Organisational Structure, Power and Politics

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An organization is a unit with a set ideologies and practices that are geared towards producing practical results. These sets of ideologies and practices work through strategies that are aimed at helping the organization to achieve its visions and missions. This paper will review various learning outcomes about organisational studies tackled within the semester. It will focus on organisational structure and culture, power and politics in an organisation and conflict and negotiation. The paper will then apply the aforementioned organisational aspects to organisation operating in the modern business environment.

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Organisational Culture and Structure

Organisational structure and culture are two important organisational variables. The relationship between organisational structure and organisational culture is one of the most important themes in organisational studies because the two organisational variables are intertwined. Sometimes it’s difficult to clearly distinguish the two variables within an institution but it is important to note that culture sits at a higher hierarchical level than structure which means that organisational structure works within organisational culture. Organisational culture is a wider term that denotes smaller issues and topics within organisations while organisational culture refers to the infrastructure that makes organisational culture operate efficiently and effectively. Organisational culture enables consistent performance that contributes to the health of an organisation (Tracy, 2000). Organisational structure is an integral part of organisational culture because it specifically deals management operations, assignment of responsibilities and hierarchical issues are issues within the organisational culture that are overtly connected to the functions of organisational structure. Structure within an organisational culture also pays attention to they way interrelated groups in the workplace are organised to make them cohesive and run smoothly when operating at higher organisational levels. An excellent organisational culture makes sure that communication between various departments of an organisation is kept open and various sections of the organisation coordinate effectively. Organisational structure has several categories which are used to describe the different growth phases of organisations and the first phase is the pre-bureaucratic structure. This structure does not have standardised tasks and is very effective for small businesses which do not need repeat scenarios. The second structure is the bureaucratic structure which is highly standardised and the bureaucracy found in this structure is positive because it helps organisations to tackle emergent issues. The post bureaucratic structure is a modern structure that is more rooted in the organisational culture models and this is the model that has a tight relationship with organisational culture. Most effective organisations use the post bureaucratic structure because it goes hand in hand with the modern cultural dispensations of most organisations.

Understanding of how internal structure and culture operates and instruments that work behind the scenes can enable people within the organisational culture to strengthen their positive attributes and eliminate the negative variables thus creating an environment that motivates the people across all levels of organisational structure. Structure is strengthened through strong leadership while culture and leadership go hand in hand which means that effective leadership contributes to the success of organisations. Structure within an organisational culture also pays attention to they way interrelated groups in the workplace are organised to make them cohesive. The most important thing is to have a management style and culture of an organisation working cohesively because this creates a conducive environment for the workforce to work efficiently. This enhances organisational productivity and performance. However, if the two are radically different, a struggle arises and it can easily hurt the operations of a company. When the management style matches the company culture, human capital gets the impetus to perform but when the two organisational variables differ, organisational conflict arises which may hamper the strategic direction of a company. The most effective management style that ensures that the human capital investment by the firm produces maximum results is the people oriented management style in this management style, human capital is actively involved in decision making process. The management makes sure that it consults workers before making vital decisions and this way, the workers feel that they are an integral part of the company because they are close to the internal operations of the company. To attain a collective culture in a company or an organization, managers must have solid familiarity with the employees and the tasks that they are given. This means that managers must come down to the people and understand how they operate, the problems that they are facing and try to provide solutions (Tracy, 2000). This means that the management should not sit somewhere in an ivory tower detached from the issues happening in the company. They should be down with the people, trying to seek ways of guiding the company to new heights by acting as a good role model and an inspiration to the juniors. Organizational culture impacts on the HR processes of recruitment, selection and retention (Scott, 1982). It also determines the levels of commitment in the system. Stronger values of culture in an organization are incentives that motivate employees to remain committed and to identify themselves with the firm. The most important element of an organizational capital is a supportive culture that has a powerful corporate purpose because it creates a compelling value that provides a strong framework for organizational excellence.

Virgin Atlantic is an organisation that has reaped immensely from its flexible organisational structure that works within a laid back culture. The company understands that the best professionals like working in an environment that encourages innovation and creativity and an environment devoid of bureaucratic practices. That is why the company has created environment where professionals feel they are fully in control. This laid back corporate culture makes the workplace look like a family because the management concentrates in creating an organizational culture where everyone feels appreciated and valued.

Power and Politics in organisations

Power and politics play a very big role in organisations and when the two are used effectively, they can complement each other in helping the organisation to achieve its goals. To start with, it is important to define the two terms. Power is the ability to make people do something that one thinks must be accomplished by those people. Simply put, it is the ability to make things happen in a specific way. Power is an important element of organisational culture because it helps the management to make things happen and also helps them to control the daily operations within the organisation (Muenjohn, 2010). Power is different from influence and when the two combine, they create organisational politics. There are five types of power which are referent or personal power, expert power, legitimate or position power, reward power and coercive power. Leaders who use referent power develops followers from their own strong personalities while expert power uses knowledge, experience and judgement to control behaviour of those who do not have as much experience and knowledge as those in power. Legitimate power is the type of power that arises from the provisional right of person in power while reward power is a type of power where a leader uses extrinsic or intrinsic incentives to assert their control. Coercive power is a negative type of power where the leader uses punishment and withdrawal of incentives to assert their control (Kouzes, 1997). There are three bases of power, the first one being coercive base where leaders force the juniors to comply with their wishes. The second base of power is the utilitarian base which is based on rewards and punishments while the third base is the normative base which works on the belief that the organisation has the prerogative to govern the behaviour of its members. There are various ways people respond to the power used within an organisation. One of the ways is resistance whereby people resist requests and commands without giving a plausible reason. This resistance is usually arrogant and is the most common response to coercive power. The second reaction is compliance where people comply to requests and commands by meeting the least possible expectations as they withhold their extra competencies and this is the most common response to legitimate and reward power. The third response to power in an organisation is commitment where the followers respond to the requests and the commands of the management enthusiastically and they utilise their highest competencies to meet the maximum possible expectations in the workplace.

What is politics from an organisational perspective? Politics within an organisation is a survival instrument used to further self interests using means that are not authorised by the management. Politics also refers to intentional behaviours t meant to protect the influence or the self interests of a person through methods that have not been sanctioned by the organisation. It occurs in areas of organisation that have competing interests (Bolman, 1991). This definition of politics seems negative but this does that mean that politics is a harmful element of organisational structure because if those in power use it effectively, politics can enhance organisational success. Politics is especially important in overcoming inadequacies of the human capital, adapting to changes and is also a good substitute to formal authority.

Power derived from organisational politics is called political power and there are various ways that people use to gain political power within an organisation (Coyne, 1996). One of the methods is social exchange where people obey those in power in exchange for favours in the workplace. The second method of acquiring political power within an organisation is formation of alliances where two or more people create groups that are meant to advance their interests or get the benefits they yearn for. The third method is identification with the bigwigs within the organisation because this helps people to gain privileges and rights that others do not enjoy. Selective service is another method used by people in organisations to gain political power. Using this variable, people give services selectively in order to attract support and this applies to people who are indispensable within the organisation. They bend rules with impunity to attain political power. The other method is creating an aura of importance within the organisation where people act as if they are very important and the organisation cannot do without them. The other method that people apply to attain power is power plays that involves taking power by force from others.

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Conflict and Negotiation

The term conflict refers to incompatibilities that arise from divergent opinions, cultural differences or some form of official or unofficial interference. Conflict in an organisation may be functional or dysfunctional where the former is a constructive variable that can enhance performance while the latter is destructive and can affect organisational productivity. There are several causes of organisational conflict. The first one is shortage of resources like money, human capital or information and this shortage creates competition which eventually leads to conflict. Another cause of conflict is jurisdictional ambiguities caused by undefined roles and responsibilities. People often disagree on who is responsible for something especially where job boundaries are not clear. Different in opinions, personality, attitudes and values can create conflicts and conflict arising from these personality clashes is very dysfunctional and negatively affects organisational performance. Misuse of power and workplace politics also causes organisational conflict which is also dysfunctional. When people pursue different goals within the same organisation, conflict is inevitable but this form of conflict is sometimes functional. The major cause of conflicts within organisations is communication breakdown which leads to misunderstandings and misperceptions

List of ReferencesThere are various ways of dealing with conflict in an organisation. The first one is avoidance where the managers ignore the situations causing conflicts instead of addressing them. The second one is competition which is a win-lose approach and managers using this style achieve their own preferred outcomes without considering the other individuals in the organisation. The third one is accommodative style which is the opposite of competition approach. In this approach, the manager lets others achieve their objectives while subjugating his own (Borisoff, 2000). The most important method of solving conflicts is called negotiation. There are two levels of negotiation. The first level is called compromise where the conflicting sides decide solve the problem by ceding grounds and this approach produces suboptimal results. However, negotiations that yield compromise provide temporary results meant to fix the problem in the short term. The second level of negotiation as a conflict resolution style is called collaboration and this creates a win-win scenario. In this case, the conflicting parties reach an amicable agreement and work creatively towards achieving the objectives of the parties involved. Negotiation has succeeded in solving conflicts in various organisations. When employees of one of the leading airlines in the world, Air Emirates, threatened to go on strike over poor remuneration, the conflict was resolved on the negotiation table. The strike would have resulted in loss of millions of dollars and the negotiations broke the deadlock when the employees agreed to call off their strike after the airline promised to award them a 75 percent pay increase to be effected within a period six years. In conclusion, conflict resolution through negotiation is the most effective way of dealing with organisational conflict because it ensures that the interests of the conflicting parties are considered and it always leads to healthier relationships within the organisation.


Bolman, L. (1991). Reframing Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Borisoff, D. (1998). Conflict Management: A Communication Skills Approach. 2nd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Coyne, K.P. (1996). Bringing discipline to strategy. Journal of Applied Business Research 35(2) 35-78.

Kouzes, J. (1987). The Leadership Challenge.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Muenjohn, N. (2010). Leadership and Management. Melbourne: OUP.

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Scott A. (1982). The Value of Formal Planning for Strategic Decisions. Strategic Management Journal 3: 197–211.

Tracy, B. (2000). The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business Success. Chicago. Koehler Publishers.

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