ORGS 2010.docx

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Week 3: The Organization as a Political System
The political lenses sees the organization as an arena for competition and conflict among
individuals, groups, and other organizations whose interests and goals differ and even clash
Political systems are built from positions and strength OR "interests and power"
o Refers to what people want
o Includes individual and collective interest
o Collective interest: those shared by others who belong to the same group or category
o Individual interests become stronger when they are identified with collective interests
o Demographic groups, positions in the divisions of labour, location, professions are basis for
sharing collective interests that can affect certain kinds of organizational action
o Common approach to understanding interest is the stakeholder perspective
o Recognize the interests
o Analyze what those interests are and what priority that have for key individual and collective
o Interests for individuals and collective levels are dynamic: they change in content and in
relative importance over time as context changes
o Potential ability to influence behaviour, to change the course of events, to overcome
resistance and to get people to do things that would not otherwise do
o Three variants of power: Influence, authority, and coercion
o Authority refers to power that is defined as legitimate by those who are subject to it
o One common political strategy for dealing with conflict is to "push it up" - asking someone
higher in the organization with formal authority to resolve the issue
o Influence is used in interactions where someone does not have formal authority but develops
the ability to induce or persuade others to act in ways they would not act in the absence of
o Coercion is the control of the behaviour of one individual by another who can offer or restrict
benefit inflict punishment
o Personal Characteristics:
Research on personal characteristics and the effective use of power has often been
linked to the concept of charisma
o Scarce and Valued Expertise:
Mastery of a skill of body of knowledge that is both valued and scarce can be a
significant source of power
Groups or subunits with scarce and valuable expertise can gain power in the
o Past Performance/Track Record:
Individuals who have a history of successful achievement in their assignments generally
have greater power than those with less outstanding records
More people want to cooperate/work with them helping them expand their excess to
information, one of the most important organizational resources
o Formal Position as a Source of Power:
From a political perspective, the organization chart is seen more as a political map as a
guide to the vertical power
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