If you love to indulge in flattery or kissing up to your boss, think twice. While it may boost your career, it can also drain self-control resources, thus making you more susceptible to bad behaviour at the workplace, a study has found. Ingratiation, or kissing up, which generally includes flattery, conforming with the supervisor’s opinion and doing favours, is just one of the many behaviours employees use to create and maintain their desired image in the workplace.
However, “there’s a personal cost to ingratiating yourself with your boss”, said lead author Anthony Klotz, Associate Professor at the Oregon State University (OSU) in the US. “When your energy is depleted, it may nudge you into slack-off territory,” he added.
The findings, appearing in the journal of Applied Psychology, showed that the extent to which employees engaged in ingratiation varied widely from day to day and the more they engaged in kissing up, the more their self-control resources got depleted.
“It makes sense that ingratiation is depleting, because successfully kissing up requires the appearance of sincerity and that requires self-control,” Klotz said.
The employees with depleted self-control were more likely to engage in workplace deviance such as incivility to a co-worker, skipping a meeting or surfing the internet rather than working, the researchers said.
But, those with high levels of political skill were less prone to engage in deviance after performing impression management, signaling that it can act as a buffer against the depleting effects of ingratiation.
“Leaders can respond to their employees’ ingratiation efforts in ways that are resource depleting or in ways that are more resource giving,” Houston noted. “Positive reinforcement is resource giving, and it’s free.”
The results were based on nearly 100 professionals in China who were examined using two supervisor-focused impression management tactics — ingratiation and self-promotion — for over two work weeks.