"Politically skilled individuals not only view their environments as less stressful, but if it is stressful, they know how to handle it."
Distinguished Research Professor, Management
"People are overloaded," says Professor of Management Pamela Perrewé. "They simply have too much to do—not qualitatively—it's not too hard to do, it's too much to do."
Having political skill can help, she says. "You feel more in control of your work because you know you've got some influence. If you can count on others—through networking, obtaining social support, receiving help with projects—you can get work done more quickly. If you don't have political skill, it's hard to convince others to help you."
Perrewé studies the psychology of people at work, stress in the workplace, how it affects perception and productivity, and how it can be minimized both for managers and their employees. Political skill, she has found, buffers the negative effects of strain. "It is a dispositional variable in a person, partially innate but also partially learned. If you are not naturally politically skilled, you can learn it over time. An example of a politically skilled person is Bill Clinton—the man is amazing whether you like his politics or not."
In, Political Skill at Work (Davies-Black), she, and the co-authors Jerry Ferris and Sherry Davidson, argue that political skill has four dimensions. Social astuteness is the ability to monitor your environment, being able to read a person to determine his mood or if he is agreeing with you. With interpersonal influence, you can get others to do things. Networking, an important ability not often considered, is the willingness to build coalitions and friendships with a variety of people with whom you can count on in a pinch. Fourth, you must appear sincere and trustworthy. If others believe you have integrity, they are more likely to be influenced by you.
In her research, Perrewé looked at physiological measures—blood pressure, heart rate—and found that the managers who were higher in political skill experienced less physiological strain. She discovered that politically skilled individuals not only view their environments as less stressful, but if it is stressful, they know how to handle it.
Currently, Perrewé is working with Jerry Ferris and other colleagues to develop a theory of political skill, including taking a comprehensive view of the antecedents and consequences of political skill. For example, she and her colleagues are examining personality types, such as extroversion. She says, "If you are extroverted, you are more likely to be politically skilled. If you are an introvert, it's very difficult to engage in networking, which is part of political skill."
In 2004, Perrewé was recognized as one of Florida State's Distinguished Research Professors and is keenly aware of the importance of research for the scholarly development of her doctoral students. A number of them have become interested in extending her work on political skill.