Managing the politics?

As Daft et al (2010) points out “a political model closely resembles the real environment in which most managers and decision-makers operate”.  This model makes a number of assumptions about the world in which you operate as a manager.

  1. You cannot assume that other managers will support your goals and values even if yours are rational.
  2. There is always ambiguity and lack of clarity.
  3. Organisational problems are multi-faceted and different managers often have different information about those issues and problems.
  4. You just have not got time to collect and analyse all aspects of issues so you need to rely on talking to other managers.
  5. Decisions are often based on bargaining, compromise and discussion amongst managers.

These assumptions have a ring of truth and reality about them – so how do you navigate your way through the politics?

  1. Never assume that the information you have is available to others.  Be prepared to share and collect information on issues with and from others.  When someone takes a contrary position to the one you are taking, ask yourself if he or she has the same data and information that you have.
  2. Be flexible and learn to negotiate to get more of what you want and less of what you don’t.
  3. Do not rely solely on logic and reason – it’s just not how everyone works.  Take account of feelings and perceptions as well as hard facts and reason.
  4. Recognise that different people have different sources of power and influence and learn to differentiate between these different forms of power.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_%26_Raven’s_Five_bases_of_Power for a list of different forms of power.
  5. Work to build informal and formal coalitions to support your goals and objectives.
  6. Have more than one way of influencing people in your armoury – make people like you, develop reciprocity, develop allies as well as being assertive, making use of higher authority and rewarding others.
  7. Know when to retreat on an issue to regroup and come back another time.
  8. Expect conflict and resistance from others and do not be surprised by it.
  9. Being overtly political and being politically aware are two different things – don’t confuse the two.  Getting a reputation as a politician will do you no good but being seen as politically savvy will increase your influence.

Experienced managers often say that the ability to navigate the politics makes the difference between success and failure.  Maintain your integrity at all costs but develop ways of being able to read the politics internally.

Daft, R., Kendrick, M., Vershinina, N., (2010), Management, international edition, Cengage

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