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"Its the ability to effectively understand others at work and to use such knowledge to influence others to act in ways that enhance one's personal and/or organizational objectives". (Ferris, 2005, p.127).
Functional Role of Politics in Organizations
There is not much positive about politics. Energy, which is wasted, can be utilized in forms that are more constructive and brings nothing but damage to the organization although it may serve individual stakes. Highly pervasive politics may end up halting organizational functions:
Just like legitimate influences in organizations can be used to serve illegitimate ends, politics which itself is illegitimate in nature can be used to make corrections and for fruitful ends (Robbins & Judge, 2004).
In political competition, weak players are often eliminated and cannot survive thus demonstrating which people possess the most need for power in organizations.
Unlike the system of authority, which promotes a single point of view up the hierarchy, politics allows several voices to be heard. Thus, the various voices must marshal arguments and support strategic candidates, which show organization's interest.
Works as an invisible underhand to promote change because the system of authority concentrates power in the hands of a few people.
One conceptualization of such diversity is Brunsson's ideal type of 'political organization' in which actors hold a diversity of conceptions about what the organization is, its purpose, what are considered to be 'good' organizational outcomes and how such outcomes should be reached. Brunsson argues that such organizations exhibit the characteristics of 'hypocrisy' in that diversity in norms carries with it the need for managerial inconsistency between talk, action and decisions (Daft, 2001).
CitiBank - An Introduction
Citibank is a major international bank, founded in 1812 as the City Bank of New York, later First National City Bank of New York. Citibank is now the consumer-banking arm of financial services giant Citigroup, one of the largest companies in the world. As of March 2007, it is the largest bank in the United States by holdings.
Citibank has operations in more than 100 countries and territories around the world. More than half of its 1,400 offices are in the United States, mostly in the New York City, Chicago, Miami, and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas, as well as in California. In addition to the standard banking transactions, Citibank offers insurance, credit card and investment products. Their online services division is among the most successful in the field, claiming about 15 million users.
Because of the global financial crisis and huge losses in the value of its subprime mortgage assets, Citibank was rescued by the U.S. government under plans agreed for Citigroup. On November 23, 2008, in addition to initial aid of $25 billion, a further $25 billion was invested in the corporation together with guarantees for risky assets amounting to $306 billion.
Organizational Politics at CitiBank
Politics is present in every organization and at all levels of the hierarchy. To say that a particular firm or company is totally exclusive of politics and power would be ignorant of us. Our study and research was based on Organizational power and politics about Citibankand how employers and employees at all levels deal with such a situation. Though senior and middle level employees at Citibank Karachi stated that there is no organizational politics of any sort in Citibank on record but they were also of the view that politics are in every organization and you have to deal with it to stay and move ahead in the corporate world.
Since the bank has various branches all over the country, therefore each branch is allocated with a Branch Manager who looks after and manages the day-to-day proceedings of his particular branch. Under the Branch Manager are employees who represent the sales team and the operations. Since the operations department is more based on technical expertise, therefore employees are less academically skilled than those representing other departments of the bank are. Most of the promotions in operations department are through seniority and skill as their work is only excelled with time.
Sales department on the other hand has to deal with their performance and cover up set targets of deposits or products such as insurance. Though their promotions are totally based on their performance but politics, can and do play an important role in their organizational activity. As the sales team is the main money attracters of the bank, therefore they can enjoy power. Citibank has a team structure under every branch. The employees of these teams are tightly knit and have close bonds with each other. Although this cohesiveness increases the productivity of the team and makes, it easier for the branch manager to solve problems and train employees but it can also result in some problems.
Myopic Organizational View
Firstly, the teams start to consider their own goals as more important than the company or organizational goals. At times teams of particularly successful branches turn out to be so aggressive in their nature that they start competing with other teams in a negative way. This includes stealing employees from other branches and hiding important information or learning skills that could be useful to other branches of the same Bank. Employees take part in such activities to improve their own branch condition and stay ahead at the expense of other teams. As the branch position improves, they are more likely to be admired and appreciated by senior level officials and have a better chance of promotion for not only their branch manager but also themselves. Such cutthroat and aggressive competition should be discouraged and managers should promote an environment of positive learning and ethical responsibilities.
Secondly, politics is also visible among different departments of an organization. An example is that of the operations department and sales department not getting along with each other. Team cohesiveness results in members of different teams taking sides of their friends rather than telling and supporting the truth. This may result in blame games with employees getting down to dirty politics. All these activities are mainly handled by the Branch manager responsible but they may refer to senior officials if things get out of control. In order to make sure that such sort of politics is eliminated, managers should make sure that they act in an unbiased manner rather than favoring their favorite employees.
In addition, they should encourage employees and team members to support the truth rather than group members. Serious punishments or warnings should be given to those who indulge in blaming activities or hindrance of flow of information among departments while a culture should be promoted where job rotation which makes sure that team member do not indulge in groupthink.
Another form of organizational politics is within team members of a particular department. I will give an example of sales representatives. Often is the case that team members have such strong competition among themselves and the stress to deliver results and cover targets is so high that they indulge in politics within the group. This occurs when employees steal each other's clients rather than helping them out or blame employees for actions they have not done in order to be in the good books of the Boss. In addition, employees can manipulate group members who are not assertive enough to do work and take credit for their successes while blaming them for losses they did not incur. This type of politics forgets every form of moral or ethical laws and managers need to make sure that they give more weight age to the effort put in by every employee rather than getting results and performing through evil means.
Lastly, one of the most widely found forms of organizational politics is based on gender. Usually female employees complain of organizations being a prey to the glass ceiling affect with little promotions as compared to men. Fortunately, that is not the case with Citibank with female employees being given equal opportunities as compared to men and a couple of female employees are present at senior regional or national level positions.
The following are the types of political activities that are in prevalent in any organization:
Attacking and blaming
Citibank is an organization with an organic corporate culture as far as the guidance is concerned but when it comes to rules and standardization, this organization becomes a bit mechanistic, the resources for every department are allocated from the head office, which ensures the gate keeping of all the information about the strategies made there. That is why the employees who are put on probation or warnings can indulge in this type of political activity for the purpose of external attribution and face saving. Yet the friendly environment at the operational level of management acts as the counter to this problem.
Citibank has a very subtle way to deal with this sort of an activity, they are free to take the guidelines from the executives as and when the need arises.. The number of the employees in each category is very less to form an effective coalition and the employees at the same stature are put into a rigorous competition against each other to prevent any dangerous coalitions.
This tactic is used by the executives of the bank to maintain their power. The information system used by the Citi bank is very protective and the critical information is encrypted id many ways by the executives. This provides the executives with the referent power i.e. everybody looks to them for the guidelines. This political behavior is proving to be useful for the bank as more and more people are getting accustomed to this hoarding of power by executives on" need to know" basis. It is the case with the different departments of the bank. All information is shared on a "need to know basis". This sis the fundamental problem faced by the employees of Citibank. All of them complained that the resources are not properly distributed. This problem leads to the feeling of inequity and may perhaps lead to backstabbing behaviors. It needs to be communicated to the people working in the lower rank of management because they are like the engine of the bank. If they are dissatisfied and if the political games that are unhealthy ignited merely because of communication lapse, this is a huge setback. Moreover, this is now a common stereotypical perception over there. We, the students, who may their future employees also, have this thing in mind. Now this is very difficult for the top management to change the perception. Whatever happens with the distribution, perceptions are long lasting.
They have tried to use this tactic by giving a set of rules. This is height of red-tape culture in this era of empowerment. They call these books as "Bible" or "Gospel". To our amazement, even the branch manager's "bible" had dust all over it. This signals that this technique has largely failed. If, in this era of authorization, you try to dictate rules through a thick book that no one bothers to read, how will these policies be implemented? This in our view is a myopic view of introducing clear rules.
Survey - Conclusions derived
The survey was taken of 44 people, which crosses the barrier of 30 for the application of t-distribution.
The questions were not direct and blunt. This was just because we wanted to get exact responses. Since politics is tabooed in our society, we have tried to retrieve accurate responses.
Through secondary research, questions were developed that highlight the view of future graduates towards power, politics and persuasion in organization.
A detailed proposal was given to the course instructor that highlighted the aforementioned questionnaire.
Systematic random sampling was used to identify samples.
The questionnaires' results were analyzed through the utility software of spreadsheet i.e. Microsoft Excel
Perception of Politics
Through secondary research, we had found that it is not actually politics but rather the perception of politics that determines the behavior of persons. If people agree that politics is bad and it harms the person, organization or the society, this may be due to their values, past experience or the knowledge that they possess.
This graph testifies the assumption that politics is tabooed in our culture and the region in which we reside, politics is viewed as something negative. When we go over the content material of our book, we find an interesting fact regarding the need to study organizational behavior:
Conclusions and Recommendations
Organizational politics is mostly a consequence of conflict; therefore, whenever conflict arises efforts should be made for full resolution of the conflict because it is mostly the case that an organization, which is deeply engulfed in conflict, is unable to free itself from it, thus ultimately leading to its demise and death. Citi Bank is far from such a case, political activity is largely discouraged, however subtle forms of organizational politics do exist. The following recommendations might therefore be helpful in dealing with the situation of politics in the organization
CitiBank has a no fire policy. Political activity is promoted inside the bank when employee or manager, which is not performing well, is not leaving the job. Subordinates in this case may feel dissatisfied and try to use forms of political activity such as the Young Turks Game to try to overthrow his managerial position. Although the policy may offer several advantages, it is better to change the policy as keeping incompetent people in the workforce is bound to generate some form of political activity as well as increased dissatisfaction towards the manager.
More flexibility should be provided to the employees in their tasks. Mr Arsalan Siddiqui Bank Manager at Citi Bank referred to the rulebook as "the Bible" which shows how strictly bank's rules and procedures are followed. Although it is good thing to refrain political activity as everyone acts according to a standardized set of rules, however it may also encourage political activity. A right balance should be ensured. Employees nowadays want to feel more involved and contribute to the overall working of the organization. Employees input can also be valuable in correction inefficiencies in various procedures. When employees are actively involved, they are also more satisfied. Satisfied employees are less likely to engage in political activity.
We learnt from our interview with the Bank Manager, Branch Banking that the distribution of resources is not uniform among departments and is decided by the top management. Thus, it may give rise to political activity and efforts to form alliances to gain greater resources. Departments should have a greater say, as they are more aware about the needs and requirements of their departments rather than top managers who are more disconnected. If departments feel that, they are being provided with, less resources than are actually needed, political activity such as cultivating networks to gain a greater share may develop. In addition, personal enmity may develop among departments, which is not suitable for the bank.
There is lack of task significance for lower level employees. Employees at very low level are not involved in any step of the planning or decision-making. Thus, they may feel that their work is not contributing in any way. Much of their data is collected and analyzed by people at the middle management level. By job enlargement and giving, them added responsibility for analysis of data which is simply put in, greater association may develop with the bank and also performance will increase. Employee satisfaction is a way to ensure that political activity is reduced. Thus, there is a need to build affective rather than continuance commitment for lower level of employees.