Research on Playing Politics to Gain Influence

Who to Influence? What Purpose?Building your informal social network is an essential part of advancing your career. That means deciding who to influence and for what purpose. Which is as much about leadership as understanding the realities of workplace politics.

Research by Prof. Peter Belmi highlights that hard work and achievements are not enough to advance your career. Power and influence are hidden inside the job appointment processes. There are insidious structural and psychological factors that contribute to social and income inequality. Often in spite of people’s best intentions decisions on who gets the job or the promotion are affected by conscious and unconscious biases.

Five of Belmi’s findings are important for candidates to consider when applying for and deciding whether to accept a job.

  1. A higher value is given to independence than interdependence
    • Independent, expressive, confident and self-promoting candidates are often preferred to those who show deference, reliance on others and are good team players.
    • This is effectively gives the advantage to middle- & upper-class workers who accept the necessity for political manoeuvring to get ahead.
    • Candidates who see a link between attaining power and a noble purpose, such as helping the community / society, can become motivated to play this Machiavellian–style game.
  2. Organisations that are not inclusive give rise to social deviance
    • Some organisations that hire people to ‘fit in’, reduce diversity among their employees.
    • This effectively elicits social identity bias – class, race, gender, sexuality or other negative stereotyping.
    • Simply changing this hiring bias does not cure the toxic work climate because when people encounter bias because of their social identity, they are likely to endorse counterproductive behaviour with substantial costs for the organisation.
  3. ‘I’ll Help You, You Help Me’ does not necessarily apply at work
    • Reciprocity is a generally accepted norm. However, various studies show that people at work do not reciprocate favours unless they believe the person would be of value to them later.
    • People who tend to value loyalty, community, reciprocity and repaying past obligations will find it difficult to thrive in an organisation with these calculating patterns of transactional rather than interactional behaviour.
  4. Making it to the top changes people’s worldview.
    • People in privileged positions believe that the system will work for everyone as it did for them.
    • While they say they like equality, they become less committed to that idea as they move up the hierarchy.
    • As final decision-makers for new hires, this bias tends to favour the status quo.
  5. Quest for power is fuelled by need to leave a legacy
    • Having power helps people feel that their lives matter, particularly men.
    • The competition for senior level jobs is increased by the degree of this existential drive to progress one’s career.

https://news.virginia.edu/content/5-factors-fuel-income-inequality

Investing in a deep review of your career should include reviewing your informal social network. It may be what gets you your ideal job.

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