A strong divergence of view was identified between men and women in our survey. Overall, women scored a mean of 4.90 compared to 4.50 for men (max. 5.0). This was not entirely unexpected, given the common notion that women tend to be more socially aware and concerned with relationships. However, the surprise came when probing more deeply into this factor, which forms a lesson for us all.
It appears from the literature that there has been no successful attempt to find differences between the genders when it comes to perceptions of political skill. Several academics have tried to establish this difference, but have failed. What has been found, however, is that major differences appear to be evident in minority group members. These have much more awareness of the need for political skill than those who are members of the majority groups.
Relating this to our research, we would expect that those women who took part are likely to have been in minority positions, i.e. working in male dominated environments. Unfortunately, we were unable to quantify this and we also suspect that some male participants could have also been in a minority position and, therefore, ranked the importance higher.
Another potential contributor to this feature in our research is the evidence of networking activities by men and women. One researcher discovered that women have larger external networks and men larger internal networks. Given that our work is involved with the politics in the workplace, it would appear that men may have an advantage and women should be encouraged to network more amongst their working colleagues.
The important implication of these findings is that if you work in a minority group, political skill needs to be at its sharpest. This will be applicable whatever the basis on which group structure is formed. Aside from the obvious, if you are working in a highly educated workplace and have few qualifications, you’ll be in a minority. For this person, special emphasis will be needed on developing greater understanding of groups, group dynamics and interactions.