Organizational Politics: A Ubiquitous Evil

Topic: Organizational Performance, Job Attitudes
Publication: Academy of Management Journal (DEC 2009)
Article: The relationship between perceptions of organizational politics and employee attitudes, strain and behavior: A meta-analytic examination.
Authors: C-H. Chang, C. C. Rosen, & P. E. Levy
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Organizational politics refer to activities that individuals engage in to gain resources for themselves and select individuals – and many such activities are not sanctioned by organizations. Although some political activity is necessary (e.g., for group or team formation), much of it comes at the cost of the organization or other employees within the organization.

Examples include hiring/promoting friends, backstabbing, making selective employment decisions based on in-group membership, etc.

But are organizational politics really that bad?  Chang, Rosen and Levy’s (2009) recent meta-analysis suggests that indeed they are. They found that employee perceptions of organizational politics adversely affect job satisfaction, commitment to the organization, intentions to quit, strain (the product of stress or stressors), and even job performance. The largest effects were found for strain, job satisfaction, commitment, and intentions to quit.

Although organizational politics may serve the needs of those participating in it, they are very harmful to other employees and can ultimately have a significant impact on organizational effectiveness.

Chang et al.’s meta-analysis is a dramatic reminder that illegitimate political activities within organizations should be stamped out and prevented. Chang and colleagues suggest that organizations can select employees on skills that are favorably related to organizational politics (e.g., teamwork skills, conflict management skills) and hold employees accountable for such activities by including  political activities in performance appraisals.

Ultimately, organizational politics occur in every organization; few can dispute that. The issue is, how wild they are allowed to run?

Chang, C-H., Rosen, C.C., & Levy, P.E. (2009). The relationship between perceptions of organizational politics and employee attitudes, strain and behavior: A meta-analytic examination. Academy of Management Journal, 52(4), 779-801.