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Power, Politics, and Conflict in Business Organizations

The following paper aims to define and illustrate how power is facilitated in business settings. The roles of leadership and power in the business world will be categorized and explained, as this is essential in understanding the structures of business groups. The work will also analyze the functions of organizational politics and behaviors and how they dictate decision-making and business practices. Conflict is an attribute of both power and politics. While it may occur due to several factors, this paper aims to observe how it is a result of organizational resource scarcity within the business sector.

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The most prevalent theories include Machiavelli’s definitions of power and the six bases formed by John French and Bertram Raven. Coercive, rewarding, and informational power in leadership is especially relevant within case studies concerned with organizational politics in business settings. Karl Marx’s observations regarding limited resources within conflict theory will also be used to illustrate how competition functions in a business setting. The example utilized in this paper includes academic research on the quality of teleworking employment, which poses several unique complications to organizational politics. This is due to the fact that this market has diversified approaches to the ways in which employees engage in organizational behavior, with in-office and out-of-office employees gaining different advantages.

Throughout time, power has accumulated several meanings within spheres of leadership, organization, and business. However, prevailing themes and characteristics remain common through various theories and practices. Machiavelli theorized that the abilities and accomplishments of a leader all stem from their ability to gain and maintain political power. A more outdated aspect of his theory included that fear was a more powerful motive than admiration that allowed leaders to have influence over others. While to a certain extent, this may still be true, such as the fear employees or employers may have regarding keeping a position, salary, or other benefits, power is more easily and effectively achieved through other means.

According to French and Raven, leadership power has six powers which include coercive, rewarding, legitimate, expert, referent, and informational factors. Coercive power refers to means that achieve the compliance of others through threats, a type of leadership closest to Machiavelli’s ideology behind effective power politics. Rewarding power is defined as a practice in which a leader has the ability to deny or offer others any form of benefit. This may be a type of power that is more common within business practices but is a more simplified approach than those seen within industries. Legitimate power is characterized by leaders that have been elected, and referent power is dictated by one’s affiliation to an organization or group, often influenced by similar ideologies or ambitions. Expert power is utilized by those with expertise in selected fields, and informational leadership can influence others through the provision of resources and data. As such, interactions and power politics within business organizations have the potential to borrow from all six bases of power and often do so in practice.

The power of negotiation is a concept that prioritizes domination or control over the opposing party. A negotiator that is currently lacking or losing power is likely to attempt to seek more influence or control over such a situation. While this concept can be applied to numerous areas, it is frequently adapted within the business world. Because most modern industries identify competitiveness as a vital factor for the success of an organization, the upper hand in negotiation is essential.

Organizational politics can be characterized by aiming to reach an intended level of self-interest. In practice, it can be utilized through the power which has the ability to influence the decision making of an organization in ways that can serve the individual. Often, this power stems from the social structure of an organization and what is considered both standard and actual behavior within groups or industries. Most business organizations have a scarcity or lack of organizational resources and benefits, which causes competitiveness in order to attain the enhancement of self-interest. The success of doing so is often a direct attribute of understanding and utilizing political skills within organizational settings in reflection of the aforementioned behaviors.

The case study that is observed within this paper possesses a number of unique inquiries regarding modern organizational behavior and business politics as it is concerned with the industry of telework. Current academic literature regarding teleworkers has established that two distinct employment modes exist within the sector, with teleworkers that directly work within organizational structures and those that work outside offices and therefore experience organizational politics through a number of barriers such as communication technology. The study found that while employees working outside offices were able to sustain better work-life balance and productivity, they were often unable to attain key information and networking opportunities (Thomas et al., 2020). As such, this exposes the ways in which organizational politics and it’s primary drive of obtaining improvements to self-interest can cause conflict even in non-traditionally structured business organizations.

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In the aforementioned example, conflict arises from the fact that organizational politics and the general structure of certain practices cause certain employees to have limited access to opportunities within the sector. While the conflict can be attributed to the ways in which employees interact with each other, with those working outside offices automatically being exposed to fewer benefits of the profession, this is only one aspect of the issue. Even in the case in which all employees would have access to the office setting and similar opportunities, the organizational resources and benefits would remain scarce, and the competition would be high. As such, the inherent source of the conflict in this situation is the power struggle over limited rewards instigated by organizational politics and behavior.

This can influence a business in a number of ways. The sphere of teleworking has caused professional isolation and co-worker dissatisfaction among employees who work outside the office setting. Similarly, employees working within the organizational structure have been noted to have decreased levels of productivity, well-being, and work-life balance. While employees outside the office relayed that they are able to use informational power to gain advantages within their place of employment, in-office employees rely on company leaders to ensure that their challenges are addressed.

Both the nature and issues that exist within the modern teleworking market can be explained through the theories that were mentioned prior. The most important element that can be observed in this particular scenario is the six bases of power and the ways in which they are utilized in real practices. Employers within the teleworking sphere have coercive and rewarding power over their employees. Due to the low retention rate of the industry, employees are often mobile and influenced by benefits or disadvantages provided by employers. Additional benefits or improved salaries are likely to increase the retention rate of a company, while financial punishment or low support is likely to dissatisfy employees and cause them to leave. However, employees are also able to attain power, specifically expert and informational power. Highly specialized teleworkers are likely to be prioritized by employers, while those that have industry, resource, or other relevant information may be mobile within the industry without much difficulty.

The theories of power, politics, conflict and organizational behavior are essential in the assessment of the operations of any business organization. Theories of power define the ways in which negotiations and distribution of resources are observed and administered. It also illustrates hierarchies or levels of influence between employers and employees. Politics and organizational behavior theories influence the ways in which structures are maintained or restrained. Leadership and power can utilize organizational politics in ways that can serve an individual’s self-interest. Conflict can arise from a number of instances but is often associated with the scarcity of organizational benefits in examples of real-life business practices. The theory assists in observing how smaller elements contribute to the larger scale on which a business functions. While elements like the type of power utilized, distinct organizational behaviors, and emerging conflicts can be viewed separately, they are reliant on each other and interconnected. This is observed in the teleworking examples in which different approaches to a power offer varying benefits to employees and employers, and behavior defines the success of a business.

Reference List

Thomas, A., Boyle, E., Butler, W., Decker, G., and Peters, J. (2020). ‘Organizational Politics and Teleworkers: A Case Study’, The Tenth International Conference on Engaged Management Scholarship, pp.1-16. Web.

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