Politics- Just One Big Game

I came across an interesting article by Dan King during a reading assignment for my Human Resources class which is pretty relevant to our discussions on Networks and last week’s topic: Game Theory.

When it comes to organizational politics, many people fall into one of three categories: the politically naïve, the politically sensible, and political sharks. Politically naïve people tend to naively believe that playing politics is unnecessary because the truth will win out or find political maneuvering so unpleasant that they avoid it even though they realize that it is to their disadvantage. Political sharks tend to relish organizational politics. They often use manipulation and deceit in order to cultivate powerful friends in the organization. The politically sensible understand that being somewhat political is sometimes necessary in order to be successful. They network to expand their connections within the organization, and, perhaps reluctantly, use the system to give and receive favors. Are you politically naïve, politically sensible, or a political shark?

Many of us are familiar with organizational politics in the workplace where someone uses influence tactics (or strategies) to enhance or protect their personal self- interest.

Some of these strategies include:

Attacking or blaming teammates or colleagues or outsiders for mistakes and poor outcomes;

Withholding information from someone who could benefit from that information in order to undercut them;

Manipulating information to create a favorable impression;

Praising or complementing others, especially those with power;

Create obligations by doing favors for powerful people in a way that they will be motivated to reciprocate by doing you a favor;

Forming power coalitions with strong allies by investing time to communicate and influence others about why your point of view is best for the organization, and especially beneficial to you and your ally, and, also, asking for support for your agenda.

Politics occurs when there are two or more people working together; it is inevitable. And we all consider the various strategies we can utilize in order to reach our end goal, which King says is power. In the workplace, he says, all the players seek similar ends—personal success, professional growth, financial security etc. We even find that some people will pursue what they want by any means necessary, which is often seen as cheating, doing anything to win while the rest of us wrestle with the trade-offs.

There seems to be a very visible trade-off in terms of choosing to engage in office politics or not. One can refuse, keep our principles, morals, and integrity intact and possibly put your career at a standstill. Or we can engage, throw that all out of the window, and get that promotion.

Politics has such a negative connotation, but like King says, Play or not play, the game still goes on. So we have to look carefully at the other players, make our connections wisely, choose the best strategy and play the game.

Link: http://www.careerfirm.com/article-politics.htm


2 thoughts on “Politics- Just One Big Game”

  1. This article is so interesting. I would agree with the author with the statement that the politics’ game is there whether people participate or not. For instance, while working at an internship I witness how interns engaged in this type of politics with the superiors, to the point that the superiors owed them so much that they would always favor them in return. I consider myself more of a “political sensible” especially after working at such competitive place. I feel that where competition for rewards is at stake, people tend to make use of those political strategies.

  2. This reminds me of some of the game experiments done by Daniel Kahneman and recreated by Dr. Wargo here at Temple. They use multi-round games similar to a prisoner’s dilemma to show the development of learned strategies. The strategies can be defined as cooperators, reciprocators, and cheaters. The percentile of cheaters is similar to the percentile of psychopaths. The majority of players are reciprocators. Moreover, this lines up well with the division of the naive, the sensible, and the shark. I spent a long time being part of various political organizations and I have to admit that I fall in line with the sensible. Being politcally sensible is the same as being a reciprocator, in that if the organization is controlled by sharks, you’ll lean more towards shark strategies, but if its controlled by the naive you’ll play a cooperative strategy. If you put this into the context of either Washington DC or Wall St, it’s easy to see why powerful organizations end up being shark tanks.

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