Kissing up to your boss does not just impact your relationship with your supervisor, but can also have a positive influence on your co-workers, a new study suggests.
Researchers looked at how “kissing up” - also known as ingratiation - affected people who witnessed it.
They found thatnewcomers who saw a co-worker kissing up to the boss were more likely to have a positive perception about the supervisor, while other workers’ perceptions were unaffected.
“That kind of information is so much more valuable to a newcomer. You are scanning the environment looking for any cue you can get that can help you understand the workplace,” said Trevor Foulk from University of Florida in the US.
According to Foulk, new employees are so eager for positive information about their supervisors that they will accept information that other employees discount, causing them to interpret attempts at ingratiation as a sign that the boss must be someone worth getting in good with.
“We typically do not like ingratiators: when established workers observe this behaviour, they tend to discount it. But newcomers really want to know about their supervisors, so they take the exchange as positive information and ignore its unsavoury aspects,” said Foulk.
“If you could sit down with your supervisor for an hour and talk, that would be the best way to form an impression, but we do not always have that opportunity,” he said.
“If we cannot get good information, we will settle for what we can get,” he added.
In the study, participants watched a video of an employee using different types of ingratiation - compliments, interest in personal life, praise and favours - on a supervisor.
After researchers controlled for age, work experience and social skill, they found that participants who watched interactions that included ingratiation from a subordinate rated the supervisor’s warmth higher than those who watched interactions without it.
The positive perception even held when participants were told that the supervisor was unpleasant and ineffective. However, it only applied when the participants imagined that they were new to the job, researchers said.
When participants were told that they were contractors whose term with the company was ending, the positive bump disappeared, they said.
The study also found that when employees directly observed the supervisor behaving in a positive manner, the effect of ingratiation became less important.
The findings were published in The Journal of Applied Psychology.