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Is work making you sick? Sucking up to the boss might help

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Coping with work stress

Sucking up to the boss may be good for health and well-being because it can blunt work related psychological distress. Researchers say being a valuable team player can do more than just help employees move up the career ladder. Ingratiating oneself to the boss can lower tension, lift depression at work and help with emotional exhaustion.

Schmoozing management may be healthy

It’s no secret that bullying in the form of being excluded by colleagues and ignored by management happens in the workplace.

Findings published in the Journal of Management Studies, found 66 percent of 262 full-time employees surveyed felt ignored by colleagues at work and 29 percent said their co-workers left the room when they entered.

Distress from feeling ostracized in the workplace can also lead to life distress and poor health, so researchers in China set out to find out how employees might cope.

Study author Ho Kwong Kwan said, “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.”

Sucking up to the boss requires skill

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The finding shows sucking up to the boss at work can help employees stay healthy – but only for those who have the know-how, it seems.

But for those who are not politically savvy, or simply disagree with the “suck up game” at work, trying to ingratiate oneself with the boss can make things worse, increasing the negative impact on health from work related stress.

The researchers say they have a better suggestion for tense employees who risk illness that includes training managers, creating a work environment that fosters self-esteem and helping employees develop political skills.

The result of neutralizing emotional exhaustion, work tension and depression during work hours can improve employee health and well-being. Sucking up to the boss isn’t for everyone, but for the politically savvy, ingratiating behavior can do more than advance a career - it might keep you healthier.

Journal of Management Studies: DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2011.01017.x
“Coping with Workplace Ostracism: The Roles of Ingratiation and Political Skill in Employee Psychological Distress”
Long-Zeng Wu, Frederick Hong-kit Yim, Ho Kwong Kwan, Xiaomeng Zhang

Image credit: Morguefile