One Surprising Reason You Might Be Slacking at Work

Nobody likes a teacher's pet, a brownnoser, or a suck-up. Not only are they annoying, they've been shown to actively disrupt office cohesion. That's not the end of the litany, though: New research shows that kissing up isn't even that good for the quality of your work.

Professors at Oregon State University have just released a study drawing a link between ingratiating yourself to the boss and bad behavior toward your colleagues and your responsibilities. The basic version is that trying to cozy up to authority — whether it's by flattery, conforming to a boss's opinion, or doing favors — winds up being a big drain on your mental energy. When you're feeling sapped, you end up wasting time online, snapping at co-workers, skipping meetings, or other asocial work behaviors.

This mirrors research published last fall looking into abusive bosses. If your supervisor berates you or easily loses their temper, it's likely because they're unable to maintain the mental energy to suppress it. (That is absolutely not an excuse, of course.)

If you're worried that this describes you, figure out where you fall on the spectrum. Don't worry about things like the tone of your voice changing around your boss — that's normal. And if you're falling behind at work because your life is genuinely falling apart, there's every reason to get yourself the help that you need.

The Oregon State researchers found that paying attention to when you're depleted can help you notice when to stage a smaller intervention, such as grabbing a snack or taking a walk outside. More importantly, perhaps, is how managers handle ingratiating employees. Use positive reinforcement for the behaviors you want to encourage, and don't reward the ones you can see are depleting or workplace-deviant. There's never a wrong time to set proper boundaries, and it will always pay dividends before too long.