Organizational Politics Overview



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Organizational Politics


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Organizational Politics

Politics is inevitable in the workplace as people attempt to enhance their power to acquire scarce resources or advocate for their interests to be met. In the workplace, political behavior can be categorized as either legitimate or illegitimate based on the likely impact on the organization. The case of HP, which has had multiple replacements of CEOs from 1999 to 2011, may largely be attributed to the use of illegitimate politics, which has led to a massive decrease in the market capitalization of the organization. 

Individual and Organizational Factors

It is crucial to understand what constitutes organizational, political behavior. According to Robbins (1997), political behavior could be defined as all activities beyond a person’s scope of roles in an organization that either influence or attempt to influence the distribution of advantages or disadvantages within the organization (p. 870). The two primary forms of political behavior are legitimate and illegitimate. On the one hand, legitimate behavior refers to normal everyday political behavior such as forming coalitions, complaining to supervisors, and developing contacts outside the organization through an individual’s professional activities. On the other hand, illegitimate organizational behavior is considered extreme and violates the implied rules of politics, which entails behaviors such as sabotage, whistleblowing, unorthodox dressing, and protest buttons, or groups of employees calling sick simultaneously. The primary criteria that influence the legitimacy of political behavior are the individual and organizational factors that lead to it. 

Individual Factors

Organizational, political behavior has adversely affected HP in several ways due to individual factors. Individual factors refer to personality traits and needs that may lead to employees participating in organizational politics. The most common individual factors that have adversely affected HP are high self-monitors, internal locus of control, and expectation of success (p. 879). According to Kalb (2012), when Carly Fiorina was hired as the CEO in 1999, she did a better job of promoting herself than the organization, which indicates that she prioritized her needs over those of the organization, which would cement her reputation as being among the most successful CEOs in Wall Street increasing her job security and the benefits she received from the organization. Moreover, she had a higher internal locus of control because she insisted that the business strategies and operations be tailored to her specification, and people who opposed her were victimized. The self-monitoring and internal locus of control went against the organizational culture of HP, which was to be a market leader in profitability and innovation as the CEO acquired Compaq Computers to grow the revenue of the organization and increase employment, which insisted the growth of the company although it performed poorly in terms of profitability and innovation. On the other hand, when Leo Apotheker was appointed the CEO of the organization, some of the board members were not consulted in in-person interviews with the candidate, which indicates the need for some board members to retain control over who was appointed as the CEO. Some of the employees who felt that the leadership by Fiorina was inflexible and inappropriate left the organization, which reduced its ability to retain talented workers.

 The two CEOs were motivated by the need to prove themselves worthy of the executive positions because they had concealed their failures in their previous organizations. For instance, Fiorina had left a substantial amount of uncollectible debt that led to the company being absorbed by Alcatel. On the other hand, 7 months after Apotheker was hired, it was determined that he was a party to a software theft scandal that caused his former employer SAP to pay $1.3 billion in damages. 

Organizational Factors

Several organizational factors influenced the political behaviors of the three CEOs. Some organizational factors that influence political behavior include declining organizational resources, unclear performance evaluation systems, high pressure for performance, self-serving executive managers, role ambiguity, and low trust (p. 880). The CEOs were under high pressure to improve the performance of the organization because it had been among the industrial leaders since its foundation in the 1930s, which coupled with unclear performance evaluation systems led to the managers portraying the organization as performing better than it did. For example, Fiorina claimed that she had increased the number of employees and the revenue of the organization. According to Harwell et al. (2015), during Fiorina’s tenure, the share prices dropped by over 50%. Subsequently, the lack of balanced performance metrics enabled Fiorina to engage in politics of displaying the organization as performing better than it actually was to serve her interest of being considered as an effective leader. Moreover, the CEO consolidated her power due to the organizational culture that permitted some of the members of the board to usurp the control of the organization. For instance, she consolidated 83 business units that had their own budget and staff into six mega divisions that were consolidated under her control (Harwell et al., 2015). On the other hand, Dunn, one of the directors, pushed for the resignation of Fiorina, citing her lack of listening to advice, which led to the frustration of the board of directors. Subsequently, Dunn and other board of directors leaked information to the press that indicated the failure of the CEO and indicated that the organization was performing poorer than depicted by the CEO. 

CEO and Board Members Political Behavior

The behavior of the CEOs and board members could be attributed to politics. Political behavior could be defined as the activities that attempt to influence the behavior of others, and the course of events to protect self-interests, meet their needs, or advance their goals (Hellriege et al., 2004, p. 279). Fiorina acted in a way that would protect her self-interests. The primary reason for this is that at Lucent technologies, she had a substantial amount of unrestricted stock that she was required to requisite if she joined another organization. Consequently, by marketing herself as being a high-performing CEO, she received a compensation of $65 million restricted shares from HP corporation to compensate her for her loss. Moreover, the CEO also acquired another company in an attempt to show that under her leadership had led to substantial growth of HP in terms of its revenue and workforce, whereas the profitability and the return of investment to the shareholders had decreased. Moreover, to advance her goals and meet the needs of her supporters, she consolidated the operation of independent subsidiaries into six divisions to reward executives who supported her. 

On the other hand, the board of directors acted in a way that could serve their interests and advance their goals. For instance, some of the board members who felt obligated to protect shareholders’ interest used whistleblowing to publicize the problem caused by the CEO, which would, in the long run, safeguard shareholders’ interest even if it could adversely affect the company in the short run. On the other hand, Dunn hired a private investigator to determine the source of the leak because it could solve the problem faster. However, she did not consider the impact that it would have on her reputation. Therefore, the board of directors’ political behaviors was mainly motivated by their need to protect shareholders’ wealth either in the short-term or long term. 

Ethicality of Leaks

Dunn’s action to use private investigators to curb the leaks was unethical due to several reasons. First, it only served her self-interest to stop the leaks instead of the overall organizational goal of protecting the wealth of shareholders (Robbins, 1997, p. 897). Even if the action could have benefited the organizational goals, it did not respect the rights of all the parties involved. The primary reason for this is that it undermined the right to the confidentiality of the board members who were suspected of leaking information. 


Overall, organization politics have adversely affected HP, as indicated by its rapid change of CEOs and decline in its market capitalization. The problem has mainly been caused by CEOs and board of directors who use power to serve their self-interests while neglecting the organizational goals to protect the interest of shareholders. It is essential for employees and the board of directors who partake in organizational politics to ensure that they act ethically by ascertaining that they act in the interest of organizational goals and respect the rights of all affected stakeholders. 




Harwell, D., & Paquette, D. (2015). Fiorina’s record at HP defines her candidacy — which could be a problem. Retrieved 30 December 2021, from–which-could-be-a-problem/2015/09/26/5a5b5e16-6174-11e5-8e9e-dce8a2a2a679_story.html.

Hellriegel, D. & Slocum, J. (2004). Chapter 9: Power and political behavior. Organizational Behavior 10th Edition. Mason, Ohio: Thomson/South-Western, pp. 279-286. Retrieved from

Kalb, I. (2012). Here’s Where It All Started To Go Wrong For HP. Business Insider. Retrieved 30 December 2021, from com/hp-from-healthy-profits-to-help-please-2012-11?r=US&IR=T”>

Luthans, F., Luthans, K. W., & Luthans, B. C. (2015). Chapter 10: Power and politics. Organizational Behavior: An Evidence-based Approach. Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age Publishing, pp. 296-304 [eBook Business Collection]

Robbins, S. (1997). Chapter 11: Power and politics. Essentials of Organizational Behavior. Pearson Education, New York, NY, pp. 869-901. Retrieved from


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