Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

What I Learned About Organizational Savvy From My Fraternity

Chapter 9: Paint Your Environment Part 1

My junior year in college, I was rush chairman at my fraternity, which meant I was in charge of recruiting new members.  There was this one guy who came by a few times and impressed some of my brothers with his coolness. Others, like me, thought he was an asshole. We were a small house, and did not turn away people easily.  We also didn’t have any guys who liked to brag about cheating on his girlfriend, and I was not up for letting one in.  This was the dark ages of the 80s, when we used an index card to track each “rushee”.   Every week I would hand out the cards to other brothers, who had the job of inviting them over for dinners or other events.  One of my brothers really wanted to help with rush, but he was terrible on the phone.  I gave him the asshole’s card every week.  And the asshole quietly disappeared.

I can’t exactly say that my choices were the model of honest behavior, but I was living according to my values in an organization that may have chosen another path.  I now realize I was using organizational savvy (a skill I seem to have lost during my ten years in the academic world, and had to rediscover the hard way in the business world.)

Veteran executive Marian Cook  defines organizational savvy as “understanding the professional culture you are in and working with it – instead of against it – to achieve your goals. It is understanding that ‘office politics’ is a reality to be dealt with, not ignored or even looked down upon. Whenever two humans get together, there are ‘politics’ at play, affecting your performance, the perception of your performance, and therefore your pay. It is the portfolio of competencies, approaches, and behaviors used to navigate your career and organization with success and integrity.”[i]

Organizational savvy is a tool, and like any other tool can be used for good or ill.  This chapter will teach you how to use organizational savvy to regain control of your life.

[i] Leadership Skills: Organizational Savvy (Part 1 of 3) By Marian Cook WITI Leadership Retrieved January 7, 2013.