The effect of perceived organisational politics



The purpose of this research paper is to measure the effect of perceived organisational politics on job performance, using perceived organisational support as a mediator. Further, this paper also aims to measure the moderating impact played by the respondents' gender in the same.


A questionnaire was given to professionals working in the services industry through the internet asking about their opinions on the existence of politics in their company, the level of support that they receive from their organisation, and a self appraisal on their job performance.


Perceived organisational support fully mediated the relationship between perceived organisational support and job performance. Our study also concludes that perceived organisational politics has a greater impact on men than women.

Research Limitations/Implications

A self reported cross sectional questionnaire form was administered to collect all measures. The number of respondents to this survey was limited to the employees of the Service sector in India. Future scope in this area could focus on other sectors in India, to substantiate the findings in this research.

Practical Implications

The survey findings could be used in industry to create a conducive work atmosphere for the employees to work in. Also at a deeper level, the managers could predict the performance of male and female employees in the company depending on the support provided to them.


The paper provides the first kind of relationship between perceived organisational politics and job performance in the Indian context. Also, the effect of gender as a mediator has been studied for the first time in this study.

Research Objectives

The following are the objectives of this research paper:

  • To measure the effect of Perceived Organizational Support (POS) on Job Performance
  • To measure the effect of Perceived Organizational Politics (POP) on Job Performance
  • To access the mediating effect of POS on the POP - Job Performance relationship
  • To measure the impact of gender as a moderator variable on POP - Job Performance relationship
  • To measure the impact of gender as moderator for the mediation effect of POS on the POP - Job Performance relationship
Research Background and Hypothesis

Previously, there have been substantial amount of research to find out the relationship between the Organization support/politics and variety of outcomes like job satisfaction and organizational commitment (Marjorie L. Randall et al., 1999). The relation between organizational support and commitment was established by papers like Panaccio et al., 2009 and effect of organizational support on job satisfaction was established most recently by Armstrong-Stassen et al., 2009. Organizational politics effect on employee behaviour and job satisfaction was looked at by researchers like Chang et al., 2009 and Breaux et al., 2009 respectively.

While it is important to know how people feel about their work, it is also equally important to know and understand how people behave at the workplace. The former is from the perspective of the individual/employee and the latter is from the perspective of organization. We here in for our research, intend to look at things from organization point of view and hence decided to understand how the perceived organization support and perceived organization politics effect the organization as a whole. To understand that, we can look at things issues like employee turnover, job performance etc. Of all, we believe, job performance is the most important issue which has the most tangible impact on the organization and hence have decided to focus on job performance in our research.

The effect of perceived organizational support on job performance was looked at by quite a few research papers (Webster et al., 2010; Hochwarter et al., 2006; Marjorie L. Randall et al., 1999; Orpen et al., 1994 to name a few) with organizational support as either a moderating construct or normal construct. All these research papers were from an international perspective and for all organizations in general. This is where our research paper is different. We intend to look at this relationship and understand how relevant it is from the Indian working environment scenario and to be more specific for the service sector in India. Service sector in India today contributes to the GDP of the country by almost 56%.[1] Trying to understand the implication of POS and POP on performance for such sectors would have great practical significance.

Perceived Organizational Support

According to Organizational support theory (Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchison, & Sowa, 1986), perceived organizational support is defined as the global beliefs that employees develop concerning the extent to which the organization appreciates their efforts and is bothered about their well-being. It is also the feeling that help would be available from the organization to carry out one's job efficiently and to deal with stressful situations (George, Reed, Ballard, Colin, & Fielding, 1993). So, if an employee perceives the organizational support of his organization to be high, they develop a favourable orientation towards the organization and assign human like characteristics to it like caring, supportive, nurturing etc. (Eisenberger et al.).

POS is assumed to increase the employee commitment towards the organization as higher the support the employee gets from the organization, higher would be his motivation or commitment to return the favour back to the organization. According to Eisenberger et al., the extent to which positive POS would increase the work effort of the employee would depend on the strength of the exchange ideology of the employee. Exchange ideology refers to material and symbolic benefits the employee would get in exchange for the work effort he puts in. Such exchange ideologies arise from the norm of reciprocity which says that people should help those who have helped them (Gouldner 1960).

To test the validity of exchange theory, many researchers have attempted to understand how perceived organizational support affects the various outcomes like absenteeism, job satisfaction, job performance, turnover intentions and other related citizenship behaviours. More on various researches done on POS would be explained later in the report where we intend to formulate the hypothesis.

Organizational support theory says that there are antecedents which affect the POS and there are consequents - issues which are affected by POS (Linda Rhoades et al. 2002). Fairness, Supervisor Support, and Organizational Rewards and Job Conditions are the antecedents for POS which increase the POS. Some the consequents of POS have been mentioned above and these include Organizational commitment, Job related affect, Job Involvement, Performance, strains and desire to remain and withdrawal intentions (turnover intentions).

Perceived Organizational Politics

According to Pfeffer (1981), organisational politics is "the study of power in action". It is when an employee is more interested in pursuing his personal ends without regard to the affect of his actions on the achievement of organisational goals. Organisations thus become political arenas wherein employees are matched against each other with each trying to outwit each other. Thus, spreading gossip and rumours about another person, thereby showing the person in a bad light in front of superiors is an example of political behaviour in an organisation. We can say that politics is essentially an intentional influence process the person is mainly concerned with maximising his self interest either in the short-term or in the long term. However, while politics may or may not be actually present, the perception of its presence or absence is extremely important. The research of Gandz & Murray (1980) suggests that politics is a state of mind rather than an objective state. Everyone in the organisation may not perceive the same state of organisational politics, for some it may be more while for others it may be less and for some it may not even be present (Gandz & Murray; Kacmar & Ferris, 1991; Zahra, 1985). Also politics may not always be perceived as negative. However, when perceived as negative, it leads to feelings of uncertainty and ambiguity among the employees since they do not know how their actions will be interpreted, they are unsure of their surroundings and do not know how to react.

The relationship between perception of politics and its antecedents and consequents was described in the work of Ferris et al. (1989). The factors which function as antecedents or causes of politics perception were grouped as either organisational influences (centralisation, formalisation, hierarchical level and span of control); personal influences (gender and age) and job/work environment influences (job autonomy, job variety, feedback and quality of relationships with supervisors and co-workers) according to this study. In turn, politics perception has a significant effect on its consequents which include outcomes like job involvement, job satisfaction, organisational withdrawal and job anxiety.

Job Performance

Job performance is a term that is often used but loosely defined, which deals with the individual at his or her workplace. The most commonly used definition of workplace is from John P Campbell et al. Job performance is described as an individual level variable which wholly depends on the individual considered. That is, performance is completely dependent and determined by the individual's functioning.

Darwish E Yousef (1999) studied the relationship between job performance and job satisfaction with organisational commitment as a mediator. The method of measuring job performance was a self appraisal process through which the participants had to rate themselves based on two parameters, quality and productivity. Job performance was eventually found to measure subjective and objective measures of organisational commitment.

Micheal Ashton (1998) discussed the role of personality and its influence on job performance. The study which was conducted on several entry level employees concluded that narrow traits are better predictors of job performance than using general factors of personality as predictors.

Ann Bartel (1995) studied the role played by wage and training on job performance. In this study, training was found to have a positive effect on job performance and thus confirmed the robustness of the relationship. The author has concluded, based on limited data that despite the existence of a selection bias, training does improve the overall productivity of the employee.

Byrne (2006) concluded that both interactional and procedural justice was positively correlated with job performance. Thus, according to the author, there is no relationship between the perception of justice and politics with the performance of the employee in the company.

Randall et al (1999) concluded that perceived organisational support was related to job performance, when it was used as an individual variable. However, when a combination of perceived organisational support and politics were used, its influence on performance was considered to be negligible.

Lee et al (2004) reported a direct relationship between organisational citizenship behaviour and job performance in determining job embeddedness. However, the study did not establish a relationship between organisational citizenship behaviour and job performance.

POS and Job Performance

Conceptually, if the POS is high, employees would look at the organization favourably. They feel valued and supported by the organization and have positive experience working in the organization and consequently in confirmation with exchange theory, commitment to the organization would increase. As commitment to organization increase, job performance would consequently increase. Hence, conceptually it can be said that POS is positively related to job performance of an employee in the organization.

In a research done by Linda Rhoades and Robert Eisenberger (2002), it was found that the relationship between POS and extra role performance directed to the organization was medium sized, whereas relationships involving the other categories of performance were small. Here extra role behaviour is defined by authors as activities focused on helping co workers and those that help the organization. The research included review of more than 70 studies concerning POS. Also, in a research paper published by Marjorie L. Randall et al., 1999, it was established that support is related to job performance. In a research paper published by Berrin Erdogan et al. (2007), the moderating effect of POS on Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) and Job Performance was looked into and they found that in supervisors having high POS, leader-member exchange was positively related to job performance in the organizations.

Though almost all the research papers mentioned above were limited to American society, the results would hold true in the Indian conditions too irrespective of the difference in the working culture of the two countries. Hence we posit that the same relation of POS having a positive effect on Job Performance holds true for employees of companies in service sector in India.

H1: POS has a positive effect on Job Performance

POP and Job Performance

Perception of politics by an employee greatly affects his/her performance. If an employee perceives the political environment around him to be negative, it leads to a variety of untoward outcomes like decreased organisational commitment, job stress, turnover, job dissatisfaction, decreased productivity and overall organisational inefficiency (Ferris et al., 1996; Gilmore et al., 1996; Grote & McGeeney, 1997; Parker et al., 1995; Serven, 2002; Vigoda, 2000). Also, organisations having political environments are very uncertain. Hence, employees would not like to invest their time and efforts in such jobs. Thus by this reasoning, politics should lead to lower job performance. In other words, politics is negatively related to performance (Randall et al., 1999).

Another effect of politics on performance happens when employees see others around them using politics to their advantage; they perceive such outcomes as unfair (Ferris et al 1995) and thus a sense of distrust and suspicion as regard to the person employing politics as well as the person giving rewards creeps in. This leads to lack of commitment towards one's work, thereby reducing his performance.

It has also been determined through research that when the level of organisational politics is very high in the organisation, employees avoid such activity by absorbing themselves in their jobs (Ferris & Kacmar, 1992). As a result, there is no interaction between the employees at their workplace apart from the bare minimum required. This prevents the necessary sharing of information and knowledge that is required for effective accomplishment of tasks. This leads to lowered job performance of the employees (Witt et al., 2002). On the basis of above literature, we can hypothesize that

H2: POP negatively affects Job Performance


There was no consistency between results obtained by different researchers on the relationship between POP and POS. According to Ferris, Russ, & Fandt (1989); Kacmar & Baron (1999), Perceived Organizational Support (POS) serve as antecedents to Perceived Organizational Politics (POP) with POPs leading to individual-level outcomes. With POS comes care and support by the organization which helps individual believe that the organization will take care of them. Because of this concern for the employees, an organization would take actions to minimize the actions which are not in line with the organizational goals. Hence, POS would be negatively related to POP.

On the other hand, Eisenberger et al. (2002); Randall et al. (1999); Rhoades & Eisenberger (2002); Wayne et al. (1997) suggested that POPs act as antecedents to POS with POSs leading to individual-level outcomes. This can be explained on the basis of Social Exchange Theory. Social Exchange Theory (Cropanzano & Mitchell, 2005) states that the quality of relationship between employee and employer in an organization depends on the history of mutual exchange between the two. In a high-quality relationship, each party is concerned about the welfare of the other and in a low-quality relationship, the converse is true. So, when employees perceive politics inside the organization, they would feel that organization is not supporting their well being and consequently the perceived organizational support would be less. Hence POPs would be negatively related to POS.

So, determine which of these two constructs is better positioned as a mediator, Ranida et al. (2007) did research on relationship between Organizational Politics, Organizational Support and Individual Outcomes. The research showed that POS explained more variance (better mediated the relationship between POP and outcomes) given POPs than vice versa. Since it is one of the most recently published research papers, we assume the same relation would hold true for our research too and hence our hypothesis can be formulated as follows:

H3: POP has a negative effect on POS

POS as a mediating variable

There have been some research papers which tried to see the mediating effect of POS like the one by Loi et al. (2006) which looked at the mediating effect of POS on the relationship between the employee justice perception and organizational commitment and intention to leave, the one by Foley et al. (2006) which looks at the mediating effect of POS on the relationship between culture types and work-related attitudes etc. As was explained above, there exists sufficient literature which shows that POP has an effect on POS. In such scenario, it would be insightful to look at the effect of POS as a mediating variable between POP and Job performance. The mediating effect of POS on the relationship between political perceptions and work outcomes was studied by Wayne et al. (2003). According to the paper, politics perceived at a level one step higher than the employee's current level and also the politics at the highest level in the organization were inversely related to POS. Also, POS was positively related to job performance and job satisfaction providing support for mediation. Hence, an appropriate hypothesis which we intend to test can be summarized as:

H4: POS mediates the relationship between the POP and Job Performance

Role of Gender as moderator

When the employees perceive that the organisation supports them and values their contribution, it translates into employee friendly working conditions and in such an environment, a majority of the employees will tend to put in good performances irrespective of their gender. However, in case of an environment which has a high level of politics and uncertainty, different people will react in different ways. It is in such a scenario that the underlying personality differences of the two genders are manifested the most and the probability of males and females reacting differently to politics is extremely high. This is the reason we chose to study the effect of gender as a moderator for the relationship between POP and Job Performance.

There have been several studies conducted which examine the effect of gender as a control variable while studying both politics as well as performance. The research of Valle & Perrewe (2000), talk about the expected effect of gender on perception of politics. Similarly, the study of Ferris et al., 1989 also talks about women being more impacted by politics as compared to men. Likewise, there have been studies which talk about the potential of gender to account for variations in performance (Kidder & McLean Parks, 1993; Shore, Barksdale, & Shore, 1995). Although there has been no direct study which discusses the impact of gender as a moderator for the POP - job performance relationship, the above studies give sufficient indication in this direction. Therefore, the hypothesis is as follows

H5a: Gender moderates the relationship between POP and job performance

H5b: Gender acts as moderator for the mediation effect of POS on the POP-Job Performance relationship



For the purposes of this study, a snowball-convenient sampling was used. Since the study was aimed for the services sector, industries such as IT, banks, airlines etc were used covering different age groups and across hierarchies in the organisation. The ratio of male to female respondents was 60:40. Out of the total respondents 82 % belonged to the lower level of employees, 12% belong to the middle level and 2% belonged to senior level employees of the firm.


Perceived Organizational Support: POS would be accessed with 8-item survey of perceived organizational support. This scale was developed by Eisenberger et al. (1986) and received further support/validation by Shore and Tetrick (1991) and Shore and Wayne (1993). Some representative questions are "the organization values my contribution to its well-being", "the organization shows very little concern for me" (reverse scorecard). Each item was rated by participants on a 7-point Likert-type scale.

Perceived Organizational Politics: POP would be assessed with the 15 item modified Perception of Politics Scale (POPS) developed by Kacmar and Carlson (1997). This is a further extension of the original POPS scale built by Kacmar and Ferris (1991). Each item was rated by the participants on a 5-point Likert-type scale.

Job Performance: The scale used in this study has been adopted from Yousef (1999), which is four item, seven point self appraisal instrument which has measures two dimensions of performance, namely quality and productivity, with two items for each. The reason this scale has been chosen ahead of the rest is because this paper in particular deals with measuring job performance in non-western countries and is therefore applicable to this research as well.


The study uses a four step method for the mediation analysis. In the first step, the Perceived Organizational politics is used as the predictor and Job Performance is the dependent variable. The second step uses Perceived Organizational Support as the predictor and Job Performance as the criterion variable. In the third step, Perceived Organization Politics is used as the predictor and Perceived Organizational Support is the dependent variable. The fourth and final step uses Job Performance as the criterion variable and both Perceived Organizational Support and Perceived Organizational politics as the predictors.

Sobel's Calculator

For males, Sobel Test Statistic is -0.39 and probability (two tailed) is 1.310. Hence the mediation effect is present but is not significant.

For females, there is no need to use the Sobel Calculator as there is no mediation effect.


Through this research, we tried to establish a relationship between perceived organizational politics, perceived organizational support on job performance with gender as the moderating variable. The results of the research would be particularly significant since the research would be related to the Indian service sector context and the effect of gender on the outcome of the relationship could be effectively very different from the results obtained from any prior research carried out in international countries. Moreover as human resource managers, this research would give further impetus to the fact that for organisations to progress, there must be a conscious effort to reduce the politics prevalent in the organisation and ensure that there is support for employees across all hierarchies.

Future Research
  • Our research was limited to only service sector in the country. This research can be in future extended to all the sectors - across all organizations.
  • In future, the relevance of gender in organizations would diminish and what is more important is the personality of the person in the organizations. Emotional Quotient (EQ) is being perceived as being as important as IQ. So, the moderating effect of personality of the employee would have significant research implications.
  • As was mentioned by Marjorie L. Randall et al., 1999, there is a literature which suggests that all people don't respond to politics in the same way and the effect of politics on employees would depend on how they manage to influence those politics in the organization. Hence, an appropriate future research can be to take our current proposal forward and see how the effect of POP differs from high status individuals (People who can shape and benefit from politics) to low status individuals (People who can neither shape nor benefit from politics).
  • We focused on the effect of POP and POS on job performance, a construct looked at from organization point of view. There have research papers to establish the relation between POP and POS on job satisfaction, intention to quit etc, constructs looked at from employee point of view. How these relations change in the Indian scenario can be looked at in the future.

The following are the limitations of the research:

  • We are restricting the research to only the service sector in India and hence lack of universal applicability to all organizations in India.
  • Some amount of researcher bias may be introduced while developing the constructs for the questionnaire and the list of constructs may not be totally exhaustive.
  • Sampled units might provide partial/biased preferences based on age, ethnicity, etc.
  • Most of the respondents were of the age group 20-25 Age group. For people of this age group, focus would be career and hence POP and POS may not have significant impact on job performance.
  • It is a cross-sectional questionnaire which was surveyed at a given instant of time. The questionnaire is not a continuous measure of constructs.
  • Since the external environment in any organization is very dynamic, the perceived politics and support might change over a period of time. It also depends on the period over which the employee has been with the organisation, for perception can change over a period of time

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