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Healthy Organizational Politics Published: Sunday, November 4, 2001 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

The process of organizational politics as we know it in its negative expression, works against good people taking responsibility. The healthy aim should be to educate and empower human beings to discover the positive way of being political. The line between constructive and destructive politics it is sometimes a tightrope that some people have walked. Healthy politics is a fundamental task for democratic institutions. But many good people get burned inside organizations.

Some bureaucratic politics cycle often leave individuals feeling hurt, vulnerable, burned, hostile, cynic, powerless and helpless. An incorrect proposition is that if we give to much power to individual within organizations, there is the possibility that it will be used against the party that granted it in the first place. Consequently, there is an apparent need to develop manipulative strategies for the sake of “protection”. To escape the dilemma organizational actors need to support structures, polices and processes that promote empowerment. They must also make the personal choices to empower themselves ( 1. share information with everyone, 2. create autonomy through boundaries and 3. complement the hierarchy with the development of teams).

For years we have helped companies to nourish their image of greatness as a vision of what they can contribute to a future that is meaningful and worthwhile. Following such a path, organizations learn about the need to build support for their visions by negotiating agreement and developing trust.

We strongly favor a different approach for dealing with friends, allies and opponents. Adversaries are simultaneously difficult and interesting people to deal with. It is usually ineffective to bluntly pressure them and it is a more effective strategy to let go of them. Though this is pure psychological reasons to execute such a strategy.

There are four researched steps for letting go: 1) tell them your vision, 2) state your best understanding of their position, 3) identify your own contribution to the problem 4) tell them what you plan to do without making demands on them

The above strategy works for conflict originating in misunderstanding or an unduly narrow interpretation of one’s self-interest. In situations of scarce resources and durable differences, bringing politics into the open may back fire, making conflict more obvious and overt but no more resolvable. War games in organizations tend to weaken or disappear when brought into the light of day.

The healthy conception of organizational politics searches for a firm moral footing in a world of organizational diversity. Leaders should always appeal to higher purposes. If they are going to be effective in mobilizing and elevating their constituencies, they must be full persons, persons with full functioning capacities for acting, thinking, feeling and working.

The challenge for leaders as educators is no to behave in an egocentric manner, but to extend awareness of human needs and the ways of gratifying them, to improve the larger institutional and social situation for which educators have the responsibility and over which they should have knowledge power.

Teachers, in whatever guise, treat students neither coercively nor instrumentally, but as joint seekers of wisdom and mutual actualization.

 


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