GM Power and Politics

GM Power and Politics

Assignment 3: Power, Politics and Culture
In Assignment 2, you created a professional development plan using EI building blocks and motivation. In this last assignment, you will examine how politics and power influence an organization and its culture.
In business, power and politics greatly influence an organizational culture and may hinder organizational productivity. In your role as consultant you observed power and politics influence on the corporate culture.
Following SWS standards, write a 5 to 7 page report that addresses the following:

1. Influence of Politics and Power
○ Explain how politics and power-play may have influenced the organization’s culture.
2. Sources of Power
○ Explore the sources of power and describe how management could use this influence to benefit the department and improve organizational performance.
3. Leadership Behavior and Culture
○ Make recommendations that support how the study of power and politics could influence leadership behavior and improve the organization’s culture.
4. Leadership Influence
○ Discuss the importance and complexity of leadership behavior in solving the issue you identified. How does it influence organizational structure and performance?

Power, Politics, and Culture in General Motors

The power and politics in the organizational context go along each other. From the employees’ perspective, power is always associated with abuse. Individuals who possess the instruments of power are usually labeled as narcissists, duplicitous, dictators, and authoritarian (Alapo, 2018). In ordinary organizational life, leaders, including executives and managers, purport to make rational decisions, but from the side of the participants and observers, politics and personalities play critical roles in shaping such decisions (Somoye, 2016). Decisions should be apolitical, non-personal, and rational. However, power and politics influence management decisions, and some extend, they shape the culture of the organization.

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Influence of Politics and Power

Ferdous (2016) argues that Classical Theory presents the organization as a rational structure that allows the authority to follow a chain of command. Each chain of command is conferred with legitimized power. With the chains of commands, the political aspects of power come into play. Walter Nord, as cited by Somoye (2016), attributes political power within the organization to four hypotheses:

  • Organizations comprise of coalitions that conflict with one another for influence, resources, and energy.
  • Various groups making up the coalitions fight the effects and pressures from their environment to protect their influential positions and stakes.
  • Unequal distribution of power leads to dehumanizing effects.
  • The use of power within the organization forms the foundation of exercising power in the wider social system.

Based on the four hypotheses above, it is apparent that power and politics can shape the organization’s culture. For example, as specific groups strive to protect their stakes and influential positions, they will create a culture that prevents pressures either from the participants of the organization or outsiders. General Motors management is bestowed with power, but it seems to be using to advance workplace politics. For example, the management cares more about performance while doing less to address discrimination and racism issues raised by the victimized employees. The workplace politics about who should occupy the senior positions characterize the General Motors work environment as reported by (Simon & Sidner, 2019). For example, Marcus Boyd, while working as a supervisor in the company, received resistance from the white employees because they do not expect a black employee to occupy a supervisory position. When Boyd reported the matter to the senior management, Boyd was told to let the matter go if indeed he wanted to get along with others in the organization.

The managers in General Motors, and more so at Toledo Plant were focused on preventing their influential positions and performance at the expense of the black employees in the organization. The managers influenced the thriving workplace culture that discriminated black employees because they did not punish those who were found guilty, as presented by (Simon & Sidner, 2019). This led to the development of the coded language in the workplace where black supervisors were being disrespected by subordinate white employees since the politics in the workplace provided the environment of racism and discrimination to thrive. The management had the power to develop policies to curb toxic workplace, but instead, it advised the victims of discrimination to learn how to get along with the unfriendly culture.

Sources of Power

In the organizational context, sources of power might vary with the nature of the company or the potential bases of power. Omisore & Nweke (2014) identifies four major sources of power in the organization as an office or structural position, personal characteristics, expertise, and opportunity.

Structural Position: The office position provides an individual with several bases of power. For example, in General Motors, HR professionals can have coercion, rewards, and information as the bases of power. The HR professionals, in collaboration with other managers and union leaders, can use their coercion base to discipline employees, encouraging discrimination in the workplace. HR professionals can also use reward power to cultivate the culture of inclusivity by rewarding those who embrace diversity. The position of the HR professional in GM gives them an upper hand in accessing crucial information about the employees, which can be used to increase the performance in the organization.

Personal Characteristics: The personal characteristic as the source of power is associated with a leader being charismatic. With strong and influential leadership, the GM top leadership can influence the behavior of the employees and encourage them to embrace inclusivity. The leaders in the company can act as examples, by encouraging inclusivity in all levels, including the managerial positions. Using its attributes, the top leadership can influence the HR department to ensure the managerial positions are fairly distributed throughout the organization.

Expertise: Expertise becomes the source of power because it comprises of special skills that an individual or employee possesses. HR professionals in GM possess human resource management skills. They can use these skills to address the workplace conflict witnessed in the company. For example, the HR department can create innovative employee benefit programs to encourage workers to embrace diversity and inclusivity culture.

Opportunity: This source of power is usually associated with an informal structure in the organization. These positions are at a lower level of the organization, and they might not be officially recognized (Omisore & Nweke, 2014). The white employees in GM have opportunity power because the workplace culture favors them. As such, they can use their power positively, instead of using it negatively. For example, some of the employees might find it a good attribute to advocate for a non-discriminative work environment. By doing so, the employees would have used their opportunity power to end racism and encourage job performance since when employees are satisfied with their jobs are likely to improve productivity.

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Leadership Behavior and Culture

Understanding the effects of power and politics in the organization will be a starting point towards ending the toxic workplace at General Motors. The extensive knowledge of power and politics among the General Motors leadership will make them understand that organizations might automatically assign power to the individuals who might end up misusing it through workplace politics. Despite being for-profit, organizations are also political structures that avail people with platforms to express their motives and interests (Alapo, 2018). As a political structure, GM can become an organization where the workplace is tolerated. For example, the behavior of the white employees in the company portrays the white privilege associated with the external environment politics. From the general political point of view, some white people feel that they are superior to black people. This notion can be as well transferred in the organizational context if the management is not aware of the adverse effects of power and politics on the company.

Studying power and politics will make GM management understand that the two are dirty and must be checked, or else they will affect organizational performance. For example, the manager can abuse power and play dirty politics to get a promotion. With the extensive knowledge about power and power effects, GM’s leadership will strive to adopt approaches that make their exercise of authority invisible. For example, the leaders might advocate for specific workplace behaviors that will give those in leading positions automatic influence and power to lead others effectively. Once the GM leadership understands power and politics, they will change their interaction with an employee, and this will reduce tension witnessed between the black employees and the company managers. A deep understanding of power and politics will also improve empathy skills, including listening to others deeply so that they can understand their feelings.

By learning about the concepts of power and politics, GM leadership will understand the politics of business. The leadership will become aware of potential signs of abuse of power and intervene before they can damage the organization’s reputation. For example, business politics have been found to cause damage when decisions are personalized (Somoye, 2016). Understanding that individuals occupying powerful positions can personalize their decisions will help the leadership to curb some power abuses such as unfair and fair disciplinary measures, superiority attributes, authoritarian attitude, aggression, and disrespect to position boundaries and responsibilities.

Leadership and Influence

Leaders play a critical role in shaping the culture of the organization (Sharaaz, 2014). As such, they should be in the front line in solving organizational issues associated with workplace culture. The ability to solve issues associated with the organization culture is usually determined by the leadership approaches employed. The complexity of leadership behavior has been voted as effective when addressing issues related to organizational culture (Lawrence, Quinn, & Lenk, 2003). Behavioral complexity is defined as having the ability to engage in different behaviors (Psychogios, 2015). The importance of leadership behavioral complexity can be used in addressing the competing roles and demands expected from leaders and managers (Lawrence, Quinn, & Lenk, 2003).  A leader with high behavioral complexity can portray various behaviors compared to the individual of low behavioral complexity.

Since behavioral complexity aims at exhibiting contrary behaviors while maintaining certain measures of integrity, direction, and credibility, it can be appropriate when used to solve discrimination in General Motors’ workplace. The leaders can use complexity behavior, and interact with white employees, cultivating the culture of division. The leader will present themselves as part of the group in the bid to understand the influence or the source of their behavior. By exhibiting the behavior of the lower-level employees while retaining leadership integrity, GM will appear as a hierarchical structure where leaders can interact with employees. With good supervisory and leadership interactions with employees, the hierarchical structure has been found to promote performance (Tran & Tian, 2013). Therefore, encouraging the complexity of leadership behavior in GM will aid in solving work-related issues such as diversity and inclusivity.


The impacts of power and politics in GM have led to the creation of a toxic workplace. The company’s leadership has been influential in creating a culture that allows discrimination by failing to punish those who are guilty; GM fuels the culture of the discriminative work environment. GM management should focus on studying the concepts of power and politics and how they can damage the organization and take a leading position in embracing a culture that advocates inclusivity. GM power and politics is an important topic as the company strives to expand its operations. Understanding the influence of organizational power and  politics on its culture will help the company to handle global culture effectively to avoid conflicts.


Alapo, R. (2018). Organizational Power Politics and Leadership Experiences on the View and Use of Power in Organizations. Management Studies, 6(1), 30-36. doi:10.17265/2328-2185/2018.01.003

Ferdous, J. (2016). Organization Theories: From Classical Perspective. International Journal of Business, Economics, and Law, 9(2), 1-6.

Lawrence, K. A., Quinn, R. E., & Lenk, P. (2003). Behavioral Complexity In Leadership: The Psychometric Properties Of A New Instrument. Michigan: University of Michigan.

Omisore, B. O., & Nweke, A. N. (2014). The Influence of Power and Politics in Organizations. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 4(7), 164-183. doi:10.6007/IJARBSS/v4-i7/997

Psychogios, A. G. (2015). Understanding Complexity Leadership Behaviour In SMEs: Lessons From A Turbulent Business Environment. Emergence: Complexity and Organization, 1-18. doi: 10.emerg/10.17357.98eea28e4d77a95776a55842dd839d46.

Sharaaz, M. J. (2014). Role of Leadership in Shaping an Organization Culture. PIMA JOURNAL, 1, 21-23. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7915/d396d835af4deeb3320ff5e99c5a7606dca9.pdf

Simon, M., & Sidner, S. (2019, January 18). Inside the GM plant where nooses and ‘whites-only’ signs hung. Retrieved from CNN: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/01/16/us/gm-toledo-racism-lawsuit/index.html

Somoye, K. G. (2016). The Effects of Power and Politics in Modern Organizations and its Impact on Workers’ Productivity. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 6(11), 566-574. doi:10.6007/IJARBSS/v6-i11/2442

Tran, Q., & Tian, Y. (2013). Organizational Structure: Influencing Factors and Impact on a Firm. American Journal of Industrial and Business Management(3), 229-236. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ajibm.2013.32028 P

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