Business Mentor, Consultant And Trainer
Hr Team Leader
1. The case that you have cited is classic case of organisational politics. What is the cause of the decision of Salwa's boss (Strategy Manager)? It is because, Salva failed to demonstrate political behaviour. Political behaviour is defined as those activities that are not required as part of one's formal role in the organisation, but that influence, or attempt to influence, the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within the organisation.
2. So how to demonstrate political behaviour? Following are the methods of politicking:
a) Frame arguments in terms of organisation goals
b) Develop the right image
c) Gain control of organisation's resources
d) Make yourself appear indispensable
e) Be visible
f) Develop powerful allies
g) Avoid "tainted" members
h) support your boss
3. Behaviour of Strategy Manager can be described as "Defensive Behaviour". There are various ways through which defensive behaviour is demonstrated. Two major methods are "Avoiding Action' and "Avoiding Blame". The former has six types and latter five. Of these two, Strategy Manager has shown the following that fall under the category of "Avoiding Blame":
4. Now what is the solution? As far as my general knowledge is concerned, role of strategic management is dynamic than role of project management. But then Salva should swallow this bitter pill and accept this new role. She can try to defend herself but the die is cast now and I doubt whether she will be able to claw her way back.
5. Tell her that organisational politics is everyone's fait accompli (an irreversible fact). In her new role she should exhibit the political behaviour that I have mentioned in paragraph 2. Secondly, she can bring down the cost of project by implementing scientific project management techniques like PERT and CPM. I am given to understand that PMP helps in a big way to reduce the project costs. She can take training on PMP (either at company's cost or on her own). She should recommend the training of her subordinates on PMP too. She should scientifically review the existing projects and bring down the project cost. Please remember - cost reduction is the best option of gaining visibility.
6. To know more on Organisational Politics, you can refer Google or any book on "Organisational Behaviour".
7. Lastly, but again most important point is that what you have mentioned is your perception. Perhaps your boss could be true also! May not be 100% but in larger extent. If that were the case then Salwa should learn some leadership techniques and methods of organisational communication.
8. Decision and Organisational Conflict: - When strategy Manager decided to transfer Salva from strategic to project management, it shows that how perceptions play the role in shaping the organisational conflict. The decision has shown "competing" response of Strategy Manager. Now if Salva retaliates with her "competing" response, it will result will be dysfuntional conflict. Acceptance of this decision need not be construed as "collaborative" response. It could be tactical withdrawal or "Avoiding" response also. Later she may put in her papers.
9. Implications of this decision on the organisation's culture: - Your company's culture is bound to get affected because of this decision. There will be differing perceptions of everyone on one single question - "over here what is important/valued?". If all other employees perceive that yes, decision of GM is quite correct in transferring Salva from strategic management to project management, nothing much will happen. But if other managers and employees perceive this decision as unfair, either fully or partially, then it will change their opinions. Changed opinions will foster demonstration of unhealthy political behaviour and it may culminate into plain sycophancy. Those who will be unable to bear with this race of sycophancy or employing competitively, informal means of gaining attention, will quit and increase the level of attrition.
10. Decision of GM and Team Building Efforts: - If the decision leads to unwanted organisational politicking, it will also make team building efforts infructous. An employee who nurses grudge against her superior will show ephemeral camaraderie whenever some team building games are conducted. Few days after the sheen of the training wears out and the situation comes back to square one. This is what has happened with Salva. In the organisation there could be many other Salvas too.
11. Lessons on Qualities of Leadership: - If what you say is deemed to be true, then it shows that GM has failed to demonstrate "critical thinking" and "fairness in decision making". One more quality he has failed to demonstrate is "organisational communication". Organisational communication is far more important than personal communication. This is what I always cover in my training on communication skills. Former shapes the opinions of the employees. There is no justification for Salva's transfer even without telling to her that she is being transferred. Because of this non-communication, employees will start feeling that all are puppets at the hands of our boss. This will set in motion an unwritten but vicious rule that "boss is always right". All these factors will have detrimental implications on the organisational culture and on the balance of the sheet at last!
Dinesh V Divekar
Soft Skills &
3rd January 2010 From India, Bangalore
10th January 2010 From India, Bangalore
Very Nicely explained, Very good lesson I learnt recently on above line by missing Organizational communication link though I had good personal communication skills, Today I can understand by experience in more practical way vs Learnt from others mistake. Thanks for driving me in right direction and giving confidence of what I perceived is right.
18th January 2010 From Singapore, Singapore
I apologise for the late response.
Your reply is well written. I could'nt have done it better.
Yes, "politics" is indeed the number one "killer Disease" in organisational relationship management, even at national level. Sometimes, it even creeps into the family settings!
But, say what you want, it is dirty, filthy and outright unprofessional. It's most unfortunate that it lurks under disguise and false fronts.
It is something everyone detest and loath at yet, for some ironical reason, accomodate it out of hopelessness and helplessness.
Fait accompli or "raison detre", it is a unhealthy phenomena that undermines motivation, harmony, spirit of teamwork and happiness at work. It is one of those unexplained and unwritten hypocritical features that somehow finds it way into the very same leaders who hate it's indulgence. Ask anyone if it's a heathy trend? Yet, why is it acknowledged?. It shares the same paradox as money being the main motivator at work.
Some theorist and realist have given "political awareness" recognition as an essential competency for survival or getting through. It is more so the case for employees planning to grow or progress, either vertically or horizontally and in dealing with workplace conflicts in relationships or performance, as it was with Salva.
Being a ex-soldier, I do not preach, practice or condone the game of "politics". As a leader it is incumbent upon me to facilitate a heathy and harmonious working climate of Teamwork, in the absolute sense of the meaning - to foster openess, proactiveness, empathy, forgiveness, learning, development, inclusiveness and engagement.
I also believe it is geographically separated "cultural" thing. Asians, by their so-called power-distanced submissive nature are more accomodative and vulnerable to politics.
Of course, there are very few exceptions, who go against the grain, without fear or favour to what others may think, say or do. They call a spade a spade in articulating their point or arguments. And, I am one of them.
I would not agree with some of the points you mentioned to 'politicking" because I do follow them, such as "support the boss". How can that be read as "politics". That calls for professionalism in conduct. As a responsible employee or subordinate one must state one's stand when it matters, e.g meeting. If the boss differs to decide, then one must rally behind the decision and give one's undivided support to make it a success. If it fails, take responsibility, learn and try again. The next time, the boss may reconsider ignoring your points.
Life is all about understanding , learning and moving forward. We should not waste time induging in politics and blame game syndrome.
I do agree, not everyone can think alike. Some people need more time and experience to mature into acquiring a higher and deeper level of emotional intelligence to think beyond the superficial flow of communication. That's why Daniel Goleman's (Primal Leadership)says EI has become more important than IQ for leadership performance.
Coming back to Salva's case, there are 2 very important issues at hand. One is at Personal level, Salva's case. Another, which has a contagion effect and more important is at the organisational or "cultural" level.
This is a great learning opportunity to redress dysfunctional behaviour and put in place a system that reflects healthy communication in relationship. Salva's should stand up for her right in knowing the reasons for her transfer. It should not be confrontational, but rather enquiry and cocreative, with mutual development in mind (her's and the company's). If this does not occur, the inevitable will be turnover or owrst still, ROAD (retired on active duty).
This sort of things should be handle with great care and confidentiality. But, in this case it seems there is much water-cooler talk - everyone knows everything, including bad relationship news. "Gossip" is the resulting consequence of how "politics" impacts organisational communication.
It is important to see the problem at a more deeper level beyond the inter and intra-personal level. The management must step in to address the situation before it decays further. Look beneath the hidden iceberg level to effect changes to the values system, communciation flow and cultural impediments. Teamwork, relationship and workplace harmony must precede above individualistic ego-emotional status. Leadership respect cannot be earned from the authority of positions.
There is an interesting post at HBP on a somewhat similar issue - merits of raising sensitive "strategic" issues in public that could offend bosses. (When You Think the Strategy is Wrong - Best Practices - Harvard Business Review) Once again, I have commented strongly on our inhibitive Asian-culture biased communication.
If we are becoming borderless and globally connected, how can we continue to hang unto our "cultural" difference in support of international best workplace practices. The east is noted for its collective spirit, so why the sensitivity to more open and courageous communication. Perhaps, we are not exactly the people we say we are and prefer to hide behind the mask of "office politics". We rather not talk of the elephant in the room, but.... I rest my case.
22nd February 2010 From Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur