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louise batchelor


HR Business Partner

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Book Review: ‘Savvy: Dealing with People, Power and Politics at Work’

The term “savvy” is used frequently in the workplace to describe people and their behaviour; “savvy” seems to be a desirable trait to have, with lots of employers looking for this in potential recruits. Maybe you’ve been told that you need to be more “savvy”. But what is “savvy” and how to we get it? 
This is exactly what Jane Clarke seeks to unpick in her book. Clarke defines “savvy” as “the ability to deal effectively with the politics of work”; an individual that is savvy “is someone who understands and utilises the dynamics of power, organisation and decision making to achieve their objectives”. Clarke asserts that most successful people are politically adept and all organisations are political systems. Therefore, the ability to be politically savvy is seen as a very important and desirable skill to master in order to be able to operate effectively in any workplace. 
In each chapter of the book, Clarke explores the behaviours that are needed to become “savvy”, from dealing with the office politicians, influencing and persuading others, managing your boss to understanding and managing conflict.
Clarke explores more widely the operation of relationships in the workplace and provides a guide to spotting those political players in your office and understanding their motives. Clarke provides useful quizzes, models and diagnostics that you can use to assist in defining how you behave in different situations, how others behave in your workplace and models that you can apply. The book explores common “political” problems that are encountered by people at work such as someone stealing your credit, being caught in the middle, someone encroaching on your territory, being the victim of a smear campaign, dealing with hidden agendas and being held down. Clarke uses case studies throughout to illustrate these different common situations and how these situations have been handled by the individuals involved.
Reviewer’s rating
This book could be called “Managing Relationships at Work”, although this would be a much less gripping title, as this book is basically a guide to navigating your way through relationships at work. However, that said, Clarke does offer good advice on managing working relationships including spotting different types of people in your workplace – Clarke defines people as falling into 4 common groups: barbarian, Machiavellian, naïve and star – and therefore adapting your approach in each situation. Whilst much of this book could be considered common sense, how often do we stop to consider who we are dealing with, what their motives might be, and therefore the best approach to take to get the outcome we want? 
Depending on your starting point, your previous experience of the world of work, and how “savvy” you consider yourself to be; this book is a great guide to managing workplace relationships. The book is well structured and each chapter focuses on equipping the reader with the softer skills that are required to not only survive but thrive in any work place. With chapters in areas such as: Managing your boss, Understanding and Handling Conflict and Making the Right Impression, Clarke feels like your own personal career coach.
The book provides plenty of practical advice, with case studies, models and diagnostics that can be applied to many of our daily interactions with others in our organisations. I did find that some of the case studies seemed rather extreme and ended rather unsatisfactorily, and at times didn’t always help the central points that Clarke makes, however the quizzes that are included are enjoyable and I felt that they helped you, as the reader, gain personal insights about your own behaviour in certain workplace situations.
This book is relevant to colleagues, managers and HR professionals in any organisation looking to develop their “savvy”. A pocket version of this book would be handy to keep on your person at all times, to help navigate the “office politics” that inevitably exist in any organisation.

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louise batchelor

HR Business Partner

Read more from louise batchelor