Research: Teach Political Skills at Work

Last Updated Nov 5, 2008 6:39 AM EST

  • Teach Political Skills at WorkThe Find: The epic presidential election may finally be over, but the need for political skills at work is as high as ever according to recent research, which also recommends explicitly teaching employees to navigate office politics.
  • The Source: A paper by management professors Vickie Coleman Gallagher and Mary Dana Laird entitled "The Combined Effect of Political Skill and Political Decision Making on Job Satisfaction" appearing in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology and discussed on the BPS Research Digest blog.
The Takeaway: Gallagher and Laird asked 105 staff members of a financial-management firm about their political skills, whether organizational decisions are made politically, and their job satisfaction. When the researchers analyzed the results they found something rather predictable,
Among staff with self-reported political skills, a sense that decisions were affected by internal politics had no association with their levels of job satisfaction. By contrast, among staff with low self-reported political skills, a perception that organizational decisions were affected by politics was associated with their having lower job satisfaction.
No shock that those employees who think they're bad at office politics are more annoyed by decisions based on factors other than objective performance. What is more interesting about the research are the recommendations that come with it. "By taking proactive measures to develop employees' political skill, considering the skills and abilities of new hires, and communicating the nonpolitical reasons for decisions, organizations can help individuals to maintain a productive level of job satisfaction," Gallagher and Laird conclude. In short, train employees in office politics.

Anyone interested in the full paper can find it here.

The Question: Is it feasible (or even desirable) to teach employees how to work the levers of office politics and, if so, how would it work?

(Image of average joe politicking by Poldavo (Alex), CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.