Authority/Power/Politics Authority What is Authority The word authority derives from the Latin word auctoritas meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence or commands which originate from an auctor, indicating that authority originates from a master, leader or author. Essentially authority is imposed by superiors upon inferiors either by force of arms (structural authority) or by force of argument (sapiential authority). Usually authority has components of both compulsion and persuasion.
For this reason, as used in Roman law authority is differentiated into potestas (legal or military power) and imperium (persuasive political rank or standing). Weber on Authority Max Weber in his sociological work has identified and distinguished three types of authority. Weber defined authority as the chance of commands being obeyed by a specifiable group of people. Legitimate authority is that which is recognized as legitimate and justified by both the ruler and the ruled. Weber divided legitimate authority into three types: The first type discussed by Weber is Rational-legal authority.
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It is that form of authority which depends for its legitimacy on formal rules and established laws of the state, which are usually written down and are often very complex. The power of the rational legal authority is mentioned in the constitution. Modern societies depend on legal-rational authority. Government officials are the best example of this form of authority, which is prevalent all over the world. The second type of authority is Traditional authority, which derives from long-established customs, habits and social structures.
When power passes from one generation to another, then it is known as traditional authority. The right of hereditary monarchs to rule furnishes an obvious example. The Tudor dynasty in England and the ruling families of Mewar, in Rajasthan (India) are some examples of traditional authority. The third form of authority is Charismatic authority. Here, the charisma of the individual or the leader plays an important role. Charismatic authority is that authority which is derived from “the gift of grace” or when the leader claims that his authority is derived from a “higher power” (e. . God or natural law or rights) or “inspiration”, that is superior to both the validity of traditional and rational-legal authority and followers accept this and are willing to follow this higher or inspired authority, in the place of the authority that they have hitherto been following. Some of the most prominent examples of charismatic authority can be politicians or leaders, who come from a movie or entertainment background. These people become successful, because they use their grace and charm to get more votes during elections.
Examples in this regard can be NT Rama Rao, a matinee idol, who went on to become one of the most powerful Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh. History has witnessed several social movements or revolutions, against a system of traditional or legal-rational authority, which are usually started by Charismatic authorities. What distinguishes authority, from coercion, force and power on the one hand and leadership, persuasion and influence on the other hand, is legitimacy. Superiors feel that they have a right to issue commands; subordinates perceive an obligation to obey.
Social scientists agree that authority is but one of several resources available, to incumbents in formal positions. For example, a Head of State is dependent upon a similar nesting of authority. His legitimacy must be acknowledged, not just by citizens, but by those who control other valued resources: his immediate staff, his cabinet, military leaders and in the long run, the administration and political apparatus of the entire society. Power What is Power Power is a measure of an entity’s ability to control the environment around itself, including the behavior of other entities.
The term authority is often used for power, perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to humans as social beings. Often, the study of power in a society is referred to as politics. Sources of Power Power may be held through: Delegated authority (for example in the democratic process) Social class (material wealth can equal power) Personal or group charisma Ascribed power (acting on perceived or assumed abilities, whether these bear testing or not) Expertise (Ability, Skills) Persuasion (direct, indirect, or subliminal)
Knowledge (granted or withheld, shared or kept secret) Celebrity Force (violence, military might, coercion). Moral persuasion (including religion) Operation of group dynamics (such as public relations) Social influence of tradition (compare ascribed power) In relationships; domination/submissiveness Politics What is Politics Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to behavior within civil governments, but politics has been observed in other group interactions, including corporate, academic, and religious institutions.
It consists of “social relations involving authority or power” and refers to the regulation of a political unit, and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy. Politics at Workplace Politics – the other face of the creative, innovative and manipulative and human mind, which always seeks power, recognition and authority. So how can there be no politics at the place where hundreds and thousands of human minds are spending most part of their day and there’s a constant struggle for power and recognition. Yes, double standards, secrecy, camps, demoting others and/or self promotion, in short – politics is all over the workplace.
No organisation is and will be completely free from the politics. Office politics refers to the use and manipulation of situations, power and people to secure their position, gain from the situation, let others down or even increase their own power, image and status within the organisation. The results or the benefits can be tangible or intangible, depending upon the situation. Politics at workplace is a game can be played equally well by a single player or teams together, can result in the interest and benefit of the organisation or go against it, can benefit those who don’t play or can throw them out of the organisation.
It is a double edged sword which can either create a happy, dynamic and improved environment at the workplace or can destroy it. Politics at workplace is often hard to resist and be away from. It compels and makes you compete. Although a part of all the organisations across the world, the politics at workplace has taken the more advanced and dangerous form in India, where the people staying away from it are being seen as a threat. Office politics has made employees good actors, hiding the facts and even true self from their own colleagues and organisation and being hypocrites for their reasons.
Grey side of the issue Every workplace has conflicts, but how the employees and the organisation tackle it goes a long way in ensuring the success of the employees as well as the organisation. Politics at workplace is complex, and can turn the organisation into an ugly and nasty battlefield. Most often, the power is the bone of contention. The powerful employee can take advantage of the situations and manipulate things. The employees can take the things to them at a personal level. This, in turn, can harm their personal and professional lives.
Playing on other people’s emotions to make things work for them, people have stooped to such levels where they have put their own morals and conscious aside. But the organisation feels the brunt of the continuous politics at workplace when it starts effecting the overall performance, efficiency and productivity of the organisation. This is mainly due to the considerable amount of time spent on the politics and thinking about the strategies and the moves, rather than the job and the work. Ultimately, this can lead to losses for the organisation and even the loss of jobs for the employees. Workplace Politics: A necessary evil
Again, the question arises about the employees who do not become a part to this politics at their workplace. Experts say that giving up to the politics without being a part of it and fighting it, especially when it is unfair, is not advisable either. Sometimes, the politics becomes the necessary evil simply for self defense. As often, the people staying away are taken as a threat and become the victim of the workplace politics and are eliminated. As it has become unavoidable to avoid the politics at today’s workplace, it has become necessary for every employee to: connect to people, try to identify the source of power, bserve and be aware of the happenings around, people’s strengths and weaknesses and their emotional intelligence. Avoiding politics at workplace Although it is practically impossible to make your workplace free from the politics, but the organisation and the employees can follow certain ethics for themselves to make their workplace healthier: Avoid distorting or manipulating the truth and the facts. Be yourself. Don’t have different faces to suit different people and different situations. Be fair in your dealings. Take decisions based on other’s performance and not on the basis of your relations with them.
Be flexible, approachable and accessible to others. Rigidity can isolate you. Communicate – Lack of proper communication is the root cause of most of the problems. Therefore, ensure a timely and open communication system. Hiding information, rumors or distorted information can aggravate the situation and problem. Proper communication will also help to combat the effect of gossip. Have a broader perspective. Don’t work to satisfy your ego every time. Give a fair chance to everyone to put forward their thoughts. Last but not the least; be clear in your conscious.
Don’t compromise on your morals and ethics and, don’t hesitate to apologize if you realize that you are wrong. It would be right to conclude that being a part of the interpersonal relations, politics at workplace is prevalent everywhere, and is unavoidable in most cases. But it’s more important to play the game right. Know the rules, stay true to yourself, don’t harm someone personally or his/her career, don’t take grudges home. Try to create a win-win situation for yourself, others and the organisation. Politics at workplace – can be good or bad – depends on how people take it and make it!
Don’t confuse authority, power, and politics If you work in an organization, you need a clear understanding of three closely related concepts–authority, power, and politics. Unfortunately, for many employees these concepts often confuse, frustrate, or elicit anxiety or indifference. The traditional concept of organization is built upon the principle that someone has the “right” to command someone else, whose duty is to obey the command. This “right” is bestowed by the formal organization, and we call it authority. It is important to note that “right to command” does not connote the “capacity to command. Most of us would be making a mistake if we were to equate right and capacity–i. e. , authority and power. This is especially true in a professional environment. We must always be careful to undergird our right to command with the appropriate power, the capability to secure dominance of one’s values or goals, if we want to develop and maintain highly effective organizations. Even though it may be socially unacceptable to admit that one aspires to power or worries about power relationships, we must recognize that power and politics enter into every organizational decision.
Positive power. However, concern about power and politics does not mean that a person is committed to such Machiavellian tactics as “doing unto others before they do unto you. ” Power has a positive side as well. Organizations could not function without some kind of power relationships. The positive side is characterized by a concern for group goals and their achievement. Leaders enjoy the greatest overall influence when they help their followers feel powerful and accomplish greatness on their own.
The direction of communications, their frequency, and their content reveals a great deal about the power relationships within an organization. It is as simple as who talks to whom about what. Office politics. The process by which power is exercised and sometimes acquired is called politics. In politics, contesting forces compete for favorable outcomes on decisions involving who gets what and how. Political activity is usually stronger where there are no prescribed routine answers or no stated policy. It also centers around the interpretation of existing policies and those situations involving value judgments.
Any organization that attempts to totally reduce these arenas of political activity by instituting rules, regulations, and policies from the top would quickly strangle in its own red tape. Political processes form the dynamic that enables the formal organization to function. In a sense, power and politics act as the lubricant that enables the interdependent parts of the organization to operate smoothly together. When we pretend that power and politics don’t exist, we greatly reduce the ability of an organization to get things done, especially when innovation and change are involved, because they abandon procedures we have always followed.
Since power and political processes are a fact of life in all organizations, we must develop and use the appropriate skills to achieve the organization’s goals. Managers must avoid working in isolation and instead as part of the flow of social forces. They must understand that a managerial position is not self-perpetuating. References Don’t confuse authority, power, and politics, By Ted Gautschi, Consultant, Wellesley Hills, MA — Design News, May 4, 1997