In Brief

Self-promoters ‘do less but still get ahead at work’

Productivity study finds staff who ‘manage upwards’ gain more promotions even though they do less work

People who are good at self-promotion generally do less work than their colleagues but still get ahead faster, a new productivity study of 28 British workplaces has found.

Research from the Ashridge at Hult International Business School examined the engagement levels of teams of workers, across seven different employment sectors, such as health, government, transport and not-for-profits.

It identified a specific section of the workforce who appear “highly engaged”, but on closer inspection were found to be “self-promoters” whose lack of effort pushed down overall output.

The BBC says they might constantly appear in a circuit of meetings, or get involved in conversations that were to their own advantage, “but apart from playing the corporate culture, it was difficult to see what they actually achieved”.

Senior researcher Cr Amy Armstrong said such “selfish” staff undermined teamwork and damaged productivity, but could often be encouraged by the managerial system.

“They're rewarded for that dysfunctional behaviour,” she said.

Much of this is down to what is known as “managing upwards”.

Forbes says this is “the skill of communicating as often as necessary in a manner that helps your boss or manager achieve their goals”.

“Managing upward is kind of like long-term savings. It's painful to get started. However, once you cultivate this habit, you'll have a bank of credit you can draw upon when the chips are down,” says the wealth magazine.

“Done right, managing up is a win for all concerned,” agress Fin24.

“Not only can it put you on the path to promotion, it can help your boss shine while also boosting organisational effectiveness, innovation and engagement,” says the employment site.

Yet it also has far more negative connotations; effectively the art of staff making themselves look good in front of senior managers.

This means “they are more likely to get promotions, better pay and bonuses and to devote even more of their efforts to their own careers - to the detriment of collective productivity,” says the BBC.

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