But assessing performance in managerial work is fraught with ambiguity. There are multiple criteria, some of which can be assessed only through subjective judgment by the boss and others. It is often hard to separate individual performance from group performance or a host of other factors, including good or bad luck. Itmaymake a difference who is judging. Did Thiokol engineers who fought to stop the launch of Challenger deserve high grades for their
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persistence and integrity or low grades because they did not do a better job of persuading their bosses? When some of those same engineers went public with their criticism, were they demonstrating courage or disloyalty? Whistleblowers are regularly lauded by the press yet pilloried or banished by employers. This is exempli”ed byTimemagazine’s 2002Person of the Year award, given to three women who blew the whistle on their employers: Enron, WorldCom, and the FBI. By the time they received the award, all had moved on from workplaces that viewed them more as traitors than as exemplars of courage and integrity.
Managers frequently learn that getting ahead is a matter of personal “credibility,” which comes from doing what is socially and politically correct. De”nitions of political correctness re!ect tacit forms of power deeply embedded in organizational patterns and structure (Frost, 1986). Because getting ahead and making it to the top dominate the attention of many managers (Dalton, 1959; Jackall, 1988; Ritti and Funkhouser, 1982), both organiza- tions and individuals need to develop constructive and positive ways to engage in the political game. The question is not whether organizations will have politics but rather what kind of politics they will have.
Jackall’s view is bleak:
Bureaucracy breaks apart the ownership of property from its control, social independence from occupation, substance from appearances, action from responsibility, obligation from guilt, language from meaning, and notions of truth from reality. Most important, and at the bottom of all these fractures, it breaks apart the traditional connection between the meaning of work and salvation. In the bureaucratic world, one’s success, one’s sign of election, no longer depends on an inscrutable God, but on the capriciousness of one’s superiors and the market; and one achieves economic salvation to the extent that one pleases and submits to new gods, that is, one’s bosses and the exigencies of an impersonal market (1988, pp. 191–192).
This is not a pretty picture, but it captures the experience of many managers. Productive politics is a possible alternative, although hard to achieve. In the next chapter, we explore ways that a manager can become a constructive politician.
CONCLUSION Traditional views see organizations as created and controlled by legitimate authorities who set goals, design structure, hire andmanage employees, and ensure pursuit of the right objectives.
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The political view frames a different world. Organizations are coalitions composed of individuals and groups with enduring differences who live in a world of scarce resources. That puts power and con!ict at the center of organizational decision making.
Authorities have position power, but they must vie with many other contenders for other forms of leverage. Different contenders bring distinct beliefs, values, and interests. They seek access to various forms of power and compete for their share of scarce resources in a “nite organizational pie.
From a political perspective, goals, structure, and policies emerge from an ongoing process of bargaining and negotiation among major interest groups. Sometimes legitimate authorities are the dominant members of the coalition, as is often true in small, owner- managed organizations. Large corporations are often controlled by senior management rather than by stockholders or the board of directors. Government agencies may be controlled more by the permanent civil servants than by the political leaders at the top. The dominant group in a school district may be the teachers’ union instead of the school board or the superintendent. In such cases, rationalists recoil because they see the wrong people setting the agenda. But the political view suggests that exercising power is a natural part of ongoing contests. Those who get and use power to their advantage will be winners.
There is no guarantee that those who gain power will use it wisely or justly. But power and politics are not inevitably demeaning and destructive. Constructive politics is a possibility—indeed, a necessary option if we are to create institutions and societies that are both just and ef”cient.
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vie = compete cuisine ) contenders competitor
now UÑI / genome
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10 c h a p t e r
The Manager as Politician
Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.
Born to a wealthy but unorthodox family, Aruna Roy decided early in life that her mission was to do something for India’s poor. After getting a
master’s degree from the University of Delhi, she became one of the few women who passed the national test to join India’s elite civil service. Thrilled at !rst, she gradually became disillusioned with the rigid, top-down Indian bureaucracy and concluded she could do more out of government.
She joined a nonpro!t her husband had founded in a poor rural village. It was not an easy transition. She had to walk miles to get there, the village lacked electricity and running water, and the women she hoped to work with were initially suspicious. But Roy persisted, adapted to village life, made friends, and worked on issues of incomes and children’s education. Through several years of travel and discussion, she came to a clearer sense of what rural women needed and built a support network of individuals and agencies willing to help on her goal of systemic change.
Roy then took another, even more radical step. She recruited a few allies who shared her vision, and together they moved into a two-room hut in a remote village. They began by building relationships, listening, learning, and looking for opportunities. One came when they helped a nearby village reclaim 1,500 acres previously misappropriated by a well- connected landowner. Over time, Roy and her group built a support base. In May, 1990,
Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership, Sixth Edition. Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal. ! 2017 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2017 by Jossey-Bass.
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they were able to bring a thousand people together to form a new organization, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), or Worker and Peasant Empowerment Union.
As they continued to press for better village conditions, they realized that money intended for workers’ pay or village improvements was often disappearing. On the rare occasions that they could get access to government records, they found that of!cials were generating reams of falsi!ed documents to hide corruption. Roy and her allies began a campaign for more government transparency and drew support from the middle class as well as the poor—both suffered when money to repair roads or put a roof on the local school disappeared into someone’s pocket. Roy and her allies began to hold public hearings, with little more than a tent and an open mike for people to voice grievances. The government tried to shut down the hearings, which only intensi!ed support for the campaign. Trade unions got on board, national media covered the story, and approxi- mately 400 organizations joined the cause. It took years of hard work, but in 2005 India enacted the National Right to Information Act (Krishnamurthy and Winston, 2010). Aruna Roy’s ability to mobilize power, assemble coalitions, and champion a noble cause paid off.
It may not be obvious that political skill is as vital in business as in community organizing, but a case from Microsoft provides an example. Bill Gates and his tiny software business got their big break in the early 1980s when they obtained the contract to supply an operating system, DOS, for IBM’s new line of personal computers. IBM PC’s and clones soon dominated the PC business, and Microsoft began a meteoric rise.
Ten years later, everyone knew that DOS was obsolete and woefully de!cient. The replacement was supposed to be OS/2, a new operating system developed jointly by Microsoft and IBM, but it was a tense partnership. IBMers saw “Microsofties” as undisciplined adolescents. Microsoft folks moaned that “Big Blue” was a hopelessly bureaucratic producer of “poor code, poor design, and poor process” (Manes and Andrews, 1994, p. 425). Increasingly pessimistic about the viability of OS/2, Gates decided to hedge his bets by developing his own new operating system to be calledWindows NT. Gates recruited the brilliant but crotchety Dave Cutler from Digital Equipment to head the effort.
Gates recognized that Cutler was known “more for his code than his charm” (Zachary, 1993, p. A1). Things started well, but Cutler insisted on keeping his team small and wanted no responsibility beyond the “kernel” of the operating system. He !gured someone else could worry about details like the user interface. Gates began to see a potential disaster looming, but issuing orders to the temperamental Cutler was as promising as telling Picasso how to paint. So Gates put the calm, understated Paul Maritz on the case. Born in South Africa, Maritz had studied mathematics and economics in Cape Town before deciding that
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