Sucking Up to the Boss Works AND Keeps You Healthy

Ingratiation used by politically savvy individuals neutralizes psychological distress

Savvy career minded individuals have known for some time that ingratiating oneself, er, sucking up, to the boss and others can help move them up the corporate ladder more quickly. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Management Studies (click here for the full study) suggests that politically savvy professionals who use ingratiation as a career aid may also avoid the psychological distress that comes to others who are less cunning about their workplace behavior.

Ingratiation as a Coping Skill

This new research shows that when politically savvy professionals use the coping skill of ingratiation, they may neutralize ostracism and other psychological distress potential in the workplace. Ostracized employees experience more job tension, emotional exhaustion and depressed mood at work.

Suck Up To Avoid Ostracisim 

Workplace ostracism—an adult form of bullying—is often described as an individual’s belief that they are ignored or excluded by superiors or colleagues in the workplace. A 2005 survey of 262 full-time employees found that over a five-year period, 66% of respondents felt they were systematically ignored by colleagues, and 29% reported that other people intentionally left the area when they entered.

Previous studies have shown that ostracism is an interpersonal stressor that can lead to psychological distress, and distress in the workplace is strongly linked to life distress, employee turnover, and poor physical health.

The study followed 215 employees in two oil and gas companies in China: “Our data confirmed that workplace ostracism was positively related to psychological distress,” explains Ho Kwong Kwan one of the study’s authors. “We found that ingratiation neutralized the relationship between workplace ostracism and psychological distress when used by employees with a high level of political skill, but exacerbated the association when ingratiation was used by employees with low political savvy.”

Individual vs. Organizational Solutions

While the path to success and health may personally and individually come from sucking up, the authors of the study suggest that organizations should create a culture that discourages workplace ostracism by provide training to managers and employees. An organization which enhances self-esteem, encourages effective problem solving techniques, and promotes the development of political skills would be far healthier for everyone.

Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Alex E. Proimos

Category: Psych


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