When Your Boss Says, “You’re Not Politically Savvy”

When Your Boss Says, You’re Not Politically Savvy?

In my work with professional women of color, the question I am most consistently asked is “what do they mean when they say..?   It is almost always in reference to their performance evaluation or goal setting discussion.

Just what do they mean when they say, “your work is excellent, but…

  • You’re not politically savvy
  • Your leadership skills need strengthening
  • You’re not a team player
  • You’re not a good fit

There are dozens more, I’m sure.  In fact, drop me a note and share with me, if you will, some of your “your work is excellent, but…” stories.

For now, we’ll take a look at one of the most common comments:  Your work is excellent, but you’re not politically savvy.

What do they mean when they say you’re not politically savvy?  Well could it mean a number of things, but almost every time I heard this from a client, she was someone who worked very hard and had developed good technical skills.  However she had a low threshold for office politics and little regard for the titles and roles of management, executive leadership and other key stakeholders.

These women were focused solely on the work and meeting deadlines, not on forging relationships or paying attention to their image or how they were perceived within the organization.

Now, to a person every one of the women I heard this from said, “I don’t have time for politics.”

Here’s where you should make the distinction between politics and foolishness.  There is a difference.  One is being aware of the people and the dynamics that can and will impact your career and success trajectory.  The other is non-productive activity engaged in by people with not enough to do (or they are not focused on what they are supposed to be doing).  Yes, sometimes it is a fine line, but that’s why you are ordained with the power of discernment.

So, what does it mean to be politically savvy and how do you acquire it?

For starters, being politically savvy entails you understanding who all of the people and positions are that impact your experience and trajectory within your organization.

Knowing who the people are is important because understanding personalities and management and leadership styles is important. In addition, you should understand the roles of the positions within the organization that can influence your career path; people rotate in out of positions all of the time.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

1.  What is the mission or key objective of the organization and how does what you do help to fulfill that?  Another way to ask this is what value do you contribute to the organization?

2.  How are you perceived within your organization?   Your image is more than how you look.  (embed link to blog post)

3.  Where are you positioned in the current organizational structure?

4.  Where do you aspire to move to?

5.  How have you developed relationships with key stakeholders beyond your immediate level of management?

Let’s keep this conversation going.  Join our community of professional women of color where we discuss and develop strategies to assist you with developing the exposure and relationships you need to increase your success.

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Deborah Gray-Young
Coach D. Gray-Young is a Certified Professional Coach trained by one of the premiere coaching schools in the US, the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. Deborah works with women of color who are emerging or mature leaders who are ready to take bold and decisive action to change the trajectory of their lives. She calls it YOU 3.0.