Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Influence of Individual Differences on Reactions to Co-Workers' Ingratiatory Behaviors

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Influence of Individual Differences on Reactions to Co-Workers' Ingratiatory Behaviors

Article excerpt

Organizational politics has been defined as the enactment of self-serving behaviors designed to influence another party in order to obtain some personal goal or a goal not sanctioned by the organization (Drory and Romm, 1990). Researchers have linked organizational politics to job satisfaction (Gandz and Murray, 1980), employee appraisals (Longenecker et al., 1987), promotion systems (Ferris et al., 1989) and more recently, job attitudes (Drory, 1993) and career success (Judge and Bretz, 1994). One way in which political behavior is enacted is through impression management tactics, which includes ingratiation. Researchers have operationalized ingratiation in a variety of ways including favor doing, flattery, opinion conformity, or subservient behavior (Ferris and Judge, 1991; Kacmar et al., 1992; Liden and Mitchell, 1988; Wayne and Liden, 1995), and have attempted to determine the consequences of such behaviors for the target of ingratiatory behaviors (e.g., the supervisor) as well as the actor. However, very little research has been conducted that examines the consequences of influence tactics that are directed at a supervisor but are witnessed by co-workers of the ingratiator (e.g., Wayne et al., 1995). An understanding of "co-worker effects" caused by ingratiation is important because in many organizations an emphasis on teamwork as a means to increase productivity has emerged, and ingratiatory behaviors enacted by one team member may have ramifications on team cohesion, productivity, and other outcomes, including turnover among the highest performers.

Whether or not an individual interprets a co-worker's ingratiatory behavior in a positive, negative, or neutral manner will be partially determined by whether such behavior inhibits equitable procedures and outcomes. In many organizations, individuals working in close proximity observe others' behaviors and draw conclusions about a co-worker's productivity compared to his or her own. Imagine Office Worker A, who diligently types and files all day, while Office Worker B spends much of the day either talking on the phone or engaging a superior in conversations. If both workers appear to receive similar rewards, equity research suggests that Office Worker A will sense some inequity in the distribution of rewards. It has been found that the perceived equity or inequity of an individual's work environment will affect his or her responses to that environment, including work satisfaction, effort, performance, and ultimately job and organizational turnover (Patrick and Jackson, 1991).

Previous research (Wayne et al., 1995) has found that ingratiatory behaviors are indeed observable by coworkers. The purpose of this article is to examine how individual differences and environmental conditions present in a work setting (ingratiation, ambiguous performance levels, and reward distributions) influence coworkers' reactions to the work, the supervisor, and an ingratiating co-worker. The next section of the article briefly discusses previous research findings regarding the environmental and individual difference variables. It is followed by a description of the laboratory study and the results generated. The article closes with a discussion of the results and implications for practice and further research.



The nature of the environment may shape the use of influence tactics and affect the way individuals perceive their environment (Ferris and Judge, 1991). Self-serving behavior, such as ingratiation, is most likely to occur in ambiguous situations (Ferris and Judge, 1991; Ferris et al., 1989). In many organizations, the ambiguity of performance standards may make it difficult, if not impossible, for workers to know how well they or their coworkers are performing. Equity theory (Adams, 1965) proposes that co-workers compare their ratio of perceived inputs to outcomes to a referent other to determine if their outcomes are equitable. …

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