Political Skill/Power Test

People like to do self-assessments.  However, people also tend to believe they are “above average” on most positive qualities—the so-called “above average effect.”  Consequently, I recommend not only assessing yourself but also getting people you work with to provide their evaluations.  And assessments are only useful if you are going to act on the data—so work on weaknesses to improve yourself. 

With those provisos, here is a way of measuring your political skill and power aptitude.  The questions come from Political Skill at Work by Gerald Ferris, Sherry Davidson, and Pamela Perrewe, and are reproduced with the kind permission of Professor Ferris who has conducted years of research on political skill, what it means, and its effect on people’s careers.  In other words, unlike the tests you sometimes see in magazines or even online, this assessment has actually been empirically validated by much research!  The authors define political skill “as the ability to understand others at work and to use that knowledge to influence others to act in ways that enhance one’s personal or organizational objectives” (p. 7).  Because organizations are political arenas, Ferris and others have found that political skill predicts performance evaluations and career success.  It is something important.   So, take the test, and then work on improving areas of weakness.  You will be better off for the efforts.

On a 7-point scale, where 1=strongly disagree, 2=disagree, 3=slightly disagree; 4=neutral (neither agree nor disagree); 5=slightly agree;  6=agree; and 7=strongly agree, answer the following questions (from pp. 23-25) of Political Skill at Work):

  1. I spend a lot of time and effort at work networking with others ___
  2. I am able to make most people feel comfortable and at ease around me___
  3. I am able to communicate easily and effectively with others___
  4. It is easy for me to develop good rapport with most people___
  5. I understand people very well ___
  6. I am good at building relationships with influential people at work___
  7. I am particularly good at sensing the motivations and hidden agendas of others___
  8. When communicating with others, I try to be genuine in what I say and do___
  9. I have developed a large network of colleagues and associates at work who I can call on for support when I really need to get things done___
  10. At work, I know a lot of important people and am well-connected___
  11. I spend a lot of time at work developing connections with others___
  12. I am good at getting people to like me___
  13. It is important that people believe I am sincere in what I say and do___
  14. I try to show a genuine interest in other people___
  15. I am good at using my connections and network to make things happen at work___
  16. I have good intuition and am savvy about how to present myself to others___
  17. I always seem to instinctively know the right things to say or do to influence others___
  18. I pay close attention to people’s facial expressions___

Add up your score (the numbers you wrote after each question) and divide by 18.  You will have a score between 1 and 7.  Higher scores mean you have more political skill, lower scores mean you have less.  You should be above 4—and possibly well above 4—if you have aspirations to reach great heights of power.

The questions measure four dimensions of political skill, so you can also see where you are stronger and weaker. 

Questions 5, 7, 16, 17, and 18 measure social astuteness; 

Questions 2, 3, 4, and 12 measure interpersonal influence; 

Questions 8, 13, and 14 assess your apparent sincerity; 

Questions 1, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 15 measure you networking ability.


  1. says


    Do you think that paying “close attention to people’s facial expressions” (#18) can be reading too much into a situation? For instance, someone may not make eye contact with you as they go down the hall because they are in a hurry to get to the bathroom.

    I have also been asked by subordinates “is everything OK” when I’m deep in thought or look a little more somber than usual. And it really annoys me.


  2. says

    This is interesting, but not so much for the questionnaire but for the lead up. If political ability predicts performance review and promotional success, it would mean that reviews are promotion is not based on ability. Not much of a surprise perhaps but such findings would contribute to the argument made by those supporting evidenced-based HR practices on eliminating performance reviews – at least as a means of assessing employee capability and performance. Also, it would be interesting to know the strength of the relationship between political skills and promotion in different types of organizations (i.e.; public sector vs. private sector etc.)

  3. says

    Dear Dr. Pfeffer,
    It was most interesting to hear your talk to Stanford alums yesterday, and thank you for alerting us to this quiz. I am going to send the link to my three sons (all in their 20s) and suggest that they assess their skills. We truly do have a culture in which people are afraid of the facts of life as far as power and hierarchy goes. I plan to write something about this issue in my blog, “Robert’s Rules in Real Life,” and will link back to your blog here as well.
    With thanks,

  4. says

    This quiz might have some greater validity if your colleagues also used it to assess you. Their view would be more relevant I suggest and may provide some useful feedback. Their assessments might be compared with your personal assessment, checking for differences, consistencies etc.

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