Sucking Up to the Boss May Be Good for Your Health

Sucking up to the boss may do more than just improve your standing in the workplace. New research says it may also keep you healthy.

A recent study published in the Journal of Management Studies suggests that politically savvy professionals who use kissing up to an employer as a way to enhance their standing in the office may avoid the psychological stress that others who aren't as shrewd about their workplace behavior experience.

Specifically, the research shows that employees who use ingratiation skills in the office often neutralize feelings of ostracism that many professionals tend to deal with.

An adult form of bullying, ostracized employees describe feeling like they are being ignored and excluded by colleagues. They often experience more job tension, emotional exhaustion and depression. Other research shows that stress kills. It can raise the risk of a range of ills from high blood pressure to colds and even cancer.

Ho Kwong Kwan, one of the study's lead authors and a graduate student at Drexel University, said the key lies in how well the employee is at reading the body language and expressions of their co-workers. Those who aren't very politically savvy, he said, can actually make things worse by sucking up.

"When you can sense other people's pet peeves and expressions, it allows you to communicate easier ," Kwan told BusinessNewsDaily.

Feelings of workplace ostracism have long been a problem for workers. A 2005 survey of 262 full-time employees found that over a five-year period, 66 percent of respondents felt they were systematically ignored by colleagues, while 29 percent reported that other people intentionally left the area when they entered.

"Workplace ostracism can lead to many negative effects, such as psychological distress, turnover rate and poor physical health," Kwan said. "People need to fulfill their psychological needs through social interaction and when their needs cannot be fulfilled, these negative effects occur."

It is critical, Kwan said, that businesses create a culture that discourages workplace ostracism by providing training to managers and employees that enhances self-esteem, encourages effective problem-solving techniques and promotes the development of political skills.

"In training sessions, organizations can give advice to their employees about how the effects of ostracism are far more harmful than imagined, and suggest that employees solve any problems through discussion," Kwan said.