‘Office politics’ is a common term used to describe the daily struggle of employees to get power and authority within the workplace. Indeed, there is office politics in all organisations. Further, within organisations, there is office politics in departments. Many people are of the opinion that office politics is detrimental to an organisation. However, this is rarely true. One can argue that corporate politics is only detrimental if not properly managed. There are several factors that contribute to the intensity of corporate politics. One such thing is the hiring and firing process. The ability to both give someone a job and take it away is perceived as a powerful commodity within the corporate world.
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For this reason, much office politics that concerns the process is usually referred to the human resource department. If the system or process of hiring and firing people is flawed, employees will look for strategies to manipulate the system. The same can be said of the promotion process. Issues of nepotism, racism and ethnicity also make up some of the elements of office politics. One can expect strong corporate politics when such factors can be visibly identified within an organisation. Thus, it can be suggested that human resource management be accountable and transparent as a way of managing corporate politics.
Gender is also highly significant when discussing office politics. For several decades now, women have complained about ill treatment in their workplaces compared to men. The differences in treatment has been registered as salary gaps, sexual harassment and even hiring nd firing based on gender. Gender stereotypes have been used to lock women out of qualified positions as well. Additionally, the fact that men are considered better thinkers in the workplace can be attributed to the way they manage office politics. Some of the descriptions used (of men) in the work place include innovative, adaptable, leader, creative and aggressive.
On the other hand, women are often described as eager to learn, follow instructions and team players. All these descriptions and definitions relate to office politics and have been used against women. The description of the man refers to two types of office politicians referred to as street fighter and manoeuver. On the other hand, the descriptions of the women refer to purists and team players. Each of these people have their advantages and disadvantages. Also, the fact that more women are opening up to participate in workplace politics has seen a rise in women in management positions. Women, however, still have a long way to go to ensure equity in the workplace. Much of their success will, however, depend on how they participate and manage office politics.
One element comes up in the 21st century that highly contributes to office politics in culture. Many organisations today have people from different backgrounds and even countries working together. Indeed, some of the employees work virtually, where they never meet but can work through the internet. Globalisation has led to the increase of culture conflicts in organisations. It is crucial to note that globalisation has seen company cultures incorporated in indigenous and local cultures.
For example, a company from the UK can easily open a branch in South Africa. This would mean that the company, with a UK-founded organisational culture, will seek to manipulate the South African culture and get profit at the same time. Whereas this is not impossible and has been done countless times, if not properly handled, it can be disastrous and lead to bankruptcy and company failure.
The significance of a study that seeks to understand how people see corporate politics in relation to multiculturalism is eminent. This paper presents a study done on the same. Through interviewing 60 participants, the researcher was able to prove that employees do recognise corporate politics and can easily identify the type they prefer. This study shows that people agree that office politics cannot end. Thus, rendering any efforts by any management to stop corporate politics useless. This paper uses an exploratory approach to figure out how people can manage office politics.
Both medium and small sized companies are currently struggling with office politics. The concept, whereas well known, is often delegated to the human resource department of the organisation. In fact, the level and intensity of office politic have risen in the last decade. Rollins (2017) defines office politics as the behaviour of individuals working within the same space in regards to power and authority.
The growth of globalisation has also ensured that office politics is intertwined with multicultural issues and competencies. According to Aristotle, man is a political animal (Kamran & Sultan 2014). Therefore, it is arguable that man will politicise any situation, including the workplace. Office politics manifest in various ways. For example, the details of hiring, firing and promotions often relate to office politics. In the same breath, workplace politics can also manifest in malicious gossip (Wiltshire, Bourdage & Lee 2014).
Jones and Izzo assert that gossip is a way of controlling how individuals in the workplace behave (n.d.). An example can be used to elaborate further. Many colleagues form cliques within the workplace (Dickens & Chavez 2018, p. 771).
These cliques can be department based, or at a more interpersonal level. Just like in any other social setting, there are people who might not fit within the work cliques. Others will do anything possible to join some of the groups that are perceived to be influential. The importance of these groups will determine how non-members behave, in an attempt to join the said groups. Interestingly, the members of the groups are also affected as they do not want to be disowned by the group members due to unacceptable behaviour. Dickens and Chavez (2018, p. 771) note that the power of association takes effect in such instances, making the non-members feel ostracized.
To Webster et al. (2018, p. 362), the power of association, with regards to office politics is powerful as it can lead to an identity crisis. This is especially the case for new staff that have just joined the company. Dickens and Chavez (2018) confirm that socialisation requires the adjustment of one’s identity in relation to a given situation. Whereas the underlying principles that inform one’s identity (in a normal case) are well understood by the individual, aspects within the confines of the said principles can change to suit the situation. For example, an employee will not plagiarise a colleague’s work because he or she believes plagiarism is a form of stealing.
However, the same employee can request for support in doing an assignment from other colleagues and present that assignment solely on his or her own. In this situation, the first colleague did not steal any ideas, as he or she openly requested for help. However, he or she still failed to credit those that gave inputs. The same concept applies to the identity crisis and office politics.
Atinga et al. (2014, p. 163) add that supervisors and managers often enhance office politics. They do this in several ways. It is common to find people in management showing favouritism and/or bias against other people. The results of such instances are usually documented in the form of appraisals. There have been cases where employees have accused their supervisors of poor appraisals based on bias and discrimination. Additionally, organisations that use the next level appraisal approach also document such cases from their employees. The next level appraisal approach allows employees to appraise and give feedback about their bosses and supervisors (Yan, Gao & Lam 2013, p. 543).
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It can be argued that the different forms of office politics can be dealt with differently as well. As Labrague et al. (2018, p. 111) observe, there is usually that one person in the workplace who can be identified as a driver for a type or form of office politics. Using the examples of office politics already stated, people within the same workspace can easily identify the best person to liaise with in order to influence their management’s decisions. Also, the office “gossiper” is well known among colleagues as he or she can prove useful in knowing other people’s secrets and using the information gathered to get ahead in one’s career.
As stated, the issue of multicultural competency has made office politics more intense. Labrague et al. (2018, p. 111) argue that when different cultures collide within the workplace productivity levels go down. It is, thus, in the interest of management to control cultural issues and avoid losses. The scholars argue that recruitment processes are crucial in controlling and managing cultural concerns. Customised aptitude tests are usually employed to fully understand the personality of potential employees.
Towards this end, the same tests can be used to also measure the level of tolerance for other ideologies, situations and people. Yan, Gao and Lam (2013, p. 543) go further to suggest occasional training to help employees be more tolerable towards each other. The argument that comes across such premises is that proper hiring and constant training of employees on cultural competency can help lower the extent of office politics.
It can be argued that office politics is an unavoidable component of the working environment. Therefore, critics have encouraged employees to master the art of workplace politics in order to retain integrity while still getting ahead in their careers. Supervisors hold a very key position in the proper management of office politics. Whereas the supervisors cannot do anything to directly stop the behaviour, they can create a suitable environment that allows all employees to grow.
In regards to the research at hand, supervisors/management can do this by ensuring all employees are frequently trained in intercultural competency. The management can also create a friendly environment by ensuring accountability and transparency. Still on the same, integrating a political culture within the organisational culture is important. Both the reward and punishment systems make up an organisation’s political culture. Webster et al. (2018, p. 361) explain that clear guidelines on the stated systems, and all other systems within an organisation, will reduce office politics. Rollins (2017) argues that managers often embrace one type of office politics and shun another. To the scholar, this type of management can be catastrophic.
This research report seeks to fully analyse office politics. Through the literature review, the researcher is able to not only define office politics but also highlight different types of the behaviour. The researcher expounds and builds on previous studies that have been done on the same, with the particular interest in office politics within a multicultural workspace. One can argue that there are very few renowned companies that are not multicultural.
Multiculturalism, in this sense, refers to two aspects. The first is that an organisation has hired people from different races, countries or backgrounds. It is important to stress the connection between culture and background. As Webster et al. (2018, p. 361) observe, people within the same ethnic group and race can still have different cultural views based purely on their background. Here, the term background refers to upbringing. The second is that the organisational culture of a company is different from that of a majority of its employees. In a multicultural setting, the tension of the different cultures working together, combined with normal office politics can be unproductive. This goes further to prove the importance of intercultural training for employees.
- How can staff control office politics in a multicultural setting?
- To determine the different ways employees can control office politics in a multicultural setting
- To prove that intercultural competency can help reduce office politics in a multicultural setting
Aims of the Research
The aim of the research is to prove that a structured, transparent and easily accountable organisational hiring process and frequent training on cultural competency are necessary to both lower and manage workplace politics in a multi-cultural setting.
Significance of the Research
The research study is very significant. First, in this day and age, as stated, many organisations are multi-cultured. Globalisation has made it easier for people to work in different places around the world. In turn, this has increased the diversity of workplaces. Office politics are normally viewed as a negative element of the working environment. However, cultural competency can help organisations struggling with the vice to control it. The research seeks to find out how managers can tap into the aspect of intercultural competency to successfully manage workplace politics in a multicultural setting. The study is timely as more economic boundaries are being demystified, leading to more integration within the workplace.
Limitation of Study
The study had several limitations. One was that the target population was very big. As stated, corporate politics is in every company in the world. This would suggest that the target population is all companies. Secondly, the sensitivity of the study was a limitation.
The researcher had to convince participants and companies they were representing that the study was purely for academic purposes in order to get them on board. It is crucial to point out that many of the possible sample population were scared that their answers might jeopardise their jobs. Another limitation of the study is financially based. The research would have been enriched by a diverse selection of companies within the region as the researcher did not have funding for travel and such logistics. Despite the challenges, the researcher was able to complete the study.
Scope of Work
The study was only limited to companies that are headquartered, or have a branch in London. As stated, the researcher did not have funds to travel to other regions. A total of 60 participants were interviewed and data was collected through a questionnaire. The sample population was selected through a stratified random sampling method to ensure diversity, applicability, reliability and validity. The sample population was broken down into several strata that was then used in the analysis of the data that was collected.
The relationship between workplace politics and multiculturalism is a symbiotic one. Lau, Scully and Lee (2018, p. 251) argue that multicultural workplace will by default be a highly politicised one as well. The only difference between a productive multicultural working environment and a non-productive one is the management of office politics. Price et al. (2018, p. 1542) assert that the term political culture is best suited when trying to decipher the type, intensity, and management of office politics within a multicultural setting.
Political culture in a working environment is the adamant and constant fighting for power and authority. In many cases, individuals use negative strategies to manipulate such corporate politics. Political culture in this day and age is further aggravated by multiculturalism. According to Templer (2018), there are nine main challenges that can be associated with corporate politics in a multicultural setting.
In a multicultural setting, different cultures are ranked based on their importance. It is important to point out that the said importance is determined based purely on corporate politics. For example, the predominant culture will (in many cases) have more political power than the other cultures. Also, cultural power can be weighed based on the predominant culture of the management. For example, a US based company opens a branch in China.
It is expected that many employees will be from China. However, many of the managers will be from the US, and will influence the corporate politics based on their cultures. In an ideal company, the management will incorporate all cultures in their organisational political philosophy. In turn, work ethics would dictate equity for all cultures regardless of size and number. Aslam et al. (2018, p. 153) explain that the best solution in such a setting is to combine interests of employees.
The human resource department can be tasked to do a survey on the interests and hopes of each employee. The scholars argue that by creating similarities between the employees that do not necessarily tie to culture, organisations with a diverse work force struggling with office politics can refine their work ethics, thereby, lower negative corporate politics. Additionally, management should have genuine and constant interaction with all employees (Lipman 2018, p. 9).
As stated, cultural differences can be enhanced or reduced by management. This is especially the case in multinational organisations that have many employees from one culture and management from a different culture. It is important to mention that in order to create a suitable working environment with minimum politics and great work ethics, management has to be trained on intercultural relations.
In regards to the research at hand, communications can be divided into two aspects. The two aspects are corporate and interpersonal communications. Corporate communications refer to the flow of information within an organisation. Jain and Ansari (2018, p. 96) note that this type of communication is necessary when dealing with corporate politics. A flexible communication strategy should be adopted in multicultural setups as it allows for adjustments based on the situation.
An example can be used to clarify further. In some Chinese cultures, a junior is not allowed to speak directly to a senior person. If this completely necessary, the junior will lower his or her head in respect. However, in the US culture, speaking while standing upright and looking at your audience is considered more professional. Without a proper and flexible communication strategy, the US company working in China will struggle to connect with a large percentage of the employees. The second aspect in communications that is relevant to the research study is interpersonal communications. According to Templer (2018), this is communications between two people.
One-on-one conversations between staff can be hindered by cultural biases. It is common to find employees telling on each other to their supervisors as a part of corporate politics. Such employees usually seek to showcase fault in others in order to hide their own shortcomings (Templer 2018). To solve this, management can initiate an anonymous feedback process that critiques positively. It is arguable that since the system is anonymous, employees will not negatively critique others for own gain. Concerns of employees flattering their supervisors will also be reduced.
Decision making processes should be decentralised in a multicultural setting in order to reduce corporate politics (Korschun & Smith 2018, p. 2). Workplace politics largely affects the decision making processes. As stated, the politics revolve around power and authority, elements that largely influence decision making. In a typical organisation, all decisions are usually made by supervisors and upper management.
Not only is this time consuming, but it leaves room for bias and accountability issues. For example, a corporate organisation publishes a tender for suppliers to create and implement an ERP system. However, only one person is consulted to create the terms of reference and to hand-pick the supplier. In an ideal situation (to lower office politics) the IT department in the company would be consulted to make the terms of reference. Several representatives from different departments would then be selected to pick out a suitable supplier. By making the process involving, the management would assure transparency. Secondly, the management would also ensure reduced politics. In a multicultural setting, bureaucracy can be used to delay processes and requests made by people from a certain culture.
Also, as Jain and Ansari (2018, p. 90) observe, bureaucracy based on cultural differences can be used to delay processes due to counterchecking. In a highly politicised working environment, people will spend time checking other people’s processes in order to ensure accountability. To avoid this, management has to be clear on the different decisions that can be made by each cadre (Korschun & Smith 2018, p. 4). It is crucial that each employee have some decision-making powers (to some extent) in order to enhance the sense of ownership. Raza et al. (2018, p. 29) go further to suggest that management offers all employees equal opportunity to present and defend ideas.
In a multicultural space, people fear responsibility, especially when a mistake has been made. Chou-Kang et al. (2018, p. 365) explain that such instances can lead to a gridlock. A gridlock in corporate terms refers to a position or situation where the company is in a standstill as decisions cannot be approved. Raza et al. (2018, p. 29) explain that in a multicultural setting, much of the decision-making process is highly politicised and depends on cultural alliances.
The system works similarly to that of government. In combined decision making, democracy rules are applied where the choice made by the majority is implemented. However, there are many instances where the decision is overturned for the benefit of the minority group. The example of the US company based in China can still be used to explain this further. Whereas the majority culture is Chinese, management can refuse to implement decisions made by the majority, and instead, implement ones made by the minority (the US culture which makes up the larger percentage of the management team).
Rollins (2017, p. 164) argues that there are three types of responsibilities. The first is the responsibility the management has to the employees and the second is the responsibility the employees have to the management. The third type of responsibility is between peers. All these have to be streamlined in order to lower corporate politics in a multicultural setting.
Embezzlement from the company or organisation can be tied to office politics. In a highly politicised multicultural working environment, employees might feel the need to engage in unlawful practices in order to get ahead (Hsiu-Tsu & Jen-Shou 2018, p. 62). Lipman (2018, p. 9) goes further to explain that employees usually embezzle when they do not feel part of the organisation. In a multicultural setting, the feeling of not belonging can be enhanced if the majority demeans the minority. Therefore, the minority will not feel obligated to further the organisation’s agendas or goals (Rollins 2017).
To curb this, it is important for management to ensure that both the minority and majority groups are engaged in company decisions and processes. Gao et al. (2018, p. 262) caution that some actions might be perceived as discriminatory when they are not. For example, promotions in the US company based in China will mainly involve Chinese nationals. This is because they form the majority of the workforce. However, other minority groups might perceive this as bias against them when in fact it is an issue of numbers. In such cases, management must be clear on the promotion process. Rollins (2017) asserts that transparency in the company’s initiatives will lead to a productive and easily manageable political culture.
Different Types of Corporate Politics in a Multicultural Setting
There are numerous types of corporate politics in a multicultural setting. However, as Rosen et al. (2017, p. 21) depict, there are four main types of workplace politics in a multicultural setting. These four types are often referred to as “people”.
Cheong and Kim (2018, p. 537) argue that the purists are individuals that believe hard work should be the only factor considered during job evaluations. Such individuals do not openly participate in office politics, and rarely take up leadership roles. In a multicultural setting the purists associate well with everyone as they only value hard work. Rollins (2017, p. 160) argues that purists suffer the most in a highly politicised working environment.
As stated, corporate firms cannot avoid politics. By default, however, the purists do not engage in the unavoidable situation at all. They are usually easy targets for highly political individuals (Grassl 2017, p. 20). Freeman (2015, p. 37) explains that in a multicultural setting the minority group usually takes the role of the purists. It is important to point out that such minority groups might want to participate in corporate politics but due to fear due to fewer numbers, opt to be non-partisan. The purists approach can, thus, be both beneficial and dangerous. Grassl (2017, p. 20) advises that purists be adaptable in order to get ahead in their work place.
There are several things that purists can do to ensure they survive in a political multicultural environment. First, they have to relate with all parties within the environment political sphere. Observation is a key element in politicised multicultural working environments (Jain & Ansari 2018, p. 92). Being seen with one side of the corporate political divide can work against the purist. Thus, they should give equal attention to all parties. Secondly, due to their nature of being hardworking, purists tend to be disliked by a majority of the workforce in a typical corporate environment.
To avoid being targeted, the purist can engage other colleagues in their work and also be open minded to other styles of working. It is crucial to point out that purists do not adapt to change easily. They believe that the status quo is always best. According to Sowmya and Panchanatham (2014, p. 16), this poses a challenge to highly political and multicultural working environments that require change in policies and structure to ensure productivity.
There are cases were the majority of employees and management of a company are purists. Whereas politics might be minimised in such a corporate space, productivity can also be challenged. Due to their habit of being too hardworking, purists are not typically the creative ones. They do not think out of the box and often rely on their job descriptions. When the management is led by purists, progress might be hindered (Wiltshire, Bourdage & Lee 2014, p. 245).
In a multicultural environment, such managers would encourage bureaucracy, which as has been already highlighted, will affect decision making processes. In the same breath, purists prefer strict and constant guidelines on expectations and systems. This can be challenging in the creation of a viable working environment in a multicultural environment. As mentioned, flexibility (as opposed to rigidity of systems) is important in managing politics in a multicultural setting.
Morford (2015, p. 13) notes that despite their shortcomings, purists are a critical part in ensuring proper balance in an organisation’s political culture. They are often seen as unbiased, thus, would be critical in a multicultural setting. Whereas organisations cannot always foretell whether they will have a purist in their work place, human resource managers can pick out some of the best aspects of purists and incorporate them in the organisational political culture.
The Team Player
Fernsler (2015, p. 25) argues that the team player in a highly politicised working environment is the ideal employee. This is because the team player adapts very easily to different situations and people. In a multicultural setting, the team player will tolerate other cultures and ideologies while still upholding the organisation’s culture. Dickens and Chavez (2018, p. 768) further explain that all multicultural organisations must employ the best aspects of the team player.
Supervisors and managers can embrace a culture of togetherness, which is highlighted by team players. Alcadipani and Islam (2014, p. 1), however, explain that equal recognition in team work is crucial in ensuring a productive and politically subtle working space. There are employees who can showcase team player attributes but fall short as leaders. Therefore, Kamran and Sultan (2014, p. 84) advise that supervisors rotate leadership roles to the different types of political figures within an organisation, and not just the team players.
It is important to mention that team players are very competitive. At times, their competitive nature can make them highly political. In a multicultural setting, it is important for managers to ensure that teams are not categorised based on cultural traits. Culture, towards this end is relative as it can refer to an ethnic group, or a financial class (Labrague et al. 2017, p. 111).
Managers also have to be keen on corruption charges amongst team players, Due to the stated competitive nature, team players can engage in unlawful practices in order to ‘win’. An example can be used to clarify further. In the China based US company, a team player will opt to highlight faults of a different team if he or she feels threatened. The team player, while eager to work with others, can easily pick his or her own team as the best, rendering the others less qualified. Dickens and Chavez (2018, p. 760) add that team players in the management team can help facilitate the same culture within the larger organisation. The scholars go further to explain that a balance (in regards to the types of office politics) is beneficial to all parties involved.
The premise suggests that an ideal organisation will have all the different types of office politicians. Since this is unavoidable, the best thing management can do is to create a suitable environment to accommodate all the office politicians while, at the same time, also allow for growth and development.
As stated, team players are recommended for their ability to adapt to change. Dickens and Chavez (2018, p. 760) argue that team players can adapt to both systematic and cultural changes. The advantage of this is that management can include flexible frameworks while still ensuring productivity. Dickens and Chavez (2018, p. 760), however, caution that team players can reject and make the change process difficult if they are not consulted.
A sense of ownership is a critical factor when engaging with team players. Not only do they feel it is important to be informed of the changes in policy and systems, but they also believe it is their right to add a voice to the change. Despite agreeing with this. Dickens and Chavez (2018, p. 760) also state that such a work ethic is beneficial to the entire organisation. The scholars assert that all employees appreciate being included in the different processes within an organisation.
The Street Fighter
Dickens and Chavez (2018, p. 760) state that street fighters embrace a do-whatever-it-takes attitude. They are the most competitive people in a team. They are also usually highly political. Despite being the least likeable, Cheong and Kim (2018, p. 542) assert that there are some characteristics that can be borrowed from street fighters in the redesign of a working environment that embraces both multiculturalism and politics. One commendable attitude is that street fighters will always get the job done. They are effective if ensuring deadlines are met. In a multicultural setting, street fighters might appear rude and aggressive to other cultures.
To curb this, it is important for management to have clear guidelines on how jobs should be done (Dickens & Chavez 2018, p. 760). This can be challenging as street fighters do not adhere to rules. Cheong and Kim (2018, p. 542) explain that street fighters are very individualistic. This means that they will serve their own interests first before those of others. It is crucial to point out that street fighters will also put their interests ahead of that of the organisation. They should, therefore, be carefully monitored to get their full potential.
Cheong and Kim (2018, p. 542) argue that street fighters can be team players, as long as their concerns are addressed. An example can be given to explain further. A company in the US groups its employees into teams to deal with several aspects of an organisational task. Each team is made up of three members. Team A has one street fighter who assumes the leadership role immediately. Team B has two street fighters while all members of Team C are street fighters.
In such a situation, the most competitive team will ideally be Team C. The team is competitive on two levels. The first level is the organisational level, where they want to outshine the other teams and find their solution first. The second is the interpersonal level, where the members will compete against each other. Using analysis from Morford (2015, p. 13), one can then argue that the street fighters will put their own personal interests first. Choosing a leader within the group will prove challenging as street fighters are wired to lead.
Just like the team players, street fighters are highly adaptable. This is due to the fact that they love to work the system (Dickens & Chavez 2018, p. 760). They are highly creative and will find the easiest and fastest ways of doing things. Morford (2015, p. 13) asserts that street fighters are great at driving innovative solutions. In a multicultural work setup, individuals might disagree on different innovations that are suggested. This is due to the fact that all innovations can be linked to a type of culture.
Due to their interest in competition, street fighters have proven to encourage other colleagues to embracing innovative and cultural defying solutions within their work spaces. Morford (2015, p. 14) refers to the street fighters as pace setters. It is important to note that a common find among multicultural work environments is that street fighters are male. Cheong and Kim (2018, p. 542) explain that there are female street fighters, but many fear the common workplace gender stereotypes to comfortably engage in corporate politics. It is more common to find female street fighters in management than in normal staff. A closer look into corporate politics and gender will be presented later on in this literature review.
The manoeuvres thrive on change of status quo (Dickens & Chavez 2018, p. 760). They are easily adaptable and always look forward to having an impact in their organisation. Manoeuvres do participate in office politics. They can have both positive and negative impact in regards to their political stands. Sowmya and Panchanatham (2014, p. 16) compare office politics manoeuvres to chameleons. They change based on the political temperature of the whole office.
Many a time, they shift allegiances to suit those of management in order to get ahead. In regards to positive corporate politics, the manoeuvres can push for positive change much easily than the other three discussed groups. Their ability to shift with change makes them likeable. Sowmya and Panchanatham (2014, p. 16) confirm that they are especially appreciated by management as they will do whatever the management prefers.
They rarely question as long as they can easily identify how their interests will be addressed. Management can use the manoeuvres to both initiate and further their agenda. It is also important to note that manoeuvres are goal oriented. Managers can control the behaviour of manoeuvres by setting achievable goals. Morford (2015, p. 13) also notes that manoeuvres work well under pressure. Managers can take advantage of this in order to get the most out of this group. Importantly, manoeuvres do not thrive in environments that are not political.
In regards to negativity, manoeuvres can manipulate the situation and environment to suit their own personal needs. Cheong and Kim (2018, p. 542) explain that the group uses highly political angles to get ahead. In a multicultural setting, individual beliefs are normally used to attack and discredit colleagues. Since they are sleek, manoeuvres will befriend individuals just to get to understand their weaknesses. They will not be afraid of using these weaknesses to get ahead. For example, the manager of department A recently had a divorce. Employee A is, however, very opinionated about divorce and has confined in her friend, employee B. Employee B is a manoeuvre.
Two weeks later, the manager tells the department that she will promote an employee and is considering employee A, B and C as they have reached their targets in the last three months. Employee B, goes to the manager and subtly tells her or him that employee A is judgemental and even speaks ill of the divorce he or she just experienced. By default, the manager will be angry at employee A and refuse to promote him or her. Whereas the manoeuvre did not lie about employee A’s feelings and concerns, he or she took advantage of the situation and engaged in corporate politics to have a better chance of getting the promotion.
Office Politics, Gender and Race in a Multicultural Setting
As stated gender plays a big role in corporate politics. Over the years, corporate politics based on gender was used to undermine women. Women movements all over the world have been fighting such gender politics in the workplace. Sowmya and Panchanatham (2014, p. 16) explain that corporate politics on gender have determine how women are perceived in the workplace as it sets the foundation for organisational culture. Indeed, many of the myths and misconceptions associated with gender in the workplace are ethnic/culturally driven. Many communities in the world are led by men.
Therefore, women are referred to as lesser beings. This is translated in the workplace where women are given “feminine” jobs at little pay. Sowmya and Panchanatham (2014, p. 16) confirm that office politics can dictate that a man be promoted despite there being a more qualified woman vying for the same position. Additionally, office politics on gender can dictate that a man earns more salary compared to a woman in the same position.
Whereas there has been a lot of achievements made in giving women an equal voice in the work place, there is still a long way to go. The situation is enhanced by the fact that gender is a highly politicised topic in human resource management (Heath 2017, p. 4). The situation is made worse in a multicultural setting due to the different perceptions different cultures have in relation to gender.
To solve instances of poor performance and discrimination based on gender in a highly politicised work environment, leaders have to give clear guidelines on equal treatment of everyone. Additionally, as Morford (2015, p. 13) notes, it is prudent that gender biases also be dealt with at a managerial level. It is impossible for a company to encourage gender equity when management shows gender discrimination. For example, if as board chair is always a man, or if key positions within the organisation are always headed by men, then the company will have a hard time implementing gender equality approach in their organisational culture.
The politics that surround gender go hand in hand with those that surround the issue of race. Racial discrimination is yet another highly political debate within the work space (Watkins & Smith 2017, p. 217). This is particularly the case for international companies working in different countries. For example, a Chinese company opens a branch in Nigeria, where majority of their staff are people from the neighbouring communities.
Needless to say, these are two distinct races working together. The history and ideology of racism would suggest that the Chinese are a higher race compared to the Nigerians, who are Africans. To some extent, the issue of racism comes out more when cultures do not interact well. What one race might term racial discrimination, might be a cultural element (Morford 2015, p. 13). For example, (in the Chinese company working in Nigeria), the Chinese offer living quarters to both Chinese and Nigerian staff. However, the Chinese staff resides in one area and refuses Nigerians to live there. Indeed, one can argue that there is some form of racial discrimination in the act.
However, using a cultural analysis, one can also argue that the Chinese (culturally) prefer to live together in order to preserve their culture. Additionally, they might be cautious of being judged harshly due to some of their cultural practices, such as eating dog meat and so forth. Towards this end, it is important for all races and cultures present in the identified working space to be trained on intercultural tolerance, in order to avoid such political topics.
There are several theories that can be used to describe the different types of work place politics. Alcadipani and Islam (2014, p. 1) explain that the Game Theory is a classic example of why and how people participate in corporate politics. The Game Theory is a mathematical theory used in social sciences to determine the level and intent of interaction between decision makers at any level. The theory is very applicable as it looks into the different strategies that people use to interact with one another. Office politics is founded on relationships between people. Alcadipani and Islam (2014, p. 1) explain that managers can use the Game Theory to control the level of politics in their organisation.
Examples can be cited to explain further. In a highly politicised and multicultural work place, managers can take the common trait among a majority of their employees and use it as a cap for employee behaviour. What this means is that employees that do not act in a certain way, or carry themselves in a certain way, will face some form of reward or punishment. If majority of the employees are street fighters, then positive competition can be encouraged to both motivate the employees and reach the organisational targets set, and so forth.
In the same breath, Game Theory can be used to explain employee behaviour towards each other. If employees are passive aggressive towards each other, management can come up with the right strategies to solve the issue based on what the Game Theory formula suggests. Alcadipani and Islam (2014, p. 1) assert that supply and demand formula can be used in Game Theory. It is important to point out that management has to understand that the Game Theory seeks to only find out the type of relationships between people, but will not offer solutions for lowering corporate politics.
A second theory that can be applied in the research study is the Divide and Conquer Theory (Cheong & Kim 2018, p. 541). The theory suggests that dividing a population into smaller groups makes it easier to manage them. The theory is applicable as it rides on the foundation of corporate politics. In a multicultural setting, the easiest strategy of dividing the employees is through their different cultures and beliefs. However, as Cheong and Kim (2018, p. 541) note, this would not ideally be the best strategy for managing office politics. Division based on culture will lead to a highly politicised environment.
It would be best if the management made divisions based on personality and type of politics the individuals engage in. Such a division will make it easier for the management to keep track of the different people within their teams. It is important to also mention that the Divide and Conquer Theory fully empowers the supervisors. This can be both a positive and negative thing. It is positive in that staff will respect the management and adhere to any of the rules and guidelines put across.
On the other hand, the same concept can have a negative effect as the management can have autonomous power over the staff. Through the Divide and Conquer Theory, the management can do whatever they want without considering the welfare of their staff. It can be argued that companies use different theories to address office politics at different times. There is no one theory that cuts across all the possible situations that might arise due to corporate politics.
The research paper will use a qualitative approach. It is crucial to point out that this section of the paper will systematically analyse the research methodology the researcher used. The research methodology will be validated and tested to ensure that it was suitable for this type of study. This section will analyse the research design, target population, sampling design, data collection, and analysis sub-topics.
The researcher employed a descriptive research design, which is a type of qualitative research. Nind and Lewthwaite (2018, p. 74) argue that descriptive designs are often exploratory. The stated method seeks to find underlying reasons, opinions and suggestions from a specific target audience. One can argue that the research design is suitable in this study, as it analyses both the current state of affairs, and how this can be changed. Indeed, as Nind and Lewthwaite (2018, p. 75) note, descriptive research designs can lead to formulation of new ideologies, and are not restricted to only the current schools of thoughts within the specific field of research.
Nind and Lewthwaite (2018, p. 74) add that it is crucial for researchers using the exploratory design to create viable and inclusive questionnaires. The questionnaires will serve as the data collection tools. The researcher also deemed it necessary to use qualitative research design due to the practicability of the sample size. Whereas the population is large, the research only requires a small sample population to test its theories.
The researcher employed stratified sampling design. Nind and Lewthwaite (2018, p. 74) argue that stratified sampling design requires the dividing of the target population into smaller groups that then taking a smaller sample from each of the groups created. In the target population section, a presentation was made on how the researcher achieved the final sample for the study. This section looks at the broader items that were considered before the final sample groups were identified. As stated, the larger population is large, made of all companies across the world that are multicultural. This group was then divided into three types of companies according to the law. The three types are small-sized, medium sized and multinational companies.
Nouicer, Zaim and Abdallah (2017, p. 249) explain that small sized companies are usually locally based with a staff range of between 2 and 100. It is common to find, in this day and age, that small sized companies are regional. As Nouicer, Zaim and Abdallah (2017, p. 249) observe, globalisation has made it easier for companies to cross borders, including small sized ones. Medium sized companies, on the other hand, have a staff range of not more than 250 employees.
The main difference between a small and medium sized company according to economists, however, is based on their financials. A small sized company will be valued at USD 5 million, while a middle sized company is valued at USD 10 million (Nouicer, Zaim & Abdallah 2017, p. 249). It is also important to point out that the researcher went further to get smaller groups within the groups mentioned (small sized, medium sized and multinational companies). It is arguable that the stratified research methodology was used due to the diversity of the population as well. Thus, stratification was easily and effectively done.
Nind and Lewthwaite (2018, p. 74) argue that the validity of the stratified sampling method is measured by the study’s ability to represent each category within its field. Overall, the general guideline of using the stratified random sampling is the identification of a population, stratification of it, determining the number of categories needed for the study, and combining the results to identify the specific sample members the research requires.
As stated, the population of the research study is very large. This is due to the fact that there are many companies that are currently struggling with office politics. The additional fact that very many companies, both medium and small sized, are multicultural makes office politics that more complicated. The researcher approached a small sized, medium sized and multinational company to collect data for the research.
The division was based on size and reach in an attempt to compare based on the level of exposure to other cultures. The researcher assumed that the three organisations had similar types of office politics. Each of the three companies had 20 participants. The participants were selected through random sampling to ensure reduction of bias. It is also important to note that the random sampling encouraged diversity in the target population.
The total target population was 60 participants. The group was made up of 50 women and 50 men. Additionally, the group was further categorized based on their years of work and experience. 20 participants had worked for 1month to 1 year in the work place they were in at the time of the research. Another 20 had worked for 1 year to 3 years in their current work place. The last 20 participants had worked for more than 3 years in their stations at the time of the survey. The difference in gender is meant to highlight how men and women perceive themselves, and the opposite gender within the workplace.
The researcher also sought to test whether one gender engaged more in office politics compared to the other. This research finding is based on the literature review premise that suggested that women tend to shy away from workplace politics compared to men. In the same breath, the division based on years of experience in the same workplace is crucial as it seeks to determine the impact of experience on the prowess and ability to engage successfully in office politics. Further, the division based on type of company (small, medium and international) is relevant as it brings in the factor of multiculturalism in office politics. The target companies that participated in the research had local headquarters.
Data Collection Techniques
The researcher deemed it fit to use both the primary and secondary data collection techniques. Secondary data collection techniques refer to studies that were done that can be linked to the research topic. Towards this end, the researcher did a lot of desktop research. This resulted to the formation of the research question and development of the literature review. It is important to mention that secondary data collection techniques do not always agree with the research objectives set. Nind and Lewthwaite (2018, p. 74) explain that adding contradictory and opposing sources can enrich and build up on the research.
The primary data collection technique employed the use of a questionnaire. The questionnaire was developed by the researcher prior to the study. Also, the researcher thought it best to pre-test the questionnaire. The pre-testing activity also involved a group of individuals who would otherwise be included in the target population. However, all the participants that took part in the pre-testing were not included in the final sample. The exercise gave the researcher a better view of the questions set to ensure that the tool captured all that the researcher required to later complete the study. After the pre-testing exercise, the researcher combined the feedback and made necessary changes to the tool.
The questionnaires were made up of several questions divided into four categories. The researcher used structured and semi-structured questions due to their ease to compute in the data analysis. The type of questions also allowed for the participants to fully express themselves. The researcher used the help of three research assistants to collect the data. The three assistants were trained on how to effectively do so. The researcher went further to ensure that the assistants collected data without bias by including them in the pre-test as well.
Validity and Reliability of Data Collection Tools
The researcher was able to ensure both the validity and reliability of the data collection tools in several ways. The first way is through the pre-test. As stated, the pre-test was used to determine whether the tool captured the right information. The researcher implemented the feedback received to ensure relevance, reliability and validity of the information that would be collected through the same tools. It is also important to point out that the research assistants used were well trained before the training. As a requirement, the research assistants were graduates who had done their undergraduate thesis.
The researcher then trained them on proper data collection methods, handling the data after collection, and ethics. The researcher also ensured frequent checking and inspection of the whole process to ensure lack of bias and reliability of the process.
Data Analysis Methods
After the data collection, the researcher started the data analysis process. The researcher employed qualitative data analysis method to go hand in hand with the qualitative research design method. It is important to mention that the qualitative data analysis approach used was also descriptive. Data was then presented in form of text and frequency tables.
The researcher realised several findings based on his study. This section presents the data that was collected. The presentation will be based on the five main categories of questions in the questionnaire. The five categories are corporate politics in my organisation; type of office politician I can tolerate; type of office politician I am; multiculturalism in my organization; and ways to deal with multiculturalism and office politics.
The first category was corporate politics in my organisation. Out of the 60 participants in the study, 90% agreed that there was some form of corporate politics in the organisation they were serving at the time of the study. This means that 54 individuals felt that there was some form of politics in their organisation. The same category asked the participants the level of politics in their companies.
The participants were given four choices, strong, medium, low and not applicable. 40% of the participants stated that the level of corporate politics in their organisations was very strong. An additional 46% stated that it was medium while 10% stated that it was low. Only 4% stated that the question was not applicable. It is important to point out that the participants presented their questionnaires depending on the company they were form in terms of small-sized, medium-sized and multinational company. Towards this end, it was realised that among the small sized company, (20) participants), 30% (6 participants) stated that there was no form of politics in their organisation.
Among the medium-sized company employees, only 20% (4 participants) stated that there was no politics in their organisation. Everyone from the multinational company agreed that there was some form of politics in their organisation. Interestingly, in regards to gender, 70% (21 individuals) of women agreed that there was some type of corporate politics within their organisation, compared to 50% (15 people) of the men. The tables below summarise the presented data.
The second category in the questionnaire was the type of politician the participant could tolerate. The participants were presented with brief descriptions of the four types of office politicians. The four types are the purist, team player, street fighter and the manoeuvre. The participants also had the option of picking “not applicable”. Out of the 60 participants, 50% said they could tolerate the team players. 20% admitted that they could tolerate the purists. 15% said they could tolerate the street fighter and an additional 15% said they would tolerate the manoeuvre. The participants were also asked to rank the four types of office politicians based on their level of tolerance towards their briefs. A majority of the participants, 50% of the participants marked team players first, followed by 28% for Purists. Street fighters came in third at 15% and manoeuvres were fourth at 7%.
The participants were also asked to state the number of years they have been working in their respective organisations. As stated previously, 20 participants had worked for 1 month to 1 year. Another 20 had worked for 1 year to 3 years while the last 20 participants had worked for more than 3 years. Using this division, the researcher realised that the participants that had worked more than 3 years made the bulk of participants who chose purists and street fighters as their preferred office politician. A majority of those that had the least experience in their company preferred team players. Interestingly, those that chose manoeuvres as their preferred office politician had a work experience of 1 year to 3 years. The charts below summarise this data.
In this section, participants were expected to see themselves as office politicians and state the type of office politician that described them best. Again, the participants were to refer to the descriptions provided for each of the four politicians. 70% described themselves as team players, 7% said they were purists, 13% said they were street fighters while 10% said they were manoeuvres. In regards to gender, the data collected showed that more women referred to themselves as team players. The bulk of those that said they are street fighters were men. Data on division based on number of years in the job was also collected.
The data showed that those with the least (1) number of years in the current position described themselves as team players. Additionally, those with the highest years in terms of experience at their work place described themselves as either street fighters or purists. In the same breath, data based on the type of company was also collected. The data showed that individuals in small sized companies preferred to describe themselves as either team players or purists. Those in medium sized companies referred to themselves as either purists or manoeuvres. Those in multinational companies, on the other hand, described themselves as street fighters or manoeuvres. The tables below highlight the data presented.
There were four main questions asked in this section of the questionnaire. The first sought to find out whether the different companies the participants represented had different cultures. All participants from the multinational company stated that their organisation had different cultures incorporated. Interestingly, only 4 people from the small sized company said the company did not have other cultures, while 2 people from the medium sized company agreed with the premise as well. On the same note, the section sought to find our whether the different companies ever experienced cultural conflict.
Cultural conflict was not defined in the section. 80% of the participants agreed that the organisations they represented faced cultural conflicts at a given point in time. This means that 20% stated that their corporates had not experienced any type of cultural conflict so far. The section sought to find out who the participants thought was best placed to deal with cultural conflict within the workplace. Four choices were given.
The four choices were managers, directors, everyone and myself. 57% of the participants said managers were best placed to deal with cultural disputes within the company. 32% said everyone was responsible while 6% said the directors. 5% stated that it was up to themselves to resolve cultural disputes. Lastly, in this section, participants were asked whether they believed there was a relationship between office politics and multiculturalism. 69% of the participants agreed to the statement while 31% refuted it. The charts below show the presented data in an easy to read and understand way.
The last section of the questionnaire sought to find out the most viable way of dealing with office politics in a multicultural setting, according to the participants. The question had three choices, intercultural training and education, it’s not a problem the organisation can deal with, and hiring people from the same culture. 72% of the participants stated that intercultural training and education is the best way of dealing with office politics in a multicultural setting. 8% said it was not a problem the organisation can deal with while 20% said hiring people from the same culture is the best option.
The section also sought to find out how the participants dealt with office politics/ would ideally deal with office politics in a multicultural setting. The participants were given four choices, ignore, respectfully tell the managers, play the game and leave the organisation. 14% said they would ignore. Interestingly, they were all women. 40% said they would play the game while 30% said they speak with the managers about it. The remaining 16% said they would leave the organisation. Below is a summary of the data presented in the form of charts.
After the data collection and presentation, the researcher used exploratory design for data analysis. There are several premises that were realized after the analysis of the presented data. This section will give a detailed look at what the data sets presented mean, and how they relate to the objectives of the research. This will be presented in the same order as the findings with a general overview at the end of the section.
Corporate Politics in my Organisation
Several things come up according to the findings realised. First, majority of the participants agreed that there was some form of politics in their organisations. Interestingly, many of those that stated there was no politics in their organisation were from the small sized company. From this observation, one can argue that small sized companies, that are regional, have less politics due to a common understanding of way of life. Culture plays a key role in this debate.
The other two companies, medium-sized and multinational, had a wider reach in terms of their location. This by default suggests that they have more cultures represented by their staff members. The small-sized company, however, has a smaller reach, only focusing on people of the same culture, or those that understand the different cultures around the region. On the same note, the findings suggest that multiculturalism and politics go hand in hand.
On the same note, a majority of those that stated that corporate politics was very strong in their organisation were from the multinational company. This goes further to prove that culture plays a big role in corporate politics. The multinational company is in several countries. Thus, many different cultures were represented in the sample size. Additionally, gender brought out an interesting aspect of corporate politics.
Majority of women stated that there was politics in their companies, compared to the men. This would suggest that women feel more vulnerable in the workplace compared to men. Also, one can argue that women are bothered by corporate politics unlike men. Indeed, as realised in the literature review, many women tend to shy away from corporate politics. Many of the reasons for this are usually cultural. The finding proves this true.
Type of Office Politician I Can Tolerate
The findings realised in this category in the questionnaire sought to find out how the participants viewed themselves in regards to corporate politics. Interesting, all participants chose a type despite some stating in the previous sections that there was no corporate politics in their organisations. This premise suggests two things. First that everyone is a politician in the corporate world, and secondly that people fit within the defined four types of office politicians. Team players appeared to be the most likeable office politician. This was followed by purists and street fighters. The type with the least characters was manoeuvres. Interestingly, a majority of the participants who chose either purists or street fighters had more experience in their work place. Those with little experience in their work place chose team players.
The finding is interesting because it shows the progression of staff from one type of politician to another based on their experience. It can be argued that people start off jobs with a greater-than-self attitude, they are willing to share work and credit. They see the organisation as a whole and not as a sum of its parts. As they stay in their position longer, they feel the need to change their strategies towards corporate politics. Many then become street fighters or purists.
Here, they become cut-throat and would do anything to get what they want, or will prefer to just work hard to get ahead as the competition becomes very stiff. One can argue that the shift becomes necessary as the employees try to better themselves and get ahead in their careers. Lastly after several years, they become manoeuvres where they are interested in getting ahead but do not want to put in so much effort, so they play the system.
Type of Office Politician I Am
Several premises can be made from the findings that were realised in this category in the questionnaire. First, majority of the participants said they are team players. One can argue that the team player is the ideal office politician. Everyone in the corporate world would like to be described, and would general see themselves as team players. The least liked character was the manoeuvres. The negative attitude towards manoeuvres is clearly brought out in the previous section as well. Analysing the data much deeply reveals that many of those that stated they were team players were from the small sized company.
One can argue that the team player nature is easily manifested in a smaller company compared to a larger one. This can be due to the fact that smaller companies have fewer staff, thus, interpersonal relationships are very well maintained. All the staff members know each other and can even have relationships outside the workplace. Street fighters were also preferred compared to purists and manoeuvres. Unlike in the other section, however, more participants described themselves as manoeuvres compared to purists. The finding suggests that whereas it is difficult to tolerate manoeuvres, it is easier and more beneficial to become one.
Also, participants from the multinational company described themselves as either street fighters or purists. This would suggest that the highly politicised and multicultural environment had more competition compared to the other companies. Thus, participants felt the need to be more cut-throat and structure oriented in order to get along. One can argue that those that are structure-oriented (purists) depend on pleasing their bosses to get ahead. Those that are street fighters, on the other hand, depend on outshining their colleagues.
Multiculturalism in my Organisation
This category sought to find out whether there were different cultures within the three organisations, and how participants viewed the different cultures. A majority of the participants stated that there were other cultures in their organisations. The participants from the small sized company also agreed with the premise. This would mean that even small sized companies can be multicultural. The only difference would be how the different cultures within the organisation interact with each other. It is expected that cultures in a smaller company integrate well with each other. These cultures would probably be ethnic in nature.
Additionally, employees in a smaller company do not see culture as a big diving element when it comes to office politics. One can suggest that this is so due to the fact that the company is not so highly valued in regards to finances, and the pay gap between the staff is not so big.
On the other hand, those in multinational companies would have more cultures that have not had time to interact. The example of the US company in China is viable in this case. Employees from the two cultures might have not had a chance to interact with one another and understand their differences before they started working together. Therefore, to the Chinese, the US staff members might easily come off as bossy, while to the US staff members, the Chinese nationals might be perceived as lazy and entitled.
In regards to who was responsible for solving cultural disputes, many of the participants agreed that it was the manager’s role. This was followed by “everyone” then “directors” and “myself”. The realisation shows that management is blamed or lauded for a viable and productive working environment.
Ways to Deal with Office Politics in a Multicultural Setting
A majority of the participants stated that intercultural training and education is the best way of dealing with corporate politics in a multicultural setting. Intercultural training would refer to the learning of tolerance towards other ideologies and cultural beliefs that are not one’s own (Ogay & Edelmann 2016, p. 389). 20% of the participants stated that companies should hire people from the same culture in order to lower corporate politics. The findings lead to two main realisations.
The first is that to some individuals, culture and politics in the workplace are one and the same thing. The second realisation is that there are some employees that prefer to preserve culture as opposed to mix it with other cultures. These realisations are very significant as they can inform how a company should deal with office politics in a multicultural environment.
It is important for organisations to understand that the different cultures and people that make up their workforce, have different ideas on how to solve the problem of corporate politics in a multicultural setting. Therefore, research should be done to inform the directive to be taken for the solution. It is possible to find that a majority of those that argue that a single culture in the working place would lower conflicts are the majority culture in the organisation.
The issue of gender is also highlighted in this category. In regards to what the participants can individually do to resolve workplace politics in a multicultural setting, many women said they would ignore it. This goes hand in hand with the literature review that suggested that women shy away from corporate politics. Also, a good number of those that said they would leave the organisation entirely were women. The finding reveal that women do in fact notice and recognise office politics but would rather avoid it. One can argue that this stand is very cultural in nature. The women are afraid of participating in office politics as it is perceived to be a man’s thing.
In so doing, however, they lag behind in their careers. As stated, corporate politics is unavoidable. In this day and age, with more competition in the workplace, employees that do not engage successfully in office politics do not get ahead. Without stating which of the office politicians is most likely to make it up the corporate ladder, one can argue that each company, or department has a representative of the four identified office politicians.
Several ethical elements had to be considered during the study. The researcher was careful to consider guidelines and ethical concerns from the start of the study. One ethical concern that the researcher noticed at the beginning of the study was the involvement of the participants. As stated, getting work is very competitive today. The researcher had to ensure that participants felt safe enough to freely give their opinions without fear of judgment or release of their answers.
Towards this end, the researcher made the study very confidential. To ensure the job security of the participants, the researcher involved the management of the three identified companies to some extent, but not in the whole study. The management was officially requested for permission to participate in the study. However, management was not made aware of the participants who had been selected to participate. This assured participants that their identity was kept a secret. The researcher randomly selected employees from the employee database, based on their employee numbers. The employees were then engaged during off work hours. The arrangement also ensured that participants did not know each other.
On the same note, the participants were requested to sign a consent form before the study. The researcher explained to them that it was their right to stop the research interview whenever they deemed necessary. They were not in any way obliged to finish the research interview. The consent form declared that they had willingly agreed to participate in the study. It also declared that participants had not been coerced or paid to give false answers and that they would be as honest as possible to ensure a viable research study. All consent forms were submitted to the researcher. No one that had been randomly selected by the researcher refused to participate in the study.
There were ethical concerns over the information shared by the participants. The researcher assured all the parties that were involved of the process; from selection, data collection, data analysis and disposal of the research tool. A better understanding of the research process made it easier for the employees to trust the researcher and the study. The participants were also able to ask questions about their role and their concerns.
One of the key concerns from the participants was whether their names would be recorded. The researcher informed them that no names would be recorded, but each participant was given a unique code that they were requested to write on their questionnaire. The code was required for easier tracking and data entry. The codes also included an index that would tell the type of company the participant was from. The three company indexes were SM, ME and MLT.
Another main concern from the participants was on the disposal of the research tool after completion of the study. The researcher was keen to state that the disposal method is informed by university policy. It was prudent for the researcher to clearly declare that the study was purely for academic purposes for attainment of a Master’s Degree. Interestingly, participants were more open minded and willing to participate after they were told the study was for academic purposes. The researcher informed the participants that the research tools would be stored in a safe place until after the acceptance of the paper by the school faculty. After this, the papers would be burnt and destroyed.
It is important to point out that the researcher seeks to publish the research study. Towards this end, it is the researcher’s ethical duty to share the findings, data and conclusions of the study with other people in the field. Thus, the study will be made public. It will be stocked in the university school library and will also be made available online. The researcher is committed to engaging with other like-minded professionals and scholars who might be interested in this research as well.
In conclusion, corporate politics is unavoidable. This is especially true in this day and age where many countries are struggling with issues of unemployment. The work space has become more cut-throat than ever and individuals seek strategies to ensure they remain employed and still raise up the corporate ladder. Before globalisation, individuals would take advantage of their relationships with their supervisors and bosses to get ahead.
However, now that it is much easier for people to work in different parts of the world, multiculturalism has also become a key element in corporate politics. Globalisation has also made it easier for companies to open branches in other parts of the world. The advancement of technology, particularly the internet, has made it easier for different culture and businesses to interact with people from across the world.
Employees have in the recent years come up with different ways of dealing with office politics. There are four main types of office politics. Scholars refer to them as “people”. The four types of office politicians are the team players, the purists, the street fighters and the manoeuvers. The team players, as the name suggests, prefer working in groups and pulling resources together. They are also willing to share credit with all those that were involved in an activity. However, they can be very competitive against other teams. On the other hand, the purists are strict and prefer sticking to the rules and guidelines set by management.
They are very hardworking and believe that hard work is the only possible way to further their career. One of the disadvantages of being a purist is that they are perceived to tell on their colleagues to their bosses. Street fighters fully embrace the cut-throat nature of the working environment. They are willing to do whatever it takes to shine. They do not care who will get hurt in the process. Their advantage is that they tend to see their assignments through and are very effective in leading new innovative activities. In the workplace they are usually tasked with very important assignments that have short deadlines.
The last group, the manoeuvers, as the name also suggests, shift allegiance based on their interests. Towards this end, they can force or initiative a shift in processes or systems in order to get what they want. Their main advantage is that they are very adaptable. In the office space, manoeuvers are the best people to initiate change and ensure all employees are on board.
This research study sought to find out how staff can control office politics in a multicultural setting. The researcher sought to achieve two main research objectives. The first objective was to determine how people within the same working space can control office politics, especially in a multicultural environment. The second objective was to prove that intercultural training was necessary to solve some of the issues that arise from corporate politics in a multicultural setting. The aim of the study was to prove that cultural competency alongside accountability and transparency are necessary in proper management of office politics in a multicultural setting.
The researcher provided a detailed literature review, compiling ideas from at least 30 peer reviewed sources. Several interesting premises that furthered the research were realised through the comprehensive review of literature. First, the issue of corporate politics was perceived as both a cultural and gender issue. In cultural, scholars argued that multicultural organisations were highly politicized. This was caused by tension from the different cultures that are within the company’s taskforce. Still on the same, according to some scholars, multiculturalism, can actually be the solution to office politics.
This premise is supported by the fact that a diverse workforce is more productive due to a difference in ideology and ideation processes that are founded on cultural experiences. However, for a multicultural setting to be highly productive, staff have to be culturally competent. Important to state, data analysis was also exploratory. Towards this end, the research used both secondary and primary data. Secondary data was obtained from previous peer reviewed studies. The researcher employed the use of a questionnaire to collect the primary data. The questionnaire was pre-tested to ensure validity and reliability.
The researcher employed a qualitative and descriptive research methodology. The nature of the study made the chosen research methodology viable as the researcher sought to find out ideas and opinions. The target population was very large as it included all companies that were multicultural. The researcher, using a stratified random sampling method was, however, able to narrow down the sample population to 60 individuals.
The participants were drawn from three different types of organisations. The three organisations were small sized, medium sized and multinational. Additionally, 50% of the sample population was female and 50% was male. The participants were also stratified into three working groups. The first group was for participants who had held their current job position for 1 year and below. The second cohort was for participants who had held their positions for between 1 year and 3 years while the last cohort was for individuals who had been in their current work position for more than three years at the time of the study.
After collection, the data was analysed. The analysis showed several findings. One, it was clear from the data set that women feared corporate politics despite describing themselves as one of the four types mentioned. This realisation goes hand in hand with findings realised in the literature review. One can state that women keep off office politics due to the gender concerns that are experienced in their jobs.
For example, the lower pay for women is a gender issue. It can be highly politicised in a multicultural environment as some liberal cultures believe in equal pay for both genders. Culture, as used in the paper does not refer purely to ethnic way of life, but also adopted, situational and modern culture. The findings also led to the realisation that majority of the organisations in the world today have more than one culture in their work force. This is inclusive of the small sized companies.
Also, it was realised that many employees think it is the role of management to ensure that corporate politics in a multicultural setting are kept at bay. A majority of the participants also agreed that this can be done through intercultural training and education. The finding validates the research and proves the research objectives true. Intercultural training would ensure that people become more tolerable towards one another.
The research study does not in any way try to solve the issue of corporate politics. However, it does offer a viable solution to proper management of the same. It is interesting to note that some participants stated that it was everyone’s duty to ensure a proper and viable working environment. One can argue that it is important for companies to fully understand their employees, and the type of office politicians they are, in order to create a viable and all-inclusive working environment.
There were some ethical concerns that arose before, during and after the research study. First, the researcher had to ensure that the participants were comfortable and willing to be involved in the research. The ethical dilemma came in the fact that no employee would agree to participate in case their answers led to them losing their jobs. To ensure this did not happen, the researcher requested for permission from the management of the three organisations but used a confidential selection method. In fact, none of the participants knew each other even though some were from the same organisation.
To further protect the identity of the participants, the researcher did not include names or employee numbers in the study. There were some ethical concerns about the disposal of the research tool after the study was complete. The researcher assured the involved that the tools would be stored safely until the research paper was completed, then they would be destroyed. Participants then had to sign a consent form indicating that they were participating in the study freely.
Several recommendations can be made to ensure proper management of office politics in a multicultural setting based on the findings and conclusions made from the research study. This section will highlight the recommendations and show how they can be useful in managing the stated concern.
Intercultural Trainings and Education
Intercultural competency refers to the ability to understand and tolerate other cultures. The work place has two broad cultures; the individual culture and the organisational culture. The organizational culture should be inclusive of what the organisation wants to be, and the other individual cultures within its workforce. Management are usually concern with trainings that increase professional skills. However, soft skill trainings such as intercultural competency can ensure unity within a workforce. There are several advantages of the suggested intercultural trainings and education.
Since people will understand each other better, they will communicate better. In turn, proficiency levels within the organisation will go up. Sharing of ideas and skills will be easier as people will listen to understand and better the suggested inputs as opposed to rejecting them based on cultural bias. In turn, office politics will be reduced to an extent, and will be managed significantly better as employees will seek to better each other rather than outshine one another.
Proper and flexible communication is critical in the success of any company. Intercultural training and education will ensure that management adopts a flexible communication strategy. By so doing, the management will make it easier for employees to raise their concerns and have them addressed in good time. This reduces and helps manage corporate politics in a multicultural setting as it lowers bureaucracy. As stated in the literature review, there are very many loopholes that office politicians thrive on due to bureaucracy.
Intercultural training and education prepares employees for the global platform. In so doing, the staff also acquire a global edge in doing their work. This is not only beneficial to the company but to the individual staff as well. To the company, the global edge mindset ensures that employees are excellent and future-oriented in their jobs. To the individual, the training prepares him or her for future global assignments. Thus, furthers his or her career goals.
Know your Staff
A second recommendation to management that is dealing with corporate politics in a multicultural environment is to understand and know their staff. It is indeed uncommon for human resource departments to note the type of politician each individual is, and the type the company prefers. However, the importance of this data cannot be overstated. It is true that many times, organisations fail due to unconsciously supporting one type of office politician. Indeed, there is no best or worse office politician as people use these strategies interchangeably depending on the situation at hand. However, it is important for organisations to check the balance of the office politicians in order to create a productive working environment.
An example can be given to explain the narrative further. Company A has the four types of office politicians mentioned (team player, purist, street fighter and manoeuver). The purist, however, keeps telling on his or her colleagues to the supervisors. The supervisors allow this to happen and go further to punish or discriminate against the others in the team. This eventually leads to the resignation of the other team members.
The same thing happens several times. Eventually, the company has a majority of purists as their employees. Much of the time is spent dealing with gossip and fights between the employees as they tell on one another. The company progress is limited. In a different scenario, the manager would maintain the initial four employees, and try to manage their different political strategies. For the purist, the manager can include a suggestion box where he or she can report whatever he or she feels necessary anonymously. Resolution processes should be clear such that all employees are aware of possible consequences to their actions.
Productive Working Environment
It is important for the senior personnel of a company to acknowledge that they cannot stop or avoid office politics. Many managers try to fight off office politics with the belief that it will help create a better and more productive working environment. However, politics is necessary in a good working environment. Not only does it keep employees on their toes, but it also offers diverse and creative ways of solving problems.
For example, the ability of the street fighter to do whatever it takes can led o businesses recording massive profits. Also, the easily adaptable manoeuvers will embrace change easily. The fact that technology and businesses are constantly changing means that the said ability of manoeuvers is needed in any business. There are very many advantages of the different office politicians. Due to this, it is recommended that organisations include all types of office politicians in their corporate culture. This will, in turn, ensure a better and more productive working environment.
A viable working environment should also be multicultural. Therefore, it is recommended that managers ensure their workforce is as diverse as possible. One of the main advantages of having a multicultural workplace is that it adds on to the global mindset of the employees. For example, a company that wants to introduce a product targeting Chinese nationals will get good insights from employees of Chinese origin, or people who have lived in that culture and understand the things they value.
On the same note, such diversity will translate to the overall performance of the organisation. It is possible that majority cultures feel entitled and do not put in enough effort in the work place. However, if the cultures are evenly distributed, then everyone will be willing to go the extra mile to achieve the organisation’s goals.
It is also recommended that managers fully embrace the concept of team work. From the study, it is evident that many people can tolerate team players, and at the same time, see themselves as the same. It has been proven that team players deliver the most in an organisation. The combination and pulling together of thoughts and efforts makes work easier and gets things done faster. The main concern that would arise from team players is the level of recognition given to the team and to the individual members of the team.
It is important for management to recognise the individuals. In as much as team players do well in groups, they also have personal/ individual goals they would like to attain in their careers. These goals are not meant to be achieved as team. Recognition will ensure that the team players attain these set individual goals.
On the same note, team work should have some form of motivation. Team players are very competitive. The management can utilise them by ensuring there is a motivation at the end of the assignment. Indeed, the motivation does not have to be in form of money. Proper recognition, sponsorship for holiday or tour packages and vouchers can also motivate employees. The competitive nature of teams should, however, always be managed. This can be done through a deliberate refusal to rank the best and worst teams. The management can just recognise the most viable ideas presented, and give reasons for the selection instead of ranking the teams.
The research study gives room for future research. There are several angles that can be taken in the said future research. One of the gaps realised during the literature review was that there is very few research on gender and office politics. This is a good research topic as it looks into how the gender stereotypes that are common in the workplace affect office politics. The suggested research topic can help mitigate gender bias within the working environment. Additionally, it can help in policy formation of the same.
Secondly, a possible future research angle is the relationship between gender and the different types of office politicians discussed. The question here would be whether gender affects the choice of strategy in office politics or not. The angle comes out slightly in this research paper. Through the study, the researcher realised that women preferred to be purists or team players while men preferred to be street fighters and manoeuvers. Further research is, however, needed to solidify the premise.
The third suggestion for future research is on management and office politics in multicultural settings. This research focused on employees. No one from management was involved in the study. It would be interesting to see the differences and similarities between the employees’ view of corporate politics in a multicultural setting and those of people in management. It is important to state that the suggestion is also based on the fact that a majority of the participants of the study believed that managers and people in senior positions had the role of managing office politics and creating a suitable and productive working environment.
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