In its recent report, The Journal of Applied Psychology finds that the office kiss-up sometimes winds up underperforming because continually going out of your way to polish the boss’ apple can be exhausting.
“There’s a personal cost to ingratiating yourself with your boss,” said Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Oregon State University and the lead author of the paper. “When your energy is depleted, it may nudge you into slack-off territory.”
The study examines how 75 mid-level managers at a large publicly traded company in China used two “impression management” techniques — ingratiation with the higher-ups and self-promotion — over two weeks.
They found that the office boot-lickers appeared to have a false sense of security and were more likely to lack self-discipline. As a result, they were uncivil to co-workers who were not as high up on the management chain as they were, skipped meetings and surfed the internet rather than working. Meanwhile, that effect was not there for the self-promoting group.
Klotz explained that it takes high effort for people to suck up to their boss and their emotional energy could be spent.
“It makes sense that ingratiation is depleting, because successfully kissing up requires the appearance of sincerity and that requires self-control,” Klotz said.
More information on the study can be found here.