Office politics is a delicate game: Previous research has found that over-investing one’s time in cultivating alliances and winning the office popularity contest can backfire on employees once their colleagues realize what they’re up to. But what about employees who eschew personality politics and try to curry favor with their superiors by making unsolicited innovations that help their organization operate more efficiently? Surely that’s a better way to get ahead, no?
That’s not always the case, a recent study found. At the Harvard Business Review, Andreas Wihler and Jon M. Jachimowicz describe the study, co-authored by Wihler, which found that employees who take the initiative to push change often receive scorn rather than credit from their colleagues and managers:
Whether proactivity was perceived as helpful or obnoxious hinged on employees’ levels of political skill. Those with more political skill were also more accurate in their perception of how much their organizations valued proactivity, while employees lower in political skill were essentially “blind” to the opportunities they faced – no matter how many cues the organization offered that proactivity would be rewarded. Employees low in political skill were also more likely to behave proactively when the organization didn’t favor it.