What is Organizational Politics?

Knowledge Center


Guido Maes
Consultant, Belgium

What is Organizational Politics?

Organizational Politics involves those activities taken within organizations to acquire, develop, and use power or other resources to obtain one's preferred outcomes in a situation in which there is uncertainty or dissensus about choices.


Anneke Zwart
Student (University), Netherlands

Definition and Perceptions of Organizational Politics

As defined by Mintzberg (1983), organizational politics means: "... individual or group behaviour that is informal, ostensibly parochial, typically divisive and above all, in the technical sense, illegitimate-sanctioned neither by formal authority, accepted ideology, nor certified expertise". Organizational politics can be seen as functional, which means it is seen as a necessary factor for efficient functioning of organizations. However, it can also be dysfunctional when people engage in politics in their own self-interest.

Perceptions of organizational politics are influenced by how individuals perceive others’ self-interested behavior such as manipulating policies in an organization. These are subjective perceptions that of course might differ in reality. Even though an individuals’ perception differs from reality, it is seen as reality by the individual and will therefore influence a person’s responses.

Organizational politics are often negatively interpreted. When politics are perceived as dysfunctional it means a very negative view on organizational policies within a company, which is likely to be source of potential for stress. Rashid et al. (2013) argue that the perception of dysfunctional organizational politics increases job stress. Such negative perceptions about policies in organizations will grow over time because politics is a continuous activity.

The stress that results from negative perceptions on politics in organizations will eventually lead to one of the 2 following typical responses by employees:
1. Flight response. These people feel they can not handle the unfair and unjustified policies. Besides they know there are job opportunities elsewhere. Such employees are likely to quit their jobs.
2. Stay. These people are also unable to cope with the policies, but they will stay because of limited job opportunities elsewhere. Such people are exposed to a growing risk of stress, because of the fact that they are not able to deal with their political environment.

Ferris, G.R., D.D. Frink, D.P.S. Bhawuk, J. Zhou and D.C. Glmore (1996) “Reactions of diverse groups to politics in the workplace” Journal of Management Vol. 22 pp 23-44
Rashid, U. Karim, N. Rashid, S. and A. Usman (2013) “Employee’s Perception of Organizational Politics and its Relationship with Stress” Asian Journal of Business Management Vol 4 Iss 5 pp 348-352
Mintzberg, H. (1983) “Power in and Around Organizations” Prentice-Hall Englewood Cliffs NJ.

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