Why Sucking Up to the Boss May Actually help new employees succeed

By Justin K. Thomas

Although longtime employees may roll their eyes when they see a colleague kissing up to the boss, witnessing ingratiation can actually be beneficial to new employees, according to a College of William & Mary professor.

David M. Long an associate professor of organizational behavior at the university’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business, recently conducted a study on ingratiation — establishing favor or favorable acceptance by deliberate effort — with Trevor A. Foulk of the University of Florida.

Their findings are detailed in an article, “Impressed by Impression Management: Newcomer Reactions to Ingratiated Supervisors,” which was published by the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Video: What is ingratiation?

Long says their work is counter-intuitive to established ideas because ingratiating behavior is often considered manipulative and deceiving; however, he said, it can actually be positive for both individuals and society as a whole.

He stated that newcomers entering into an office environment “are really hungry for information about their supervisor.”

Video: What are the positive affects of ingratiation?

And noticing coworkers kissing up to their boss actually helps new employees to form a more favorable impression of that supervisor.

“New employees seek any and all social cues they can find,” Long said. “They use hints such as how the boss walks, talks and what type of attire they wear to help [new employees] make an early judgment or assessment on whether that person will be important to their success.”