The inner circle: how politics affects the organizational climate.

Author:Solis, Edgar Rogelio Ramirez
 
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Purpose: The aim of this paper is to identify the influence of organizational politics on the organizational climate in the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME's) of the shoe making industry of the state of Jalisco, Mexico.

Design/methodology/approach: We designed an empirical study and developed a questionnaire with two scales to implement in a representative sample of 134 companies. Our methodology also includes a case study and interviews. We applied the regression analysis technique. We used the Perception of Politic Scale (POPS) which has been used widely in The United States and Canada but not in Mexico.

Findings: Our research indicated an interesting relationship between organizational politics and some climate factors, but not in a negative way. In contrast to what many authors (and a lot of practitioners) expect, a certain level of organizational politics could be useful in helping to achieve a better organizational climate.

Research limitations/implications: The results will help to reinforce the view that some features of organizational politics could be dangerous for the organizational climate, but, conversely, that some of the tactics may also be beneficial for a company.

Practical implications: This study provides interesting implications for managers on how to take advantage of a common behavior (the self-organization of employees) in order to obtain results beneficial for managers and/or the organization. Workplace politics should not be seen as a dysfunctional or aberrant behavior.

Originality/value: Researchers commonly view organizational politics as a barrier to the effective performance of employees within a firm. The underlying idea is that people only become involved in politics through self-interest; in this paper the authors showed that, conversely employees involve themselves in politics and simultaneously maintain a good organizational climate at the same time. Organizational politics could be considered as the "missing link" in organizational studies.

INTRODUCTION

While power has clearly been a central construct in sociology and political science since the 19th century, the emergence of the concept as an object of study in administrative literature is most recent in the middle of the 20th century. Almost at the same time, organizational climate studies began. This could be as a result of the study of the field of administration, whose early authors, mainly Anglo-Saxons attached to a conservative power, adopted a view from Weber and assumed that companies were places where decision-making was exclusively rational. Authors such as Fayol and Taylor wanted to explain the conduct of the individuals and the psychological climate in an organization using economic and mathematical models, so that power was seen as an irrelevant construct.

The paradigm of "scientific management" or the classical school was not questioned until the 1960s by the Carnegie Group. They developed the concept of an "administrative man" who takes into account the cognitive and contextual limitations of the individual in decision-making. Authors such as March and Simon (1961) suggested that the decision-making process is a political process resulting from the conflict of interests which is a characteristic of enterprises whose areas are usually competing for limited resources. However, the Carnegie Group was too focused on the psychological factors of decision-making and left out the structural mechanisms of the company and the formation of coalitions (Ibid.).

Butcher and Clarke (2003) argued that the study of political behavior should be promoted because they consider it the "missing link" in organizational studies; politics should not be seen as dysfunctional or aberrant behavior which very few support in practice, but something which is a necessary skill in managers.

The other variable present as a result of political activities is organizational climate. According to Schneider and Bowen (1985) the organizational climate perceived by employees is influenced by the organizational climate perceived by supervisors. They even claim that the kind of leadership that the supervisor is using with subordinates, and the relationship maintained between these subordinates will directly affect the performance of the organization. This means that it is essential to know the way in which the senior members of an organization perceive the work environment: this will give us an idea of the way in which subordinates are living their own working environment through the perceptions of their superiors.

Organizational climate, in general, refers to the working atmosphere which consists of forms and methods of organizational operation assumed by the members of the organization. Schneider et al. (1996) defined the concept of organizational climate as the perceptions of employees of events, practices, and procedures as well as their perceptions of behaviors that are rewarded, supported, and expected. One of the most important behaviors perceived by employees are political tactics; this therefore necessitates the study of organizational politics to better understand organizational climate.

Organizational climate has also been defined as individual perceptions of the characteristics of the work environment (Burke, Borucki and Kaufman, 2002). We can say that the organizational environment has been seen as a descriptive construct reflecting agreement between the members of the organization as well as key elements such as systems, practices and leadership style (Moran and Volkwein, 1992: 20). Schneider et al., (1996) defined the four dimensions of the organizational climate: the nature of interpersonal relationships, the nature of the hierarchy, the nature of the job and the approach to support and rewards. These dimensions can also be considered internal conditions for the generation of power in organizations because the nature of relationships, the hierarchy and the nature of the work relate to managing problems and uncertainty effectively. These activities are not easily replaced and have a central role in all areas of the organization. Of course constant innovation in the resolution of problems can quickly render the knowledge of the subunits obsolete, this explains the nature of constant change in the flow of power.

The main objective of this article is to identify the influence of organizational politics in the organizational climate measured in SME's of the shoe making industry of the state of Jalisco, Mexico.

The paper has been structured as follows: first, we examine both organizational politics and organizational climate as essential components of managerial practices; secondly we propose the hypothesis and the methodology of our empirical study. Thereafter we discuss the results, conduct an analysis and draw conclusions from our findings. Finally we present directions for future research.

REVIEW OF LITERATURE

Theoretical contributions on organizational politics.

For the purposes of this document, we understand politics as the accumulation and the exercise of power to reconcile different interests; that is why we believe that a company, no matter its size, is involved in politics every day.

Astley and Sachdeva (1984) define power as the capacity of social actors, (such as members of an organization) to achieve objectives. Power has also been characterized as a social construct that is perceptual in nature (Fiol, O'Connor and Aguinis, 2001). In this same vein, Madison et al. (1980) defined politics in the company as the process or administration of influence, while power has been characterized as a reserve of potential influence. Power is not the same as formal authority, since this the preserve of owner of the company. Power is derived from possession of resources: of these the most important are information and knowledge, both to acquire other resources and to solve problems.

Organizational power is a function of the structure and is inherent to the position of the individual in such a structure; power provides access to people, information and financial resources, among other things. For this reason, those who have power currently will seek to retain it, reinforcing the existing structure of the organization (Astley and Sachdeva, 1984). That is why some individuals within the company feel that it's worth the effort to get involved with organizational politics to preserve or to acquire power.

An individual or a subunit of the organization will increase its power to the extent where it is capable of dealing with a problem of high uncertainty. The knowledge of how to solve a problem translates into power. But this happens under certain circumstances; the individual or the subunit must have some kind of monopoly on the information required to solve problems and not be easily replaceable. In this way power is distributed unevenly among the members of the company; the control of the organization lies within the subunit responsible for addressing the most problematic areas.

Political activities in a company should be delimited so we can talk about the organizational politics that we will discuss in the empirical study. In respect of this, within a company, what kind of activities can be considered as politics? In the definition that we propose, built from the contributions of different authors (Butcher and Clarke, 2003; Connor and Morrison, 2001; Drory, 1993; Kacmar and Carlson, 1997), the term organizational politics is used to refer to the conscious behavior that individuals, with the strategic intentionality of obtaining or improving positions of privilege within the group, use to reconcile different and even conflicting interests and objectives.

Organizational politics has two fundamental characteristics: strategic decisions (Eisenhardt and Bourgeois, 1988) which affect the entire group and the exercise of power by these who have the capacity to win it, hold it, or resist it (Poon, 2003); political behavior is used to...

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