Employees should be taught political skills

Psychologists in America have called on organisations to train their staff in political skills. Vickie Gallagher and Mary Laird made their recommendation after reporting evidence that the job satisfaction of staff with low political skill suffers when they are operating in what they perceive to be a highly political work environment – that is, one where employees tend to form pacts and to make organisational decisions that are in their own interest.

Gallagher and Laird asked 220 staff at a financial-management firm about their political skills, their sense that organisational decisions are taken politically, and their job satisfaction.

Political skill was measured by participants’ agreement with statements like “I spend a lot of time and effort at work networking with others”. A sense that the organisation’s decisions are influenced by internal politics was measured by participants’ agreement with statements like “I have seen organisational decisions based on things other than business necessity, like the wants of a certain few.” Finally, job satisfaction was measured as you’d expect by agreement with statements like “I feel fairly well satisfied with my present job.”

One hundred and five staff (average age 44 years) returned their answers to these questions. Among staff with high 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 organisational decisions were affected by politics was associated with their having lower job satisfaction.

The researchers said political ability remains an under-researched area in organisational psychology and that their findings have practical implications for the training, selection and communication procedures of organisations. “By taking proactive measures to develop employees’ political skill, considering the skills and abilities of new hires, and communicating the nonpolitical reasons for decisions, organisations can help individuals to maintain a productive level of job satisfaction,” they concluded.
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ResearchBlogging.orgVickie Coleman Gallagher, Mary Dana Laird (2008). The Combined Effect of Political Skill and Political Decision Making on Job Satisfaction. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38 (9), 2336-2360 DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2008.00394.x

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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