Question of the day: Political savvy.

Jan 29 2014 Published by under [Education&Careers]

When someone in your department is referred to as "politically savvy" what does that mean to you?

15 responses so far

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Succeeds higher than person making the comment thinks the target deserves. Also see "knows the grant game".

  • Odyssey says:

    Someone who regularly gets what they ask for.

  • Dr Becca says:

    I don't know, I think being politically savvy - knowing how to talk to people and network, when to agree to favors, etc, is all part of this job. I use it as a compliment to describe my chair all the time.

  • Alex says:

    Basically what Odyssey said.

    Some of it is the difference between the person that you want to say yes to and the person that makes it really hard for you to say no to. We have one of the later, and there's a whole string of people in responsible positions who privately gripe about how this guy pushes them until they finally say yes because saying "no" to him is more trouble than its worth.

  • Natalie says:

    My thinking is along the same lines as Dr.Becca - politically savvy academics can correctly predict the motivating factors influencing other people/institutions and use this skill in negotiations to their advantage. Strategic thinking results in efficient proposals to outside power players (and hopefully, the intended outcome).

    Using "shut me up" as a motivator like Alex mentioned lands squarely in the douche canoe category, but politically savvy people are not always assholes.

  • Alex says:


    I basically agree, except that when I hear the word "political" it generally carries negative connotations. If somebody can read the players well enough to find a solution that everyone will consider agreeable, they are of course super-savvy about the politics, but I'll probably use a word more favorable than "political." OTOH, if they are the sort whose game is visible (and distasteful) then I'll probably use the word "political."

  • Susan says:

    Someone who gets what they ask for, without leaving a bitter aftertaste.

  • DJMH says:

    Climber. Whether the valence is positive or negative has to be construed from tone.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I ask because I was approached for a task that someone wanted me to perform because they "needed someone with political savvy". Not sure if they meant it as a compliment or insult....

  • profguy says:

    I agree with Dr. Becca and would take it as a compliment. It means knowing how to get things done within the constraints of a quasi-democratic group environment where other people's thoughts and feelings have to be accommodated to some extent and pissing others off is not helpful.

    Someone who is not politically savvy (esp. someone who prides themselves on not being so) is often someone who is either a) entirely lacking in social skills or b) someone who thinks of themselves as principled, but that really means thinking they know better than others, others are all jerks etc. When it is used as an insult to refer to someone else I usually think it reflects poorly on the person saying it.

  • Dr. Noncoding Arenay says:

    Agree with Odyssey's interpretation. And it is a good skill to possess. I always think of it as a compliment and not an insult. OTOH, if someone refers to another person as "political" and takes away the word "savvy" then that instantly comes across as negative. So, PLS, I think it was a compliment.

  • drugmonkey says:

    In that use it is called "flattery" and the intent is, as with all flattery, to get you to do something. One might even call that in and of itself political savvy....

  • drugmonkey says:

    This person might also simply think you have political "pull" which is another matter.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Hahahaha, that's assuming it was flattery and not more of a I'll-smile-while-wishing-you-dead. Given my relationship with this person, I believe you are probably right.

  • Alex says:

    I say of one of my favorite colleagues "That guy will be Dean some day."

    I say of one of my least favorite colleagues "That guy wants to be Dean some day."

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