A new study finds that sucking up to the boss can not only help individuals move up the corporate ladder, but avoid psychological distress as well.
The study, published in the Journal of Management Studies, suggests that when people skilled in office politics use the coping skill of ingratiation, they may neutralize ostracism and other psychological disturbrance 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 is an adult form of bullying and is often described as an individual’s belief that they are ignored or excluded by superiors or colleagues in the workplace.
Investigators reviewed a 2005 survey of 262 full-time employees and found that over a five-year period, 66 percent of respondents felt they were systematically ignored by colleagues, and 29 percent 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,” said Ho Kwong Kwan , a co-author of the study and a doctoral student in management at Drexel University.
“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.”
Although the tactic of ingratiation appears to be successful, study authors recommend that organizations create a workplace culture that discourages workplace ostracism.
Tactics could include training of managers and employees in techniques to enhance self-esteem, improve problem solving, and promote the development of political skills.