Management Department


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Operations Management 27:6 (December 2009), pp. 428–443; doi: 10.1016/j.jom.2009.01.003 Copyright © 2009 Elsevier B.V. Used by permission.


There has been little systematic study of what plant managers actually do on a day-to-day basis that accounts for their success in achieving organizational outcomes. In our field interviews and observations of high-reputation plant managers from 11 manufacturing plants, we found that effective political skill enabled them to influence subordinates in ways that contributed positively to organizational outcomes. Political skill is an interpersonal style that combines social astuteness with the ability to relate well, and otherwise demonstrate situationally appropriate behavior in an engaging way that inspires confidence, trust, and genuiness [Ferris, G.R., Perrewé, P.L., Anthony, W.P., Gilmore, D.C., 2000. Political skill at work. Organizational Dynamics 28 (4), 25– 37]. We observed that effective plant managers possessed a configuration of dispositional traits (self-motivation, sense of humility, and affability), systematically employed interpersonal behaviors (creating accountability, leading by example, and developing trust), and focused on managerial processes (stretch goals, influencing and learning from below, and empowering direct reports). By juxtaposing the political skill and power literatures, we propose a theory of plant manager effectiveness as a combination of political skill and the use of unobtrusive and systemic power to achieve both affective and substantive outcomes.