The Politics of How, What, and Why at Work: Navigating Power Dynamics and Creating Equity and Transparency
Christopher E. Maynard
The world of work is not only about carrying out tasks and fulfilling responsibilities; it is also a complex arena where power dynamics, interests, and values interact. The politics of how, what, and why at work refers to the way in which decisions are made, tasks are assigned, and goals are set, and the underlying power dynamics that influence these processes. In this article, we will explore the politics of how, what, and why at work, its implications for employees, and how organizations can create more equitable and transparent workplaces.
The Politics of How:
The politics of how refers to the processes and procedures used to accomplish tasks in the workplace. It includes the allocation of resources, the division of labor, the decision-making process, and the communication channels. The politics of how can be influenced by power dynamics, which can create hierarchies that favor certain individuals or groups over others. For example, senior managers may have more say in how tasks are allocated or how resources are distributed than junior employees. This can also be influenced by cultural norms and values. For example, some organizations may prioritize collaboration and teamwork, while others may value individual achievement and competition. These values can influence the decision-making process and the way in which work is carried out.
The Politics of What:
The politics of what refers to the goals, objectives, and outcomes of work. It includes the definition of success, the prioritization of tasks, and the evaluation of performance. The politics of what can also be influenced by power dynamics and cultural norms. For example, if senior managers prioritize revenue growth above all else, employees may feel pressured to prioritize tasks that contribute to this goal, even if it means sacrificing other important aspects of their work. This can also be influenced by personal biases and preferences. For example, a manager may prefer certain types of work or certain employees over others, leading to the allocation of tasks and resources in a way that benefits some individuals or groups at the expense of others.
The Politics of Why:
The politics of why refers to the underlying motivations and values that drive decision-making in the workplace. It includes the organization's mission, vision, and values, as well as the individual motivations and interests of employees. The politics of why can be influenced by power dynamics, as individuals or groups with more power may be able to shape the organization's mission and values in their own image. This can also be influenced by external pressures, such as the demands of customers or shareholders. For example, an organization may prioritize short-term profitability over long-term sustainability because of pressure from investors.
Implications for Employees:
The politics of how, what, and why at work can have significant implications for employees. Employees who feel that the allocation of tasks, resources, and rewards is unfair may experience feelings of frustration, anger, or disengagement. Employees who feel that their personal values or motivations are not aligned with those of the organization may also experience feelings of dissonance or discomfort. This can also have implications for employee well-being. For example, if employees are pressured to prioritize tasks that contribute to short-term goals at the expense of long-term goals, they may experience stress or burnout. Similarly, if employees feel that their work is not aligned with their personal values, they may experience a lack of purpose or meaning in their work.
Creating More Equitable and Transparent Workplaces:
Organizations can take steps to create more equitable and transparent workplaces. One way to do this is to involve employees in decision-making processes. By giving employees a voice in how tasks are allocated, resources are distributed, and goals are set, organizations can create a more democratic and collaborative workplace. Another way is to establish clear policies and procedures for decision-making,resource allocation, and performance evaluation. These policies should be communicated clearly to all employees and should be designed to promote fairness and objectivity. For example, a clear policy for task allocation could involve rotating assignments or using a randomized system to ensure that all employees have an equal opportunity to work on different types of tasks.
Organizations can also create more equitable and transparent workplaces by promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. This involves creating a workplace culture that values and respects differences, promotes fairness and equal treatment, and provides opportunities for all employees to succeed. For example, organizations can implement diversity training programs, establish employee resource groups, and create mentorship and leadership development programs that are open to all employees.
Finally, organizations can create more equitable and transparent workplaces by establishing clear performance metrics and evaluation criteria. These metrics should be designed to measure progress toward organizational goals and should be tied to rewards and recognition programs that are transparent and fair. For example, an organization could establish a performance evaluation system that includes both objective metrics (such as sales revenue or customer satisfaction scores) and subjective evaluations based on input from managers, peers, and customers.
The politics of how, what, and why at work is a complex and dynamic phenomenon that can have significant implications for employees and organizations. By understanding the power dynamics, cultural norms, and personal biases that influence decision-making in the workplace, organizations can take steps to create more equitable and transparent workplaces. This includes involving employees in decision-making processes, establishing clear policies and procedures, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, and establishing clear performance metrics and evaluation criteria. By doing so, organizations can create a workplace culture that values fairness, transparency, and collaboration, and that promotes the well-being and success of all employees.