Have you ever had a coworker who spends a lot of the workday kissing up to the boss? I know I have. If you think this kind of behavior is an American phenomenon, you’re mistaken. It seems Chinese workers do it too.
Anthony Klotz and Lawrence Houston, III, professors of management in the College of Business at Oregon State University, studied 75 professionals in China about engaging in two “impression management techniques,” ingratiation and self-promotion. They define Ingratiation as flattery, conforming with the supervisor’s opinion and doing favors. Self-promotion includes taking credit for success, boasting about performance and highlighting connections to other important people.
The participants kept diaries for two weeks and also took a test measuring their political skill, the social abilities that help them effectively understand others at work, influence others in ways that enhance their own objectives and navigate social situations with confidence.
The researchers found that while kissing up is effective in the long run, in the short term it depletes self-control. The depleted employees were then more likely to engage in workplace deviance such as incivility to a co-worker, skipping a meeting or surfing the internet rather than working. My interpretation: people who brown nose are also likely to be rude and do less work.
There was no evidence of a similar link between self-promotion and depletion. My interpretation: bragging doesn’t require self-control. In fact, the opposite is probably true.
The researchers also found that ingratiation was less depleting for employees with high levels of political skill. Those people didn’t engage in as much of the deviant behavior as their peers with less political savvy. My interpretation: people with innate political skills not only ingratiated upwards. They also ingratiatied sideways with peers.
The professors, bless their hearts, suggest that depleted workers might want to take a walk or have a snack to refresh themsleves instead of being rude to coworkers. Personally, I think people busily kissing up to supervisors don’t much care how they behave toward colleagues.
The good professors also suggest that leaders who have been kissed up to be aware of how this depletes those doing the kissing and offer positive reinforcement to un-deplete them. Huh? Maybe I’m missing something here, but this tells me that they regard kissing up as good behavior that should be rewarded.
What do you think?