Sucking up to the boss may move you up and keep you healthy

Jun 09, 2011

Savvy career minded individuals have known for some time that ingratiating oneself to the boss and others – perhaps more commonly known as 'sucking up'– can help move them up the corporate ladder more quickly. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Management Studies 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.

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

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.

In the present study, researchers examined the relationship between workplace ostracism and employee psychological distress, with a focus on moderating effects of ingratiation and political skill. The research team surveyed employees from two oil and gas companies in China, with 215 employees providing responses. "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."

While the path to success and health may appear to come from sucking up, the authors of the study have a better suggestion. They say that organizations should create a culture that discourages workplace ostracism by provide training to managers and , which enhances self-esteem, encourages effective problem solving techniques, and promotes the development of political skills.

Explore further: Family financing is anything but foolish

More information: "Coping with Workplace Ostracism: The Roles of Ingratiation and Political Skill in Employee Psychological Distress."Long-Zeng Wu, Frederick Hong-kit Yim, Ho Kwong Kwan, Xiaomeng Zhang. Journal of Management Studies; Published Online: June 8, 2011 (DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2011.01017.x).

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Workplace aggression commonplace

Jan 18, 2006

A McMaster University study indicates 47 million U.S. residents are victims of workplace aggression, with the general public the primary source of abuse.

Recommended for you

Family financing is anything but foolish

12 hours ago

Borrowing money from a family member or friend to start a business is often considered dangerous, both financially and emotionally, however new research conducted by an entrepreneurial expert at the University of Adelaide ...

The economics of age gaps and marriage

Oct 30, 2014

Men and women who are married to spouses of similar ages are smarter, more successful and more attractive compared to couples with larger age gaps, according to a paper from CU Denver Economics Assistant Professor Hani Mansour ...

Do financial experts make better investments?

Oct 28, 2014

Financial experts do not make higher returns on their own investments than untrained investors, according to research by a Michigan State University business scholar.

Lack of A level maths leading to fewer female economists

Oct 28, 2014

A study by the University of Southampton has found there are far fewer women studying economics than men, with women accounting for just 27 per cent of economics students, despite them making up 57 per cent of the undergraduate ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

finitesolutions
not rated yet Jun 09, 2011
Have you ever punched a boss? It is very rewarding I tell you.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.