs are needed to be approved by London office. Identifying the source of power in ABC Media has its own power so senior managers in ABC are socially powerful and it is in their characteristics to control people. From the first day of my joining I noticed that the CD was a kind of ‘Machiavellian’ type of manager who would do only what would serve his interest (Machiavelli, 1961). I know that “Power in workplace is inevitable” (Pfeffer, 1992, p. 0), so I was just waiting to see in which form and way it would occur. Though as Head of Admin I was the one who was supposed to make the policies but my CD already instructed what should be in the policies. I found that ultimately he had kept all the powers in his hand so that he could manipulate. I found that the CD always maintained a good networking with the London office. This was his source of power. Every Head of the department also wanted to maintain good relationship with the CD because “power is also increased when a position encourages contact with high level people.
Access to powerful people and the development of the relationship with them provide a strong base of influence. ” (Daft, 2009, p. 513). The CD also used this technique and by making good relationship with the Head of Marketing made a ‘coterie’ to make his power base. CD also wanted to control Admin and Finance Departments. CD, it seemed, knew that “if one has to use political tactic to use power then one has to expand network not only with the higher manager but also with the additional managers” (Daft, 2007, p. 481- 482). Allegiance through Corruption: An incident
CD appointed Head of Marketing from minority community. As Head of Admin the CD should have consulted me before any such appointment, but he did not. I was hurt, but I thought it unwise to come in conflict with him. CD also skillfully recruited, bypassing me, local ethnic minority group in his company so that being downtrodden they would also support the CD as they thought that CD was the power for their survival. CD in turn gave the impression that for their allegiance and compliance he would give them promotion and other benefits as his image was high in the London office.
Here CD used ‘Reward Power’ as described by French & Raven (1958) where “the leader has access to valued rewards which will be dispensed in return for compliance with instructions. ” (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2007, p. 800). Thus the CD proved the maxim that “Power can not be used without there being other people who trust you. The ambitious need other people to help them to hold on their power. ” (Corrigen, 1999, p. 102-3). Marketing department did all the purchases for printing materials. A tender was floated for this. In collusion with the CD the Head of Marketing made a short list of suppliers.
Head of Marketing took spot quotations from suppliers for this job. He chose a particular firm for supply of goods by his choice. As Head of Admin I pointed this to the CD. The Head of Finance also objected to this deal, but the CD gave us the justification that that company’s materials were best so we had to take them overlooking the price. But the knowledgeable quarters in the ABC knew that a friend of the CD was the owner of that particular supply company. The quality of goods supplied by that company was also not good comparing with the price even.
I also suggested going for open tender but some how the Head of Marketing avoided the concept. I understood the underhand dealings, but since the CD was involved I could not do anything and kept mum. “There is always an attempt, however offhand, to legitimate the exercise of power, to provide a reason for it. ” (Jackson & Carter, 2007, p. 98). In this way the tenders of ABC were manipulated. The Head of Marketing derived monetary benefits and he was grateful to the CD for this and the CD got support and compliance from him in case of need. Here the Head of Marketing proved the maxim as Knights & Willmott (1999, p. 66) said that “if those over whom power is exercised are tempted by the material rewards offered or have considerable respect for the knowledge surrounding the exercise of power”. The Head of Marketing failed to realize that his collusion with the CD compromised his power and authority. CD, it appeared, took a leaf from Shakespeare’s play ‘Richard III’ wherein Corrigen (1999, p. 106) explained that “the effective leader ensures that trust has been established with crucial allies, but this is something Richard fails to do. His allies leave and he is left alone”.
Manifestation of corruption through power and influence In this ‘coterie’; CD used his power as described by Buchanan & Huczynski (2007) as ‘influencing pull’ where “effects can be obtained in such a way that those being affected are unaware, are not occasionally resentful, but more often are actually grateful. ” (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2007, p. 810). This would help the CD to ‘Control decision premises’ as said by Daft (2009) that “the control of information can also be a source of power. ” (Daft, 2009, p. 516). In the foregoing paragraph the Head of Marketing’s activities proved this concept.
The CD also wanted to control the Production department which he thought would give him an ultimate power. HOP on the other hand did not want it as she also wanted her own power. This situation created a tension between the HOP and the CD. The effect of the power used by the CD to the HOP was described by Buchanan & Huczynski (2007) as ‘power push’ where “ the effects can be produced in such a way that those upon whom the power is being exercised are both aware of it and may also be often resentful. ” (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2007, p. 808) Exercise of power: An individual characteristic
I believe that how people will use power will depend upon one’s characteristics. In this issue I agree with the writers like Pfeffer (1992) where he mentioned the concept of ‘power-as-property of individual’, where power is based on an ‘attribute and characteristics of the person’. Here “power is seen as being possessed by an individual who exercises it through a range of social and interpersonal skills. ” (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2007, p. 798). I do not completely agree with Daft’s (2009) view “people have authority because of the position they hold not because of personal characteristics or resources. (Daft, 2009, p. 516). In my organization the CD craved for ultimate power and showed it aggressively. CD also managed to “cultivate allies and supporters” as said by Buchanan & Huczynski (2007, p. 800) like the Head of Marketing. So, here CD used power as an ‘individual property’ as described by Pfeffer (1992). In ABC people who were using power and who were not could be seen easily. This proves my point. Political rivalry in ABC Competitions for control of power between Admin and Production departments created inter group conflicts. Pettigrew & McNulty (1995, p. 45) defines power as “the ability ‘to produce intended effects’ inline with one’s perceived interests. ” Both CD and HOP always tried to find out each other’s faults. “Consideration must be given to the actions and reactions of all the parties, not just those who emerge as most powerful. Powerful relationships need to be specified as regards the subject area or domain in which they apply. ” (Dawson, 1996, p. 170). Admin department had also jurisdiction over the administration of production department. The HOP devised a scheme to curtail the power of CD.
HOP suggested that there was budget constraint so a separate Admin department was not necessary and the Production department could take over the overall administration of ABC Company. The CD realized that if the scheme was implemented his position and power would diminish considerably and on the other hand the power and position of the HOP would increase significantly. Here power was used as a ‘property of relationship’ as described by French & Raven (1958) where power was to be found between a power holder and others. I realized that if HOP’s plan could succeed my position as Head of Admin would not be there.
So in this case I supported the CD whole heartedly. Thus, unwittingly, I entangled myself in the CD’s coterie. CD made a target to remove the HOP as she knew all the illegitimate actions of the CD and sometimes opposed him. CD always used his power to achieve the result as he wanted – “power is the available force or potential for achieving desired outcomes. ” (Daft, 2009, p. 510). No matter how good the program was and how the HOP wanted it to be on air, somehow the CD could convince the London office that it was not good. As Rollinson (2008, p. 05) said “power is used within a context, and all contexts have their own rules about how power should be exercised. ” I agree with this view as CD always used London office to take the decision in his favor. Other people like me were also surprised that how it was possible that being a non technical person the CD could convince the London office for the program he wanted. On the other hand the HOP who had the legitimate authority to select any program for broadcast could not impose her will. Here she proved the maxim, “Powerless are rarely in a position to determine whether the reason are genuine or spurious. (Jackson and Carter, 2007, p. 97). As she (HOP) was not a political type of person, she failed to build a network with London office which resulted in the CD’s decision prevailing over her (HOP) decision. When someone uses the power to change something for his/her self interest the politics starts from there. The same thing happened in ABC also. There was no one to challenge the CD. After launching a new show by the HOP of her own choice which the CD did not like, the CD convinced the London office that the show failed to achieve the target of the audience and the HOP was removed by the London office the next day.
Here we can see the ‘Faces-of-power’ as described by Lukes (2005) where “power that is exercised to secure a decision in situations where there is some observable conflict or disagreement. ” (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2007, p. 805). In this case what happened was that “authority is assumed to relate to the achievement of organizational objectives but power implies that the person with power can get people with out it to do whatever they wish, irrespective of whether it contributes to the organizational objective. In other words, power is arbitrary – it can be used for any purpose whatsoever. (Jackson and Carter, 2007, p. 98). Exertion of power through Coalition in ABC New HOP joined. She was much more political than the previous HOP. CD had to convince the London office that his suggestion to change the previous HOP was right and the new HOP was better. The new HOP understood it and took advantage of this. She (new HOP) recruited new employees of her choice in the production department changing the previous employees who were chosen by the previous HOP.
No one in the past interfered with the activities of the Human Resources department (HR) (which is a part of Admin department. According to the HR rules no employee’s contract can be terminated without proper explanation. New HOP convinced the CD and some employees in the Production department were changed with out proper reason. I, as Head of Admin, objected to this but I was overruled. I did not proceed further, since the CD was very powerful and had good contact with London office. Confrontation with him might cost my job. As said by Jackson and Carter (2007, p. 98) “It is impossible to sustain an argument for the rationality of organizations if those in control of them, the managers, can do it in any fashion they choose and towards any end. HR department was helpless as the explanation given by the HOP was because of the welfare of the organization and CD approved it. I became a silent spectator of the power politics in the ABC Company. I thought it would be wise for me to be tactful. So, I maintained a working relationship, if not cordial, with the CD, the new HOP and also with the Head of Marketing. In this way, reluctantly and indirectly I also became a part of the ‘coterie’ for my sheer existence. Here I followed the proverb; one should not quarrel with a crocodile while living in water.
When someone is given the power the power it self may increase. The new HOP became so powerful that she tried to control the Admin department, complaining about everyone in the admin and also who were liked by the CD even. The CD became helpless but he (CD) could not complain now against this new HOP. If CD complained again it would have created a negative impact of his character to the London office so he kept quiet. The CD realized that to hold on to power he should not come in conflict with the new HOP but the best way was to make coalition with her to share power and to include her in the existing ‘coterie’.
HOP also found that it would also serve her own interest. Both of them were using ‘Political tactics’ as described by Daft (2001, p. 462) “Coalition building means taking the time to talk with other managers to persuade them to your point of view. ” A new show was broadcast. Every one in the ABC new that the show would flop but the CD and the new HOP insisted that it would go on air. They together convinced the London office also. The show failed to achieve the desired result. The CD wrote to the London office that, that was the best show in the situation obtaining in Bangladesh and London office accepted it.
Here the CD was facing ‘fear of consequences’ as said by Dawson (1996, p. 170) where “they may fear that by speaking out they will jeopardize their personal position. ” Thus the coalition of power survived so also the position of CD and that of the new HOP. Thus organization’s interest was sacrificed at the altar of narrow personal interest. This corroded the sense of belongingness and team spirit and created frustration among the legitimate aspirants. This impeded progress and quality of work suffered. Check against Arbitrary power There should be effective ‘check and balance’ in any organization.
A good and effective ‘labor union’ can be an effective check for reckless power exertion. It may act as a bastion against exertion of arbitrary power. As there is no labor union in the ABC, the new HOP could change some people in the production department arbitrarily. Employees in a group possess significant power so a good and effective labor union is a force to be reckoned with as said by Buchanan & Badham (1999, p. 49) “even being down trodden, voiceless and marginalized is to possess a power source”. Conclusion In ABC power is acquired through politics.
The ‘coterie’ has usurped all the powers. ABC is now considered as a political playground so all the employees have to become politicians to survive in the environment. While ABC maybe an attractive organization to work in especially for those who are politically inclined, but the prevailing political environment may make it difficult for those who are less politically inclined to be able to survive within the organization