Executives might want to think twice about how they favor employees who “kiss up” to the boss at work to boost their careers.

A new Oregon State University study says employees who rely on the practice often end up behaving badly in the office, leading to substandard performance. Instead, the researchers said, bosses might want to use positive reinforcement rather than encourage “kissing up.”

Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at the College of Business at Oregon State University, is the lead author of the paper, whose findings were published recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

“There’s a personal cost to ingratiating yourself with your boss, Klotz said in prepared remarks. “When your energy is depleted, it may nudge you into slack-off territory.”

The study looked at how 75 mid-level managers in China at a large, publicly-traded software company used two different behaviors over two weeks to get the boss to notice: ingratiation and self-promotion.

Ingratiation includes flattery, conforming with the supervisor’s opinion and doing favors for boss. Self-promotion involved tactics such as taking credit for success, boasting about one’s performance and highlighting connections to other important people.

The managers completed daily diary surveys noting their workplace experiences, and also completed a survey measuring their social abilities that help them understand colleagues, influence others to further their own goals and confidently navigate social situations (also known as political skill).

What the researchers found: Ingratiation varies daily, and if used too much, the employees lost self-control for completing vital tasks. Once this happened, these employees would skip meetings, surf the internet rather than work or were less civil to a co-worker.

Self-promotion, on the other hand, did not appear to exhaust some managers. Researchers found that those who were more skilled politically did not get exhausted from ingratiation, and they were also less likely to resort to lazy or bad behavior.

The researchers encouraged employees to be mindful of how exhausting ingratiation can be, and more savvy about political skills in terms of appropriate behavior.

Source: Oregon State University

Topics Oregon