Sucking Up Is Good for Your Health as Well as Your Career

Sucking Up We all know that ingratiating yourself with the boss and colleagues can be good for your career, but recent research says that it can also be good for your health. Your mental health, to be specific: Politically savvy professionals who use ingratiation as a career strategy may also avoid the psychological distress that comes to those less socially savvy, according to the research, published in the Journal of Management Studies.

But you have to know how to do it, or it can have the opposite effect, the study says.

It makes sense when you think about it. The study shows that when politically skilled professionals use the coping skill of the schmooze, they may neutralize ostracism and other psychological distress that other less savvy individuals have to cope with in the workplace. Ostracized employees experience more job tension, emotional exhaustion and depression at work.

Workplace ostracism -- an adult form of bullying -- is described as an individual's belief that they are ignored or excluded by superiors or colleagues in the workplace. The bad news: Most of us feel it at one time or another. A survey of full-time employees found that 66 percent of respondents felt that they were systematically ignored by colleagues, and 29 percent reported that other people intentionally left the area when they entered.

Other studies have shown that ostracism is an interpersonal stressor that can lead to psychological distress, and distress in the workplace is strongly linked to life distress, employee turnover and poor physical health.

"Our data confirmed that workplace ostracism was positively related to psychological distress," explains Ho Kwong Kwan one of the study's authors. "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."

While the path to success and health may appear to come from sucking up, the authors of the study have a better suggestion. They say that organizations should create a culture that discourages workplace ostracism by providing training to managers and employees which enhances self-esteem, encourages effective problem-solving, and promotes the development of political skills.

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