Are political employees happier employees?

Suspicious businesswomanHarvard’s Teresa Amabile made us aware of the value of making progress to our sense of wellbeing, so it should perhaps come as little surprise that a recent study links political astuteness with happiness at work.

The study suggests that political skill is crucial to success in the workplace, and that this success often underpins happiness and satisfaction.

“Most people think of political skills as manipulative and negative but, basically, it is building connections with other people,” the authors say. “In a positive sense, politically skilled people foster supportive and trusting environments to benefit organizations and are going to be more transformational leaders, which will lead to higher job satisfaction.”

The importance of political astuteness

The researchers quizzed several hundred employees to gauge their level of political acumen (alongside a number of other interpersonal skills, such as emotional intelligence and control), their abilities as a leader and their general job satisfaction levels.

Interestingly, of the interpersonal skills, only political acumen seemed to have any impact on overall job satisfaction and leadership effectiveness.

“Think of the best boss you ever had — most likely they were very politically skilled,” the authors say. “Leading without political skills is possible but it is going to be like wearing a weighted vest.”

Ones political acumen was broken down into four distinct skills:

  • networking ability
  • social astuteness
  • apparent sincerity
  • interpersonal influence

It perhaps stands to reason that a leader with these skills is likely to be a more effective, and therefore a happier and more engaged leader than someone lacking them.

“Work engagement is the level of a person’s physical, mental and emotional energy with their job and if they are fulfilled from that work,” the authors explain. “Being engaged at work leads to several positives for the individual, such as more energy and stamina, and the organization, such as less employee turn over.”

The authors hope that this insight will encourage organizations to spend more time supporting their employees in the development of political skills, as traditionally it’s been something that was believed to be a skill you either had or didn’t have.

Whilst being politically astute often comes with a negative reputation, in the reality of the working world it’s often an essential skill when it comes to getting things done.

“Any time you have people who are in hierarchical groups and limited resources — which is every organization ever — you are going to have people vying for access and control over those resources,” the authors conclude. “That’s politics. Someone who is able to get along with everybody, get things done and is on board with the projects being done is going to help an organization as well as his or her own career.”


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