Politics in Organization: 4 Types of Organizational Politics, and How to Tackle?

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Organizational politics refers to the activities employees undertake in the workplace to gain power and achieve desired outcomes. It involves informal, unofficial, and sometimes behind-the-scenes efforts to sell ideas, influence an organization, increase power, or improve personal or organizational relationships.

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Organizational politics are informal, unofficial, and sometimes behind-the-scenes efforts to sell ideas, influence an organization, increase power, or achieve other targeted objectives – Brandon & Seldman, 2004; Hochwarter, Witt, & Kacmar, 2000

Politics as the processes, the actions, the behaviors through which potential power is utilized and realized. – Pfeffer 

Organizational politics as informal approaches to gaining power through means of other than merit or luck. – Dubrin 

There are four types of organizational politics: transactional, relational, institutional, and cultural.

Transactional politics involve influencing tactics such as negotiation and persuasion while relational politics involve building relationships with colleagues and stakeholders. Institutional politics in an organizational context involve influencing tactics. Such as negotiation and persuasion to gain power and achieve desired outcomes. 

Cultural politics involve building relationships with colleagues and stakeholders. As well as understanding the complex webs of meaning arising from communicative practices that compose an organization’s culture.

4 Types of Organizational Politics

Transactional Politics

This type of politics involves individuals who are focused on their own self-interest and personal gain. They often use their power and influence to gain favours, rewards, and promotions. Here is an example

There is an employee who is always trying to gain favour with their manager by offering to complete tasks that are outside of their job description in hopes of getting a promotion.

Relational Politics

Relational politics is all about building strong relationships with key individuals within an organization. Those who are skilled in this type of politics are able to create and maintain positive relationships. It can help them to gain access to information, resources, and opportunities.

For example, an employee who goes out of their way to attend company events and socializes with higher-ups to build strong relationships.

Institutional Politics

It involves employees who are focused on the rules, policies, and procedures within an organization. They seek to gain power by gaining influence within the rules of the organization. They often seek to change the policies and procedures in their favour.

An example of institutional politics would be an employee who consistently suggests or propose changes to the company policies and procedures that would benefit their department or team.

Cultural Politics

These are all about shaping the culture of an organization/business. Those who are skilled in this type of politics seek to shape the organization’s values, norms/behaviours. They do this by promoting or opposing certain ideas, behaviours, or initiatives.

For example, an employee who consistently advocates for a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture.

Organizational politics is an interesting and sometimes difficult subject. Humans have been involved in politics for a long time. Organizational politics, on the other hand, might differ. 

Some people rely on hard, formal, or explicit power, which is derived from role authority, knowledge, directions, and regulations. Others employ soft power, which is based on influence and relationships.

It is essential to understand the nature of organizational politics. Because it has the potential to influence workplace dynamics and outcomes. Hence, whether you are a new or returning employee. 

You should be aware of the political situation and know how to deal with it. Handling it is essentially a skill.

The origins of organizational politics may be traced back to social impact theory and research. Aristotle defines politics as a set of opposing interests that must be resolved in order to attain organizational goals.

The study of the politics of organizational politics perceptions (POPs) is presently at a phase where it may acknowledge the past while moving forward. As a result, research has connected organizational politics to employee engagement, employee stress, and other factors.

Key Points

  1. Politics is the study or practice of the distribution of power and resources within a given community and the inter-relationships between communities.

  2. Politics is often said to be about power and a political system is a framework that defines acceptable methods within a society.

  3. Politics can be used to gain promotions, sell proposals, increase power, and more.

  4. Organizational politics are intended to enhance or protect a person’s influence and self-interest and can help an organization adapt and succeed.

  5. Types of political behaviour include withholding information, forming coalitions, and lobbying.

  6. Politics is a fact of life in organizations. And it can help ensure that the strongest members are brought into leadership positions, all sides of an issue are debated, and decisions are executed.

  7. Good office politics is often called networking and stakeholder management. And it is used to promote one’s interests without compromising those of others.

  8. Bad office politics is often used to gain an advantage at the expense of others or the greater good.

  9. In many countries with political instability, office politics is very common and influences official activities.

  10. There are seven steps to increase one’s influence: treat the other party as land, specify objectives, learn about the other party’s needs, interests, and goals, inventory one’s own resources, assess the current relationship, decide what to ask for and offer, and make an exchange that benefits both parties.

Aristotle’s View on Politics

According to Aristotle, government exists to promote and foster goodness in a way that leads to a good life for its citizens. He stated that the greatest constitution is one governed by a diverse middle class capable of controlling levels of wealth and poverty.

Politics, according to Aristotle, is the study of the tasks of the politician or head. Medical science is concerned with the work of a physician in the same way. 

To put it another way, political science is the corpus of information that politicians and leaders must have in order to excel at their jobs.

Politics’ purpose was to figure out what makes for successful governance and what makes for bad governance. According to Aristotle, the goal of the city was to allow its citizens to live together under shared laws and contribute to their society.

Aristotle depicts the happy life designed for man as lived in his Nicomachean Ethics. He analyzes the role of politics and the political community in his Politics. 

It must be involved in bringing about a good life for the citizenry. Politics also provides an analysis of the different types of political communities that exist.

Political behaviour in organizations

Political behaviour in organizations. Understanding the reasons behind political behaviour is essential for any organization to maintain a healthy and functional work environment.

According to a model that identifies five conditions conducive to political behaviour in organizations, there are several factors that can lead to political behaviour. These include:

  • Ambiguous goals,

  • Scarce resources,

  • Technological changes,

  • Personal power goals,

  • Performance evaluation,

Each of these conditions can lead to various forms of political behaviour, such as withholding information, forming alliances, or engaging in covert tactics.

Ambiguous goals

Ambiguous goals, for example, can cause employees to compete with each other rather than collaborate, leading to a breakdown in communication and trust. The scarcity of resources can cause a struggle for power, as employees compete for the available resources.

Technological changes

Technological changes can disrupt power dynamics and create a power vacuum, while personal power goals can lead to employees engaging in political tactics to advance their own interests.

Performance evaluation

Finally, performance evaluation can help employees to engage in political behaviour to influence how their work is evaluated.

To address each of these conditions and minimize political behaviour, organizations can take several steps. For example, clarifying goals and communication can reduce ambiguity and encourage collaboration.

Ensuring just distribution of resources and recognition of individual contributions can reduce competition and the struggle for power. Training and development can help employees adjust to technological changes, and creating a culture of transparency and openness can reduce the need for covert tactics.

How to Tackle Organizational Politics?


The Perceptions of Organizational Politics Scale (POPS) is a measure used to assess general political behaviour, political behaviour to “get ahead” and opacity in pay and promotion policies and rules. 

It can be used to improve performance, boost retention, and increase job satisfaction. Authenticity explains why general POPS influences employee performance.

The relationship between perceptions of organizational politics (POPs) and self-determined work motivation has yet to be understood exactly. Negative perceptions of politics (POPs) are affecting because they can affect counter-productive work behaviour (CWB).

Dealing with organizational politics can be challenging. But it’s important to maintain a positive work environment. 

So here are some tips for managing organizational politics:

Understand the landscape

It’s essential to understand the dynamics and power structures in your organization. Keep a close eye on how people interact with each other and try to identify any underlying issues that may be contributing to office politics.

Communicate openly

Open communication is key to reducing the impact of office politics. Encourage your team to be honest and transparent with each other, and make sure that everyone feels heard and valued.

Promote a positive culture

Cultivate a culture of respect, integrity, and teamwork. Set clear expectations for behaviour and make sure that everyone is held accountable for their actions.

Focus on goals

Stay focused on the goals and objectives of your team or organization. Encourage everyone to work together towards a common goal and avoid getting sidetracked by personal agendas.

Leading by example

As a leader, it is important to model the behaviour you want to see in your team. Stay positive, avoid gossip and backstabbing, and always act with integrity.

Always Remember that dealing with organizational politics is a process that takes time and effort. But by promoting a positive culture and focusing on goals, you can create a more productive work environment for everyone.

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