Multidimensional Organizational Politics-Employee Engagement Relationship: The Role of Political Skill.

AuthorAmah, Okechukwu Ethelbert

Multidimensional Organizational Politics

COVID-19 work demands have further enhanced the importance of employee engagement in driving individual and organizational productivity since engaged employees are valuable in volatile and uncertain business environments due to their creativity, innovativeness, and proclivity to seek new ways of enhancing productivity (Hickman & Robison, 2020). The two critical success factors required by engaged employees are: the ability to maneuver in various organizational climates and the interpersonal skills required to secure buy-in for new ways of doing things from other organizational participants (Martin et al., 2013). Perception of organizational politics (POP) is an aspect of organizational climate that is ubiquitous and unavoidable, and since political maneuvering is constantly involved in the acquisition and maintenance of organizational resources, engaged employees cannot afford to be indifferent about organizational politics (Amah, 2016).

Past Studies

Past studies that used negatively connoted single-dimensional POP obtained inconsistent relationship between POP and work outcomes. For example, while Jain and Ansari (2018) obtained negative results, Opoku and Arthur (2018) obtained positive result and Landells and Albrecht (2019) did not establish a significant relationship. This inconsistency may be from three reasons. The first is that past studies utilized one-dimensional POP which may have confounded the results obtained (Guo et al., 2019; Yusof et al., 2018). Each dimension of POP deals with a different aspect of POP such that combining them will confound the results obtained. For example, a dimension of POP deals with individuals refusing to make contribution to organizational issues for fear of negative consequences, while another deals with politics in pay and promotion decisions. The second source may be the absence of boundary conditions capable of moderating the effects of POP on individual and organizational outcomes (Javed et al., 2014; Yusof et al., 2018). Meanwhile, existing studies have recognized organizational work climate, individual differences, and personal resources as boundary variables that may moderate relationship between POP and individual outcomes (Landells & Albrecht, 2019). Since political skill is needed by engaged employees to develop and manage networks in a political environment, the third possible source of inconsistent results is the use of single-dimensional political skill which could mask the real effects of a four-dimensional political skill since its dimensions may have different moderating effects on different dimensions of POP. For example, the interpersonal influence dimension may affect the POP dimension dealing with politics in pay and promotion decision, but not on that dealing with refusal to speak out on organizational issues. Thus, including a three-dimensional POP and a four-dimensional PSKILL in the study is worthwhile to test the four dimensions of political skill (Kacmar et al., 2013). It is worthy of note that most studies involving PSKILL have been performed in the context of stress and not employee engagement and utilized composite measures of POP and PSKILL (De Clercq & Balausteguigoitia, 2019).

Present Study

The current study addresses two gaps in past POP and EE research. First, it establishes how three-dimensional POP affects EE, an important individual attitudinal behavior useful to organizations (Yusof et al., 2018). Second, it establishes how PSKILL, an important personal resource, moderates the relationship between POP and EE (Chang et al., 2009). Thus, the current study contributes to understanding the specific effects of the POP dimensions and the search for the antecedents of EE which have hitherto been limited to single-dimensioned POP and dispositional antecedents (Coper-Thomas et al., 2018). The study also contributes to establishing PSKILL as an important personal resource which engaged employees can use to maneuver through political environments while maintaining high engagement. It is argued in the current study that since EE is a goal-directed intrinsic motivational variable, employees are engaged when the right climate is created, and they can deal with challenges effectively. For instance, Kahn and Fellows (2013:105) stated that in engagement, employees make "choices about how much real selves they would bring into and use to inform their role performance".

Theoretical Foundation & Hypotheses

The conservation of resources theory (COR) drives relationships in this study. The COR theory as initially propounded by Hobfoll (1989) addresses how individuals handle their physical, social, and environmental demands using a continuous stock of valued personal and organizational resources. Over time, scholars and researchers have used the COR as a framework for studying how engaged employees obtain and maintain a continuous stock of personal and organizational resources to avoid the burnout associated with high work involvement (Amah, 2016). COR advocates that individuals get stressed only when there is "threat or actual loss of resources or lack of expected gain in resources" (Amah, 2016, p. 122). Hence, individuals will always strive to maintain valued resources to avoid the negative effects of the stressors. Valued resources come in various forms and are categorized as job, organizational, and personal resources (Grandey & Cropanzano, 1999).

Organizational politics has been recognized as an environmental stressor which affects employee functioning because of the uncertainty and ambiguity associated with such an environment (Ferris & King, 1991). In such an environment resources are drained in working through the environment. However, PSKILL is a critical personal resource that is important to engaged employees as they maneuver through political environments and retain effectiveness. According to COR, PSKILL provides additional resources to employees as they maneuver through the stressful environment created by organizational politics.

Perception of Organizational Politics

The study of organizational politics is necessary for three reasons. Firstly, it is prevalent among organizational participants. Secondly, the power and influence possessed by organizational members and how they are deployed makes it imperative to study the link between organizational politics and behavioral outcomes. Thirdly, the study of organizational politics is necessary since past scholars have argued that an organization's political environment has a strong impact on employee behaviors (Landells & Albrecht, 2017). Kacmar and Ferris (1991) identified three dimensions of POP, namely, general political behavior (GPB) in which individuals enact self-serving behaviors to obtain desired and valued outcomes; go along to get ahead (GAGA) where individuals do not make valuable contribution to organizational issues since speaking out is detrimental to receiving valued outcomes; and pay and promotion policies (PPR) in which politics is involved in the enactment of pay and promotion policies.

Organizational politics has been described as a double-edged sword which can be beneficial or detrimental to organizational participants based on whether it is perceived as threatening or otherwise (Harris et al., 2016). How POP is viewed is linked to the cognitive appraisal of an individual which in turn will affect whether the individual sees it as positive or negative. Cognitive appraisal is affected by the number of resources possessed by the individual which can help the individual to maneuver through political environments. Hence, when engaged employees have the right environment, they can release more of themselves to their assigned roles.

Political Skill

Political skill is defined as the "human potential to effectually comprehend organizational members and employ such knowledge and potential in influencing others to act towards improving one's personal and/or organizational aims"...

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