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Workplace politics is a reality of life in every organization

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Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Management

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Organizational-climate literature suggests that organizational politics is an important element of peoples’ perception of their working environment (Parker , Dipboye & Jackson , 1995). Most, people agree that workplace politics is a reality of life in every organization, (Poon, 2002). And there is a general believe that behaviour in and of organizations is often political in nature (Ferris, Kacmar, 1992).

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Organizational politics seems to become more prominent when an organization strives for more and better resources (Vigoda, 2000).Consequently, they will be differences between members over organizational goals, priorities or problems. Therefore, members of the organization use power to influence decisions to swing decisions to their favour, (Drory & Romm, 1990). As a result, Politics can be one options for those who want to influence decision-making, (Prasad, 1993).However, and , according to Pfeffer and Salancik (1974) all organizational decision-making processes are political.

Some studies suggested that organizational politics is a self-serving behaviour and exists when there is a climate that lacks trust between its members (Poom , 2002). In such environments, managers usually try to influence decisions by using power in order to protect or further their own interest (Tonn, 1978; Daft, 2007). Therefore, these studies have mostly concluded that more politicize environment generate more unfavourable work environment, (Kumar , Ghadially , 1989).

Some scholars argue that political behaviour can be either functional or dysfunctional for the organization, depending on whether that behaviour assists or deters the organization in attaining its goal (Robbins, 1976).

Studies demonstrated that organizational politics considered as dysfunctional because it may damage organization’s performance in different ways because it has a strong potential to hinder organizational efficiency and effectiveness. (Kacmar, Baron,1999). Recent study suggested that organizational politics consume time, and have highly control over information sharing and create communication problems between its members (Poon , 2002). One underlying aspect of its inefficiency is associated with long discussions and negotiations to reach a particular decision. On the other hand studies that examined employee’s perception of organizational politics found that strong levels of organizational politics were linked with negative perceptions about the organization’s procedural justice, distributional justice and fairness toward employees (Vigoda-Gadot, Drory , 2006).

Politics often overlap with many organizational processes at different levels of decision-making, such as structural change, resource allocation and reward such as pay and promotion, (Drory, Romm, 1990). However, one of the areas where politics often is perceived has having a negative influence is reward, because it is more related to how employees perceive political decisions as unfair and partial (Ka).

Early researches in this area was mostly focusing on the conditions under which political behaviour occurs and the consequences of certain types of political behaviours for employees and organizational outcome ( Vigoda-Gadot, Drory , 2006), but the last two decade researches found more effective approach to studying this phenomena comprehensively by examining employees perception of organizational politics, (Ferris , Kacmar , 1991-1992). Empirical studies in this area demonstrated that employees’ who perceive organizational politics has shown negative reaction on job attitude and several work outcomes, (etc. Ferris, Kacmar, 1991-1992; Kacmar, Bozeman , Carlson & Anthony, 1999, Vigoda, 2000).

Research so far has been mostly conducted in developed countries such as USA, (Poon, 2008). Very limited researches have been conducted in developing countries and preciously on Middle Eastern countries like Iraq, with only few reported studies have been conducted in the Israeli public sector ( Vigoda ,2000). Because research suggests that political behaviour inside and outside organizations is subject to cultural influences (Pfeffer, 1992).and also because cultural differences play an important role in determining the influencing tactics used by the people in the organization, and even how people in organizations perceive the use of power and politics, Therefore, similar research should be conducted in other cultures to allow better understanding of the cultural implications. Hence, use the example of a Middle Eastern country’s workplace setting to allow the examination of organizational politics in cultural context.

The aim of this study is to contribute to understanding of the role of organizational politics to employee’s reactions in terms of job attitudes and some work outcomes. The context of research is an international Non-Profit Organization working in Iraq, which is different from the previous researches conducted in developed countries such as USA which is been classified to be high on individualism and low in power distance (Hofstede, 1983). This study wanted to expand such research in different setting, one that is characterized by lower individualism and high power distance.


The main objective of this research is to study the relationship between perception of organizational politics and job attitudes such as Job satisfaction, organizational commitment.

In addition, to examine another related relationship to perception of organizational politics is work outcomes such as intention to leave and neglecting behaviour. This will be by answering the main research question that this study addresses is What is the relation between perception of organizational politics and job attitudes such as Job satisfaction, organizational commitment, intention to leave and neglecting behaviour?

Chapter Two

2. Literature Review

2.1 Politics in Organizations

Politics can be defined as ” the use of power to influence decision in order to achieve a desired outcome”, (Daft, 2007,377).

Politics is not only for those who formally involved in a political system. And is not restricted for those who look for public office to be politician or play politics. Politics is bound to happen in every organized setting, regardless of size, function or character of ownership, (Tonn, 1978). It is also found at every level of the hierarchy, (Zalezinik, 1970).

This exercise of power and influence in organizations is also known as political behaviour.

2.2 Organizational politics

As mentioned earlier, politics is the use of power by an organization, a group or individuals to influence decisions to get things done. This includes both the good things is as well the bad things. Thus, political behaviour can be either positive of negative force (Drory, Romm, 1990; Kacmar ,Carlson ; Gallagher ,Larid,2008 ;Daft, 2007). There are different interpretations and definitions of political behaviour (e.g. Drory ,Romm, 1993; Kacmar ,Carlson, 1997). However recent literature has distinguished to approach to define organizational politics, (Daft , 2007):

Politics as self serving behaviour

Politics as natural organizational process

Politics as self-serving behaviour

This definition emphasizes the self-serving behaviour of politics and the involvement in activities that are not sanctioned by the organization (Robbins, 1976). In this approach, politics is related to bias and dishonest decisions for the purposes of individual self-interest. These can lead to conflict and disharmony within workplace environment, (Ferris, Kacmar, 1992, Daft, 2007).

Drory & Room (1990) define Self-serving behaviour as political when its aim is not serve others, or miss-serve others. For example, when the information and knowledge required by a rational model of organizations does not exist and disagreement about organization goal and objective will be high. According to this definition self-judgement and compromise commonly supersede structured and bureaucratic forms of rational decision-making (Thompson, 1967). As a result, the powerful person is able to be influential in deciding how disagreements are resolved and “who gets what” (Tonn, 1978). As Robbines (1976) interprets “self-serving” is to be in their “best interest”, despite the consequences of how rational it may appear to an outsider. According to Tonn, (1978) this definition is a classic case of “the rich get richer”. However, Robbins (1976) suggested that all human behaviour is self-serving; therefore, all behaviour in organizations can reviewed as political.

The only significant difference is between functional and dysfunctional political behaviour, depending on how this behaviour is compatible with organizational objective (Drory, Romm, 1990). Therefore, political behaviour can be valued depending on whether that behaviour assists or discourages the organization in attaining its goals. See Fig-1

Dysfunctional Behaviour

Functional Behaviour

Individual or Subunit Objective

Org. Objective

Fig-1: describing the value of political behaviour, (Joan C. Tonn, 1978).

Explanation of the Model:

This model was introduced by Tonn (1978) to explain how individual or group political behaviour can be valued.

Based on module valuing can be as following :

If a group or individual’s self-interest or objectives serve the best interests of the organization, such behaviour is functional, (Robbins, 1976)(8). The principle embedded in this view of political behaviour, is the value of group/individuals behaviour are judged with reference to existing organizational objectives. Moreover, it also takes into consideration the desire to achieve as much balance as possible between group / individuals and organizational objectives, (Tonn, 1978).


Politics as a Natural Organizational Process

Studies on organizational decision-making have been proposed many models of decision-making in organizations (March, Simon, 1993). However, recent research by Gallagher and Laird (2008) distinguish three main model of decision-making: rational, practical, and political. The rational model of decision-making assumes that individuals consistently choose the best optimum solution among clear alternatives under specific constrains (Simon, 1979).Historically, organizations have been designed to promote rational decision-making in an effort to limit individual impact on the institution and to maximizing value (March, Simon, 1993). Several studies argued that the rational model of decision-making is too idealistic to be achieved in real world and decisions cannot follow a step-by-step rational procedure (Robbins, 1998). Given the amount of information’s and other resources needed by this model, is not always available in the current dynamic and changing environment of politics, business and economy (Daft ,2007; Gallagher , Laird, 2008). Moreover, the other model of decision-making; the practical model is more associated and used when problems and priorities are poorly defined and organizations filed with ambiguity. So this model of decision-making approach more satisficing way to make decision by using intuition and muddling through (Yang, 2003). But according to Gallagher and Laird (2008) both model rational and practical are unrealistic and in some cases is biased because they ignore the political dimension of the organization.

In other words, organizations are very linked to the environment and there resources never be unlimited; therefore, the differences between members over goals and priority of problems would be great. Moreover, Individuals and groups might have different interests, goals and values, (Vigoda, 2000). So disagreements are normal, thus power and influence are needed to make decisions. Groups and individuals will engage in the debate to decide the goal and reach an agreement about decisions (Daft, 2007). Politics, in this view is a natural organizational process for solving differences amongst the organization’s interest groups, (Gallagher & Laird, 2008).

The processes of bargaining and negotiation often used to overcome conflicts and different opinions between organizational members over goal and problem priorities in organization , (Drory, Romm, 1990). This type of decision-making is more frequent at high managerial level and it is similar to coalition building decision-making model, (Parker, Dipboye & Jackson, 1995; Kacmar, Bozeman & Anthony, 1999). Organizations with more use of political model of decision-making might sometimes act against the organization’s objective but contribute to organizational effectiveness, (Drory, Romm, 1990; Daft, 2007)

2.4.1 Acting against Organizational goal:

According to Vigoda, 2000 “Organizations are becoming increasingly less structured and more fluid”. Such organizations must be capable of modifying their internal functioning and even their objectives in order to be effective over time, so if political behaviour assists the organization in adapting its objectives, strategies and operations to its changing environment, it should be considered functional (Robbins, 1976; Tonn, 1978; Welsh, Slusher, 1986; Gallagher & Larid, 2008).

This type of organizational politics may work against organization objectives, but it contributes to organizational effectiveness (Tonn, 1978) that why it is considered as natural organizational process. For example, a manager may informally pressure and influence the employee by influencing her / him to work overtime in order to attain certain goals which are desirable for the organization, (Drory & Room, 1990).

Therefore, and according to Tonn (1978), political behaviour might put pressure on the organization to:

“Clearly define it objectives with respect to elements of effectiveness, Achieve the proper relationships among the criteria in a given time period. And, Respond to internal or external change by balancing the organization performance with respect to these components over time.”

In short, the value of political behaviour in complex organizations (high uncertainty, disagreement between members over goal and objectives) should not be judged in terms of simple comparison between self-interest action and existing organizational objectives. It should be judged by whether the political behaviour is smooth and functional in the progress of achieving organizational effectiveness, (Drory, Romm 1990).

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To summarize, politics in organization is an unavoidable behaviour, especially when decisions need to be made, (Gallagher & Laird, 2008). Although there is little agreement on one definition of organizational politics, nearly every definitions consists of three common elements: (1) self-serving, (2) contrast with goals and (3) conflict.

Areas in which politics plays a role

Politics occur in all organizations especially when decision need to be made. Studies demonstrate that politics affect organizational decision-making on different levels, (Yang, 2003). Following the situations when politics can play role in decision-making,

Organizational politics as use of power and influence tactics designed to achieve the best outcome for the user and contribute to the organization effectiveness (Pfeffer, 1992), this type of politics would be more common in high level management. For instance in case of merger and acquisitions mangers show high interest in barging and negotiate to protect the responsibilities and power they have, or to further it. and at the same time trying to achieve best outcome for the origination.

Organizational politics can be common when their high case of uncertainty. For example, when hiring or promoting an executive manager, such decisions can generate uncertainty, discussion and disagreement; therefore, politics would be common to make decisions (Welsh, Slusher, 1986). However, mangers can use hiring and promotion to promote their position, by putting their own people in certain positions to strengthen their network, alliances and collation (Tonn, 1978).

Organizational politics become common resources allocation decision need to be made (Drory , Romm). For instance, In order for the organization to perform, it needs resources; such as salaries, operating budget, workers, office building and equipment. Therefore, resource-allocation process can face lots of disagreement about the priorities, and politics can help in smoothing the process and resolve the conflict, (Pfeffer , Salanik, 1974).

2.6 Perception of organizational politics:

Organizational politics is often assessed by people’s perceptions and not directly on the realty of action. Because of its subjective nature (one-sided) perception, Several researchers suggest that rather than considering an objective state, organizational politics is best perceived as a state of mind, (etc. Drory , Romm; Ferris , Kacmar , 1992; and Giacalone , Rosenfeld , 1989).

This perception of organizational politics is invented based on the theory of a leading Social Psychology Scientist Kurt Lewin 1890-1947. Lewin suggested in 1936 that People respond to their perception of reality, not realty itself. Therefore, politics in organizations should be understood in terms of what people think of it rather then what it actually represents (Drory, Romm, 1990, Kacmar & Carlson, 1997; Kacmar, Bozeman & Anthony,1999;Vigoda, 2000).

Recent research by (Gallagher & Laird, 2008)(p. 2339) defined Perception of organizational politics, “Is an individual’s view characterized by co-workers and supervisors who demonstrate self-serving behaviour”.

This concept was first examined by Gandaz and Murray (1980) and Modison (1980). Then more systematic method was invented by Ferris, Russ, and Fandt in 1989, it was called perception of organizational politics Scale (POPS). This concept was composed of three main factors “Going Along to Get Ahead”, “General political behaviour” and “Pay and promotion polices”, (Kacmar & Carlson, 1997). The POPS will be explaining in details in chapter three.

Implications of perceptions of political behaviour


Research demonstrates that perceptions of justice and fairness reflect a political climate in the workplace and it may also be related to a variety of work outcomes, (Drory, 1993). The higher the employee’s perception of politics in work environment, the lower they see the level of justice, equity and fairness in workplace. Studies suggested that the higher the perception of organizational politics in the workplace, the less can the organizations be supportive of innovation (Ferris, Kacmar, 1991). Therefore people perception of organizational politics is with no doubt related to how employees perceive their workplace and their consequent react.

Empirical researches in this area showed that the areas are mostly influenced by organizational politics was job attitudes and some work outcomes. These job attitudes include job satisfaction and organizational commitment and work outcomes include turnover intention and job performance, (Vigoda, 2000; Gallagher , Laird, 2008).

See Fig -2

Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is a positive emotional state resulting from evaluating one’s job experience, (Mathis , Jackson, 2008). Although, organizations make a variety of political decisions regarding development, resources allocation, training etc., it is often the decisions regarding pay and promotion have a major effect on employee’s job satisfaction, (Kacmar , Carlson, 1997). Pay and promotion are considered one of the most important elements in employee’s job satisfaction, (Mathis , Jackson, 2008). No doubt that, an employee will experience a decrease of job satisfaction when promotion, awards or payments are based on political consideration and not on merit (Witt , Andrew & Kacmar, 2000). Most empirical studies that examined the relationship between politics and job attitude, found that perception of organizational politics was disproportional to job satisfaction, (Ferris , Kacmar, 1991; Drory , 1993; Bazeman et al , 1996; Vigoda , 2000, Boon , 2002). Although, some research showed no relationship between perception of organizational politics and some other job attitudes due to some mitigating factors, (Byrne , 2005; Gallagher , Larid, 2008 ). But job satisfaction was the only Job attitude always highly related with negative relationship.

Hence employee with high perceptions of organizational politics will tend to show lower level of job satisfaction. First hypothesis was formulated to test relationship

H1: The perception of organizational politics is negatively related to job satisfaction.

Organizational commitment

Studies in job satisfaction suggest that job satisfaction influences organizational commitment. Employees show more loyalty to the organization if they are pleased and satisfied with their job, (Mathis, Jackson, 2008). Moreover, empirical studies showed that when an employee experiences unfair treatment in the workplace because of political considerations, he / she would react intentionally by reducing the level of voluntary obligation and commitment to the organization, (Vigoda, 2000). Bozeman (1996) found that the perception of organizational politics was negatively related to organizational commitment.

Hence, employees with high level of perception of organizational politics tend to show low level of organizational commitment. The second hypothesises is formulated to test relationship.

H2: The perception of organizational politics is negatively related to organizational commitment.

Turnover Intention

Job attitude can be an immediate reaction to organizational politics (Drory , 1993). However, on the long run it will signal a more negative reaction on different levels or stages. Thus, organizational politics can cause behaviour intention such as intentions to leave the organization (Byrne, 2005). Employees who see themselves harmed or victimised and see no, or unsatisfactory, response from the organization, they often respond by leaving the organization (Vigoda, 2000).

Early study by Ferris et al, 1986 proved that perception of organizational politics is proportionate to job attitudes like turnover intention. Later research by (Parker, Dipboye & Jackson, 1995) showed that the perception of organizational politics is not related to turnover intention. In 1997, Cropanzano et al. research showed that perception of organizational politics is disproportionate to turnover intention. These studies were mostly in developed counties. However, recent studies in non-developed countries, one in Malayisa in the private sector and another one in Israel in public sector organization showed that organizational politics is proportional to turnover intention ( Vigoda, 2000 ; Poom , 2002). Hence, we expected that organizational politics would be positively related to damaging outcomes, such as intention to leave. Third hypothesis is:

H3: Perception of organizational politics proportionate to employees’ intention to leave.

Job performance (Intention to neglect their duties):

Although, in most research, the relationship was not strongly negative, because as Vigoda, 2000 believe that organizational politics has negative effect on workplace, but very few people intend jobs with high security because of Organizational politics.

As a result, they react in unsatisfied-neglecting forms. They deliberately neglect their job. Hence, we expected that organizational politics is proportionate to employees’ intention to neglect their duties. Forth hypothesis is:

H4: Perception of organizational politics is proportionate to employees’ intention to neglect their duties.

Chapter Three

3. Method

3.1 Research purpose:

The purpose of this research is to investigate the consequences of perception of organizational politics. This will be examined precisely on employees’ job attitudes such as job satisfaction and organizational commitment, and, in addition on work outcomes such as turn over intention and neglecting behaviour. Moreover, this study will attempt to be more explorative in identifying and understanding the nature of these consequences within the context of the environment. This approach will be taken to understand the context dimension since no such research was found to be conducted in Iraq.

3.2 Research design:

Research design provides a framework for the collection and analysis of data. And the choice of research design reflects decision about the priority being set to certain dimensions of research process. There are different type of research decisions; such as experimental; cross-sectional; longitudinal; case study and comparative design, (Bryman ,Bell, 2007). In order to answer the research questions Cross-sectional design is used. This type of design is also called social survey design, because it is widely used social science researches. This design is used for researches that entail the collection of data on the case in connection with two or more variables, (Bryman, Bell, 2007). Qualitative and quantitative techniques can be used to collect data in this design.

To fulfil the purpose of this research a qualitative method (Interviews) was chosen to be used in this research. Qualitative research usually emphasizes ward rather than quantification in collecting and data analysis. Qualitative interview approach considered more subjective and involves in examining and reflecting perceptions, which is more relative to the aim of this research, (Jarratt, 1996). Moreover, qualitative interview aims to gather an in-depth understanding of human behaviour and the reasons that govern such behaviour, which is also more objective in this study. Furthermore, qualitative method is often wanted to interpret people’s behaviour in term of norms, values and culture of group that can help in this study to understand the contextual dimensions. However, the transcription of the qualitative interviews and its analysis is very time consuming, (Flick, 2007). But most notably survey research based on quantitative method like questionnaires have been shown to related poorly to people’s actual behaviour, (Bryman, Bell, 2007). Many studies on this subject demonstrated that quantitative paradigm non-human instrument and the reliability is stable and comes from the idea of that reality is made up of facts that do not change, in contrast with the qualitative paradigm which is dynamic and the reality can change with changes in people’s perceptions, (Jarratt, 1996). More than that, questionnaires are usually regarded as a nuisance and discouraged, (Flick, 2007).

3.2.1 Types of Interviews

Interviews as data collecting method exist in qualitative and quantitative methods, but the difference between these types depends on the way it is form. Interviews may be highly formalised and structured, using standardised questions for each research participant or they may be informal and unstructured conversations. In between there are intermediate positions.

Typology (Healey and Rawlinson 1993, 1994) differentiate between, See Fig-3

Standardised interviews (Structured);

Non-Standardise interviews (Semi- structured / Unstructured)


Standardised (structured) Non-Standardised

(Semi-structure / unstructured)

Interviewer-administered questionnaires

One to one One too many

Face to face Telephone Internet Group electronic group

Interviews Interviews Interviews Interviews Interviews

Fig- 3: Adapted from Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009, pp: 321

Each form of interview outlined above has a distinct purpose. Standardised interviews are normally used to gather data, which will then be the subject of quantitative analysis (Sauders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). Non standardised (semi structured / Unstructured) interviews are used to gather data, which are normally analysed qualitatively. These data are likely to be used not only to reveal and understand the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ but also to place more emphasis on exploring the ‘why’ (Sauders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009).

This study will take Non-Standardised, Semi-Structured Interviews involving face to face and telephone interviews. The research will have a list of themes and questions to be covered, although these may vary from interview to interview. This means that some questions will be omitted in particular interviews, given a specific organizational context that is encountered in relation to the research topic. The order of questions may also be varied depending on the flow of the conversation. On the other hand, additional questions may be required to explore research and objective.

3.3. Data collection

The data in the study is collected from an international non-profit media development organization that operates in Iraq, the Institute of War & Peace Reporting, IWPR. This organization was chosen because it is currently the leading media development agency in Iraq and the world. IWPR departments in Iraq are also fairly large with approximately 151 employees and the majority are full time staff in three Iraqi cities. This makes IWPR a more challenging place to examine because it serves a large and heterogeneous population. IWPR as any Non-profit organization always straggles for resources. First, because it’s a non-profit organization operates based on donations from developing countries. Second, IWPR mostly operates in poor or non-developed countries that lack employees with proper skills and experiences to work in international organizations. More information about the organization is provided organization context.

3.3.1 Organization Background

Institute for War and Peace Reporting IWPR is a leading non-profit organization with 20 years’ experience building peace and democracy through free and fair media. Working on the ground in more than 24 transitional and crisis states, IWPR builds local capacity, establishes local institutions and supports practical training and information programs to build democracy, civil society, human rights and rule of law.

IWPR programs provide quick impact leading to long-term, sustainable change, often bringing in multiple donors and establishing local groups. IWPR maintains more than eighty full-time international employees and consultants in fifteen offices and hundreds of local employees in south-eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa, with coordinating centres in Washington DC, USA and London, UK.

3.3.2 IWPR Programming in Iraq

IWPR was established in Iraq in summer 2003 and maintained country-wide activities since then by supporting democratization and development through media and civil society.

IWPR has provided more than 800 local journalists and editors, in both print and broadcast, with basic skills training and specialized courses in political, human rights, civil society and women’s issues reporting, leading to an increase in quali


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