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Ethnicity and organizational politics: Implications for political skill

Wyatt, Madeleine, Silvester, Jo (2012) Ethnicity and organizational politics: Implications for political skill. In: Institute of Work Psychology conference, Sheffield. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:29769)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.


Organisations have long been defined as ‘political arenas’, where individuals and groups engage in political activity to compete for power, influence and resources (Mintzberg, 1985; Pfeffer, 1981). Engaging in organisational politics is therefore regarded as essential to achieve career success (Judge & Bretz, 1994). However, minority-ethnic employees typically experience differential career success, finding upwards advancement more difficult than their majority-ethnic colleagues. Research has also demonstrated that they are more likely to perceive organisational politics as illegitimate and divisive, as opposed to legitimate or beneficial (e.g. Ferris, Frink, Bhawuk et al, 1996). Therefore, the first aim of this research was to determine whether perceiving organisational politics mediated the relationship between ethnicity and three measures of career success: grade, number of promotions and career satisfaction.

Importantly, existing research on perceptions of organisational politics (POPs), has made little acknowledgement that individuals who perceive politics, may themselves be political actors and may vary in their ability to navigate such environments (Silvester, 2008). Political skill is an interpersonal style which purportedly enables individuals to form useful networks and coalitions at work (networking ability), understand social situations and others’ motives and behaviours (social astuteness), hide ulterior motives, be perceived as genuine and sincere (apparent sincerity) and therefore successfully influence others (interpersonal influence). Existing research suggests that political skill acts as a buffer against the effects of other stressors (e.g. Perrewe et al, 2004, 2005). Therefore, this research aims to determine whether political skill can also buffer, or moderate the relationship between POPs and career success.

To test this, a questionnaire was distributed to 311 participants; 114 minority-ethnic and 197 majority-ethnic employees, within a large public sector organisation. The questionnaire contained a subjective measure of career success, career satisfaction, as well as objective measures; grade and number of promotions. POPs was measured using the scale developed by Kacmar & Ferris (1989). Political skill was measured using Ferris et al (2005) 18-item political skill inventory, which comprises four subscales: networking ability, interpersonal influence, social astuteness and apparent sincerity.

Mediation analyses revealed that POPs mediated the relationship between ethnicity and career satisfaction, but not between ethnicity and grade or number of promotions. Moderated mediation analyses found that only networking ability buffered the effect of perceiving politics on career satisfaction. However, minority-ethnic participants were more likely to have lower networking ability and perceive higher levels of politics and therefore experience lower levels of career satisfaction. There was no moderating effect of interpersonal influence, or social astuteness. Contrary to predictions, apparent sincerity exacerbated the effect of perceiving politics.

These findings suggest a number of implications for differential career success and organisational politics. In particular, they raise important questions about the construct validity of the political skill inventory.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Department of Leadership and Management
Depositing User: Madeleine Wyatt
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2012 14:12 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:07 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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