Necessary Leadership Skill - Business Skill 3 – Competency Navigating Company Politics and Power Bases

Dr. Donna L. Roberts
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The political landscape or political climate of an organization refers the set of hierarchies that defines relationships, formal and informal, between and among colleagues and managers at a given time. The understanding of company politics (also known as office politics and workplace politics) and power bases is a business competency with its function defined as “seeing organizations as dynamic, political, economic and social systems which have multiple goals; using this larger perspective as a framework for understanding and influencing events and change” (McLagan & Suhadolnik, 1989, p. 37).

The formal organizational power base refers to the official structure of the organizational hierarchy which delegates authority, responsibility and control. Informal power bases also exist in organizations as a result of personalities and relationships that are not reflected in the formal structure. In reality, office politics represents the complex and informal struggle for dominance in the organizational hierarchy. It reflects the undercurrent created by the ambitions of employees who are manipulating, lobbying, and jockeying for greater power, control, authority and influence within the organization.

The negative aspect of office politics encompasses the sometimes ruthless power struggles and manipulation of others in attempt to gain power within the formal and informal organization structure. To the extent that an organization’s culture support and encourage this negative behavior, the climate of the organization will be stressful and fiercely competitive. The positive manifestation of office politics is reflected in high motivation, increased recognition and high levels of productivity and innovation.


McLagan, P. A. & Suhadolnik, D. (1989). Models for HRD practice: The research report. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development.

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Writer and university professor researching media psych, generational studies, addiction psychology, human and animal rights, and the intersection of art and psychology.

Canandaigua, NY

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