In our organizations, power and politics have a bad reputation. Partly because of this, they do not get the attention they deserve. They are more likely to give rise to caricatures and exaggeration than to serious discussion. Yet they play a decisive role in the functioning of organizations. They determine the decision-making power of the organization and the trust of the people who have to work together.
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Dealing with power
How can you gain more insight into the workings of power and how do you practice the skill of dealing with power? Martin Hetebrij has been researching the effect of power and communication for years. He publishes about it and is one of the trainers of the Bank Leadership Program for experienced managers. Intensive, confrontational, and experiential training with a lot of personal depth.
Collaboration is a political challenge
According to Hetebrij, collaboration is not a communicative but a political challenge. The person who wants to perform his tasks and assignments well rarely has enough influence to do it all by himself. For most tasks, he needs support and approval from a variety of parties, both within and outside the hierarchy. These parties in turn determine whether or not they want to provide that support. If you want to get something done, you have to learn to act politically. Ultimately, all political action is aimed at getting something decided and executed. In a direct sense it is about exerting influence; in an indirect sense, about the concern to gain and maintain influence. An important means is a communication. While communicating, we form opinions, exchange visions, and defend or challenge points of view. But communication alone is by no means always enough. Sometimes choices have to be imposed, including on people who disagree. Then we use power, with sanctions for those who do not want to obey the decision. So the means of political action are communication and power.
Four aspects of power as a political resource
Wielding power. In organizations, the use of power mainly comes down to leadership. Those who provide leadership have the power to impose decisions, issue assignments, set goals, and assess employees on their results.
Answer power. Responding to power is an active act: refuse or obey. Answering power in organizations is tantamount to receiving guidance. Those who receive leadership actively think along, provide feedback, or oppose or pretend to obey and undermine the position of the manager. Responding to power has a major impact on the quality of leadership. Delegate power. Whoever has power can pass it on to others. To delegate power means to assign positions to people. In organizations, positions are distinguished, powers are linked to them, and then people.
Mobilizing power. If we don’t have the power ourselves, we can use that of someone else.
Four aspects of communication as a political tool
There is information transmission if a station is trying knowledge, judgment, or knowledge transfer to a receiving party. There is a discussion when parties need a consultation to analyze a problem, find solutions or compare solutions. In discussions, parties look for consensus by convincing each other with arguments. In personal communication, parties focus on each other’s subjective inner world. This can lead to sharing each other’s personal experiences and feelings in order to gain understanding, but also to unwanted interference. With inner communication, we communicate with ourselves in our own subjective inner world. This inner communication process always guides our communication with others.