Influence of power and politics on performance

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This report examines the influence of power, politics and control have on the management of performance. This report will first of all define power, politics and control with relevant reference and example. The report will deliberate the different approaches of these three aspects with their advantages and disadvantages. Then identify what is performance. Moving on this report will bring in these aspects to the discussion of influences cause on an individuals and organisation performance. Lastly, the report will summarise the overall study.


It is very likely to have scenario of power abuse, politics exploitation and control in an organisation. Before moving forward, this session will discuss on these 3 main terms definition.

1.1.1 POWER

Power can be define as the ability of an individual or group to influence another individuals or groups in a behavior which they wants and without having to change their own performance in a way which they do not want to (Tawney, 1931). Power does not exist alone but with the existence of more than one individual or groups. However if power is not practiced such as a party has limited power or yet to mobilised their power it will then remain as latent power. Power is imbalance in all social relationship; some parties might hold bigger power while other parties might unable to use their power. Power has parallel relation with human behavior as it arose from human attitude and beliefs (Rollinson, 2008). Normally, power is not transferable and it is sinful. Most of the people think that power is always the same as authority however they are different. Authority is somehow related to power because most of the time, authority is the foundation where power is built (Leadership styles and bases of power, n.d.). Power is created when there is a certain position of an individual or organisation in there to provide a ground for the power to grow.

Dahl, an American pluralist claimed that the concept of power is where an individual or organisation is able to influence other individual or organisation with a successful attempt. Power is also able to influence the decision-making of an individual or organisation. On the other hand, Bachrach and Baratz, American pluralist argued that power should be define as two faces of power, a decision making and non-decision making face. When an individual or organisation is able to influence the other party with a successful attempt by threat and at the same time other party is willingly to change their conduct which they think it is valid for their own values. This is where an individual take control over another party to comply in a manner which they want (Lukes, 1974).

The researcher used one of Malaysia's biggest shopping mall management Company A as an example, at the beginning the function of directors are clearly separated according to he or her department such as the Advertising and Promotions (ANP) Director will only committed to the Advertising and Promotions Department, Director of Design is responsible for Visual Merchandising (VM) Department, General Manager is only committed to Leasing Department. Nevertheless, once the ANP Director resigned, the management twisted it's the management structures in order to ensure goals and objectives of the company are maintain. The Director of Design was assigned to oversee both VM and ANP department while General Manager and Executive Director will be the consultant on matters regarding to ANP. This is where authority power plays its role when managerial levels and above has the right to change company structure and procedure without the consent of the lower levels staffs.

By here we can see that the teleology ethic rule used as the company is concerning more on the outcome of the action. The end goal will justify the means. But does type of power bring greater happiness to the greatest number of people by considering the consequences as per according to Bentham & Mills Utilitarianism theory? When the higher management arranged the Director of Design, Executive Director and General Manager to be dual bosses of their own department and Advertising and Promotions Department, the conflict of power, politic and control arise. Greatest happiness might be enjoyed by the staff of ANP because they are given chances to speak and show their capability straight to the higher management with the support of ANP Manager. They are given added authority power to assign other department staffs to assist in any advertising and promotions activities.


Politics is about contesting the imbalance of power, those who have power will greed for more and insist to give up while the less power parties will felt unfair and rise to contest the powerful sides for their rights. This situation will then create politics in any organisation or community. Power is the foundation of politics. Negative behaviour is a consequence of power and this will then create politics that will cause offensive tactics and actions to challenge the other party that have more attention. As such, politics can be define as an action occurred within an organisation that created and developed using a certain power provided in order to perceived one's preferred result in a decision-making needed scenario (Pfeffer, 1981).

There are also other definitions on politics from different sociologist. Politic is seen as a manner of conduct by an attention group to utilise the power to influence the decision-making of an individual or organisation (e. g. Pettigrew, 1973). It is also a self-centered of behaviour of an individual in an organisation (e. g. Gandz & Murny, 1980; Schein, 1977).

Politics are different from power. When there is a disagreement of at least 2 parties and neither one requires preferred domination then politic arise. This is when the time, where power will be utilise to influence a decision-making or to obtain own advantage.

Politics became worse when the staff knew that the allowance paid to ANP staffs were much higher than them, staffs felt that their effort were seen abandon when they had been working hard for the company. All the physical effort, inputs used in production was means of production by the staffs. The origins of this attitude can be view from Marx's (1894/1974) analysis of the capitalist mode of production. Marx's concept of capitalism was that the relationship between employer and employee is an important based on inequality and exploitation. The proletariats are the working labour whilst bourgeoisie are the people who own various means of production and who have the proletarians to work for them using those mans of production. In another sense, this cause exploitation and non-egalitarian of the workers.

The more that a culture has win-lose term the greater the loser will want an incentive (Rollinson, 2008). Egalitarianism believe in equal social, economic, politics and rights for all people and everyone should be treated equal no matter under what situation even so a change of organizational structure. Immanuel Kant believes in universal law where what's right for a person is right for everyone. One cannot use other people for their own benefit and must be fair and universality. The staffs of other departments will feel unfairly because of extra unrelated workloads, unfairly rewards, lack of direct superior's protection. They feel uncertainty seek for equal treat and return for what they had contributed.

On the other hand, each influent department raises another internal conflict. The General Manager has then delegated full power to Leasing Manager to coordinate the Leasing Department; henceforth the empowerment enables the Leasing Manager to practice own department rules. If the staffs of Leasing Department have prior conflict with the manager, then conflict will appear between them. Besides, ANP staffs which have greater attention and rewards, will tend to compete internally in order to gain own advantage. Internal politicking will occur when there is injustice and desire.

Politicking can be seen in formal group discussion, meeting, daily work and informal groupings. The most sensitive scenario is informal groupings. With the intention of satisfying mutual interests and goals, to achieve security and need for self- esteem, people join groups that they preferred especially for the purpose of politicking. Members of group were influence by opinion leaders in the company. Information diffusion theory (1962) explains that information or propaganda spreads via stages. Same goes to office politics propaganda where early opinion leaders will spread their politicking desire to adopters for more support. For instance staffs of Leasing Department will spread their information and news of injustice to other departments in the end result of boycotting ANP staffs. This will then influence the management performance.


In order to make sure the goalmouth and objectives of an organisation is progressing and achieved management and the control of activities shall need to be making into an important process in an organisation. However control of activities will involve in controlling human behaviour that will lead to coercion, manipulation, exploitation and defensive.

The main purpose of control is to ensure appropriate coordination is held to ensure the organisation meets the goal and this applies to every level of the organisation. Hence, control must be a continuous monitoring process that requires the overseeing of goals achieved and necessary action taken to assist the achievement. It also involves taking the appropriate corrective action to ensure that what is actually happening is in accordance with expectations of the planning process.

Control can be view from 3 alternative views which is from the managerial prospective, open systems perspective and political perspective. The managerial control is known as a legitimate management activity where the managers have the 'right' power to control an individual's obligations and activities in the organisation. It is also the managers' obligation to coordinate in meeting the company's goal. Referring to Henri Fayol's Five Functions of Management pointed that planning, organising, commanding, coordinating and controlling are crucial functions as a manager. Fayol claimed that with the control and coordination method, the command process will be more efficient.

Next, control can be view from a perspective of open systems perspective where the organisation controls its input and output progress from budget control to performance appraisal. Though control itself is unbiased, it will adverse into conflict when it involves human behaviour. Relating to this point, control then can be view from a political perspective as it poses higher influences among all. The higher managements are used to be seen performing domination and exploitation because they are the parties that hold full control over the distribution of rewards.

The basic attributed of an organisation is where work is divided among its members and to established standard practices. Transmits decisions are downwards via channels of communication. The level of power to control the organisation depends on the organisation structure. Those responsible for many individuals are wide span of control, whereas those for fewer are narrow span of control. Structure such as tall organisation consist of many layers in the hierarchy and the managers have a narrow span of control while flat organisation with fewer layers allows managers to have wider span of control as they have responsible for many subordinate. An example of control in context is highlighted with Company A that practices the flat organisation structure which consists of only 4 layers management. Top management is the Executive Director, Director of Design and General Manager, moving downwards is managerial levels, executive levels and then core workers such as cleaners. However if there is any lack of directors to oversee a particular department, related department's director will need be a dual boss for 2 departments and this allows the director to gain more control. Company A management encounter similar scenario when the ANP Director resigned and only the newly transferred ANP Manager to take over the entire department. Since the promotions and marketing is the most vital department that keeps the mall dynamic, hence the higher management has to assign the Director of Design as a dual boss for both marketing and design department to provide stronger support. At the meantime, the Executive Director and General Manager will involve in decision makings and advice on all marketing and promotions activities. This was a twist of top management's control structure over the lower levels.


Power, conflict and control in an organisation will influence the performance of the staffs and company. Different approaches and tactics will carry out various influences, by then in this session there will be a further discussion on five bases of power, politic tactics, basic model of control and methods of behavioural control then performances.


French and Raven (1959) identified the five bases of power which after that became the best known concept of power for researchers' studies. According to them there are five bases of power which are coercive, reward, legitimate, referent and expert. Reward, coercive and legitimate power are powers under organisational origins which can be detached or condensed by the superior which referent and expert power are more on personal origins that can perceive as stronger (Rollinson, 2008).

Reward power is build when superior or authority give reward to the employees. Supervisors or the second person in charge can also make recommendations on the type of reward. However, the final decision will be made by the authorities. These rewards can be monetary return to improve work agendas. Reward power can work on either in a tangible or intangible form conveyed by the superior. (Huczynski & Buchanan, 2001).

The researcher describes that Company A uses Reward Power towards their employees and usually the recommendations are made by the managers to the higher management or authorities during the year-end appraisal. The advantages of Power Reward may motivate the employees and thus improving their job quality. However, depending on the individuals, sometimes the authorities may not know the actual performance of an employee but by only taking recommendations by the manager or supervisor. In other words, lesser personal touch and thus the relationship between them and the employees will go loose without in-depth understanding of the quality of work. In Company A, Leasing Manager will do appraisal for leasing executives and then have the final decision making with the General Manager. Since the General Manager has seems being a dual bosses, the Leasing Manager holds stronger reward power in recommendation or objection of her staffs without the General Manager's own attention.

Coercive Power rests in the capability of a manager to force an employee to comply with an order through the threat of punishment (Rollinson, 2008).

Coercive Power is best suitable to be practised during economic crisis period or threats to survival of an organisation. Employees will not have much choice in their jobs and thus threatening will temporary boost up their work performance as they would want to survive within an organisation during the crucial period. The fear of being punished, or sometimes being fired would keep driving the employees to perform better. This can be seen when 2008 - 2009 financial crisis hits Malaysia causing 50,000 jobs loses. Conversely, practising Coercive Power in a long-term basis will reduce employees' satisfaction with their job, leading lack of commitment and thus leading to lack of creativity, productivity and finally employees' withdrawal from an organisation. The researcher discovered that Company A does have minor practice of this in the ANP department where annual bonus was used as threats to push staffs' efficiency.

Legitimate power can be explained as a belief among employees that their superior has the right to give orders based on his or her position (Atwater & Yammarino, 1996).

The researcher describes that before every decision is made, every suggestions has to be referred to the managers in Company A. One of the examples would be the employees in Leasing Department has to suggest and comment of a potential tenant has to be referred to the Leasing Manager before confirming the potential tenant. However, the final decisions of the authorities are normally based on the Leasing Manager's comment. It may sometimes causes dissatisfaction between the Leasing Manager and the Leasing Executives as the opinion of both parties may be different. Nevertheless, the Leasing Manager is able the collate all of the suggestions from Leasing Executives within the short period of time and based on those suggestions to make decision to the top authorities.

Referent power develops from employees' respect for a manager or an individual who does not has to be in the higher level and their desire to identify with or emulate him or her. In referent power, the manager leads by example. Referent power rests heavily on trust. It often influences employees who may not be particularly aware that they are modeling their behavior on that of the manager and using what they presume he or she would do in such a situation as a point of reference (Atwater & Yammarino, 1996).

The researcher enlighten this with own experience with her direct superior where she admires her superior's character and experience then learn and utilised them in her work. Charismatic leaders have great influence towards followers and it enhances the productivity of work (Yukl, 2002).

Expert power builds from the employees when that an individual has a particularly high level of knowledge or highly specialised skill set. Managers with authority are mostly more knowledgeable than their employees in the task that they are handling. Interestingly, in expert power, the superior may not rank higher than the other persons in a formal sense (Yukl, 2002).

There are times where IT Department will deploy their staff upon request by the General Manager to fix their computer in Company A. No question exists that the General Manager outranks the IT staff, yet regarding to the specific task of getting the computer operational, the General Manager is likely to follow the orders or suggestions of the IT staff. Expert power faces weaknesses where expertise reduces as knowledge is shared. If a manager shares knowledge or skill teaching with his or her employees, at the same time they will obtain the same skill and applied on their job. Employees admiration for the superiority of his or hers expertise will reduce whilst employees develop an equivalent knowledge and skills to their superior. R. Dennis Green (1999) in the proposal management explained that the commitment will work if lucid and credible skills of leaders are shared by the followers.


Politics are played when an individual intend to achieve his or her goal because of his or her personal characters under a circumstances (Schein, 1977).

Referring to Pfeffer (1981) and Mintzberg (1983), to maintain one person's power and to cope with the organisation threats, there are several strategies normally performed by politickers. They control the information and dominate the flow so that the information freshly received does not expose to many people and is only dominated by a small group of people. These gatekeepers have greater power of access and are able to modify the message before delivering them to others. This is to shape the majority's view for them to believe in what they have told. For example the top management will reveal a certain information on human resource policy changes to the lower level staffs.

External experts can be used to be an individual's support in providing advice to the decision makers. Back to Company A, ANP staff can have the chance to expand his or her proposal opportunity if the superiors of tenant speaks favourable words for the staff to the ANP Manager.

Moreover, one can control the agenda of the proposal and create a plan B in case if the original plan cannot perform. One can also present the plan B at the right time to the decision makers in a situation where the opponents are absent or the supporters dominate the meeting.

Another respectful way to maintain one person's power is via expert power and image building. If a person is expert on a specific area or consist of powerful background, then their position and decision are less likely to be contest. Such as a staff that has direct superior as best friends, gain the General Manager's likable plus if the staff is expert in work, then this staff has a strong stand in the company.

The common method that always used and seen in an organisation is coalition building. It is who you know in your network that enables them to provide support when needed. Like the researcher mentioned above, if a staff has strong background with powerful people supporting behind, he or she has the base to practice politics.

Finally, one must also control the decision parameter so to convince and impress the decision makers' expected result. For instance, the ANP staff has to do full research on coming event to convince the higher management upon approval of the staff's propose theme.

Henry Mintzberg (1989) political games concept consist of useful political tactics that are able to protect one's power. The game plan is categorise into 4 types which is authority, power base, rivalry and change games.

Authority games are to defense upper authority and to secure downward authority. Mintzberg name the upward influence tactics as insurgency games where for case that manager tries to avoid taking action with reasons created. Counter-insurgency games are played towards down lines in a way of threats or regulation controls.

Power base games are played to uphold or shape a power base for an individual. There are 5 politics tactics placed under this roof: sponsorship game by convincing a senior or powerful person as the backing; budgeting game that makes overstated offers to obtain resources bribery; alliance game by getting colleagues' support; expertise game which same as image building tactic and empire building game where one person 'built' a huge team as supporters.

Among the same levels, they are political tactics practice as well in order to compete for own benefit ad territory. It is harder because everyone in the same line has similar power in hand and expertise. This strategy is name as rivalry game and it includes line-staff game and rivalry game. For instance informal groupings are used as tool to play these games.

If there are employees that planned to change the management practice, Mintzberg introduce the change game where there are 3 steps to fully alteration of management exercise. Firstly with the help of whistleblowing game, one can spread negative news and gain bad public relations. Then internally one can use the strategic candidate game by suggesting alternative ways to solve this problematic. Lastly, the young Turks game is performed to eliminate and bring totally alteration of way in an organisation.

Politic tactics could cause inequality and exploitation among employees. Informal groupings will be formed to exploit unlikable parties who have minor setup of influence. Since the main purpose of playing politics is to maintain and obtain personal goals and benefits, hence it will mislead the decision making. For instance the ANP Manager might only listen to one side's benefit during the decision making. Politicking is sometimes seen as wasting time and effort by building own empire or forming own informal groups that might ended up slow down the organisation's progress. Politics can derive to bias and one sided power direction which one party monopolise the decision making.

However politics can sometimes play a positive role in developing the organisation. The use of politics can correct the formal approaches and add suppleness. Furthermore, politics allow creating strongest leaders to influence and lead the organisation in a desirable way. Politics provide a space for opponents and supporters to debate and bring out issues that could help to enhance the development of company. It also provides opportunity for the management to gain opinions and endorse changes from normal system. Moreover, with the practice of politics, the bosses can assure that decisions are applied after critical reviews among politicians.


The most basic model of control of an organisation is the cybernetics control theory where inputs are processed to gain the final output. There are 2 types of control model which are open-loop control and closed-loop control.

Open-loop control is more on mathematical calculation method where the input is processed to produce output by expected results. It is normally predictable that the output is perfectly produced as long as the input and process is done as planned (Rollinson, 2008). Since the output is determined by the standard formula of process, hence lesser control is needed to oversee the progress. The advantage of open-loop control allows managers to presume the outcome without further assessment so long as the necessary input is fitted. However this control structure is not convincing enough as it does not consider the reality factors such as human factors and unforeseen management changes (Rollinson, 2008). Interview is the best example for this.

Closed-loop control involved sensor to provide feedback and compare with initial goals before outputting. This type of control need close monitor in order to gain feedback and compare with the initial planned goal. Such control includes manager-directed control where managers will tell the employee what to do to achieve the goal with a close observer. Another type of close-loop control is bureaucratic control where the manager will control the behaviour of employee with tight job requirement by using standard procedure to require in what way that the employee should proceed (Rollinson, 2008). The advantage of this control is that it can measure other human factors and changes during the process and output a better quality outcome. Nevertheless it takes long time and effort to monitor which it might end up undesirably.


Rollinson outline that the input control consist of recruitment, selection and socialization. The open-loop control method is normally practice at the recruitment and selection stage. Most organisations will pick candidate that expected to be able to blend in with the existing company culture then contribute skills to meet the requirement of the organisation. This method would allow the organisation to recruit employee that fits their requirement. However it does not let both parties understand well in-depth on personality and company culture. Hence there is why circumstances such as employee culture shock and employer disappointed. This happened in Company A where an ANP office admin quit her job after 1 week of service because she had culture shock for overloaded works and long working hours.

Closed-loop control will then play the role once the employee is recruited where feedback and sensors are used for an overall control the quality of employees. With the example of Company A, human resources designed the job with reasonable pay and allowance to motivate the input of employees acting on to produce the company's goal. Managers will be the sensor to compare individual or division performances with the aim of achieving company goals. Management should observe and analyse all jobs in order to determine the best method to accomplish them (Taylor, 2003).

Majority of the employers will practice reward method to control the bahaviour of the employees. Apparently that rewarding the employees is to give identification and appreciation of the effort contributed, however they are aims that managers uses this method to enhance the employees confident by then increased staff participation and commitment towards the company. Managers will expect a return upon rewarding from the employees performance. Rewards can be in such way of financial such as incentive and non-financial for instance recognition (Armstrong & Murlis, 2004). To motivate employees, Taylor suggested economic incentives because they are motivated by one thing and only which is money (Taylor, 2003).

Company A rewarded its staffs with bonus, increment, gifts and long service appreciation award during annual dinner. Punishment is seldom used in Company A due to the labour law but reasonable punishment such as demotion of position will occurred. This method will increase productivity and performance improvement otherwise it might cause jealousy and politicking. If staff A and B both put efforts on the same project but only B received the rewards due to better self-expressing then B will be jealous and start politicking.

Another kind of method commonly used by an organisation is via appraisal, staff training and development. This method aims to provide employees personal goals and assist them in improving their performance. Though the management expects improvement in the end, it still depends on individual acceptance to change. Company A have employee appraisal every half year in order to maintain the staffs' quality and improvement. The management of Company A also fully encourages staffs to attend training workshops to enhance self-skill for better working output.

Direct control is the traditional method where employee is controlled and supervises directly by the superior or manager. Superior will give command and order to employee in the process of completing the task. Minor control such as instruction and guidance by manager is also a part of direct control. Direct control is still the fundamental flow between the employee and superior though new control methods emerged (Mulholland, 2002). This method is still exercised in Company A.

Through technology the management is able to control the employees by constraining their job task and responsibility. The researcher realise that Company A tend to restrict the internet access time and webpage according to different departments and position level's usage. This is to ensure the productivity of employee is maintained during working hours.

A well organise company structure enables the management to have appropriate control over the levels. It avoids confusion within organisations regarding how various tasks or functions are interrelated. It is the fundamental business structure for an organisation to progress effectively. As mentioned above in the topic of control, there are 2 kinds of control structure which are flat and tall. Each different type of structures provides different amount of managerial control towards the lower level. It affected the appraisal, training, development and direct control's arrangement.

Some managers control employees' behaviour through output control. This normally relates to the agreement made during appraisal between the manager and employee. The manager will set a goal and dateline for the employee to achieve and shift his/her output performance.

Other than that, a vague control used by managers especially is culture control. Cultural control involves the norms and values that the managers set up to instill the employees that this is the way it works. For instance the ANP department staffs of Company A tend to stay back late for working after working hours almost everyday. The reason for staying back is to rush for datelines and sometimes to standby before the ANP Manager calls off for the day.


Performance can be view as in individual, team and organisation performance. Most of the time, an individual performance will directly influence the organisation performance. Performance can be defined as an execution, carrying out or into an action. Many of the companies conducted staffs' performance via Key Performance Indicator (KPI) and appraisal. Performance maximises the organisational effectiveness to achieve company goals. Staffs compete for promotion and rewards by showing better performance that can assist in developing the company.

They 60 factors that can affect the effectiveness of an organisation and it is grouped under leadership, group relations, systems and structures, motivation to work, economic environment, physical environment, technological environment (Handy, 1993).

According to Charles Handy (1985) typology of power, there are few methods that will influence an individual's mind and heart. Physical force such as bullying, coercions and yelling will raises the emotion of an individual. The researcher takes an example from Company A. Because of stress, the newly ANP Manager was unable to control her emotion but tends to throw temper to her staffs if they did mistakes. This became worse when one of the ANP staffs had been having bad relationship with her for long have to face her yelling almost every day even if she did nothing wrong. The staff ended up resigned due to the manager's threats and pressure.

Rules and regulations set by legitimate power position leaders will also influence an individual's performance if he or she is persistent to changes or to obey. For instance staffs are required to take turn to do mall survey during weekends. However it is also seen as a positive effort to have rule and regulations that can motivate the staff's performance such as having KPI.

Informal grouping is the most sensitive politicking method used to influence other people's performance. Group members will 'recruit' members that share the same interest and point of view that will then lead to politics. It seems as unitarist view when it is a big group that apparently shows that they are creating for the majority's benefit but behind it is to build his or her own 'empire'. The minority is normally neglected and then will influence their performance. It happens in the ANP department as well when the new team replaced the old ones then form an informal group that neglected the other minority old staffs.

The new power approach that will overtake the traditional ways is expert power and personal power of leadership. These leaders are easily accepted among employees due to admiration and as learning model. The outcome of the performance will be determined by the follower's role model such as decision making and planning methods. It will enhance the productivity between the leader and follower. It can be also a negative performance outcome if the follower intends to admire a leader that is good in troublemaking the organisation progress.

Handy's typology added that environment constraint will affect the performance such as dull and polluted environment. Company A's security department is located at the loading bay with heat and polluted air condition. This brings down employee's health condition and drive to slow performance.

Apart from that, positive efforts such as rewarding and motivation training are given to motivate employees. Financial or non-financial appreciation and recognition is most likely to boost up an individual's presentation and efficiency. It is psychological encouragement to keep on good works for the company. Yet if the bargain for better incentive by employee fails it will then lead to grievance and dispute or even resignation.


Power, politics and control are normally unwelcome by people and view them as unpleasant features that will influence an individual or organisation's progress. It is hard to avoid these three aspects if the organisation is in hierarchy structure which the researcher believes that this is mostly the fundamental structure of an organisation. From a pluralist perspective, it is acceptable where power is distributed evenly and fairly among divisions. Yet when power is there, control and politics will be just right at the corner. They derived from the basic aspect which is power. With power, people control and when they gain more control, they search for further benefits via politics. These features will affect the individual performance that will normally cause high turnover rate of employments.

Lastly, conflict arise from these aspects might bring positive develop for an organisation in terms of employees contesting each other and power controlled in crucial decision-makings. Hence it is advisable to not that these aspects too personal and be confident to maintain a balance point as an employee for own better presentation.