- Championing your colleagues’ ideas could help your own career as well as theirs, a study found.
- People who “amplify” other people’s ideas are more admired and seemed more influential, the study found.
- The findings showed you don’t need to be an “aggressive jerk” to get ahead, a researcher said.
Promoting your colleagues’ ideas over your own could boost your career, according to the authors of a recently published study.
People visibly giving credit to their colleagues were viewed as more admired and more influential by their peers, the study of nearly 2,800 people found. The person whose ideas were promoted also benefited, researchers said.
In contrast, people who often promoted their own work were disliked, a co-author of the study said.
Kristin Bain, assistant professor of management at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders College of Business, told Insider the findings showed you don’t need to be an “aggressive jerk” to get ahead at work.
The results also suggested that promoting the work of other people can raise the profile of groups typically overlooked in organizations, such as women and people of color, she said.
For the study, which was published in the Academy of Management Journal, the researchers wanted to understand the effects that amplification – which they defined as a public endorsement of another person’s ideas, with credit to the person – could have on how people were perceived at work.
They conducted three studies with 2,760 US participants. In one, participants were asked to observe a staged sales meeting in which a person’s ideas were initially ignored, before being raised again by a colleague later on.
In the second study, a person framed their own ideas using negative language. The idea was then later amplified using more positive language.
For the third, the researchers worked with a nonprofit. They asked a director to identify 22 employees who typically had less influence. Many of the employees were junior. They received training and were then asked to amplify each other’s ideas over a two-week period. The rest of their colleagues didn’t know about the study.
An organization-wide survey then measured how they were perceived.
In all three studies, both the person amplifying ideas and the person whose ideas they promoted were viewed as being “higher status,” which Bain defined as being more respected and admired. This gave them more influence at the company, Bain added.
“Status-based influence is separate from power-based influence; You’re not listening to me because you have to or I’ll fire you,” said Bain. “It’s because you respect me and think that I have good things to say”.
If a person was perceived to be too self-interested, and promoted their own ideas too much, they were seen negatively.
“A lot of our studies sort of included this comparison condition of promoting your own ideas versus promoting somebody else’s, and without fail, people did not like the people who promoted their own ideas,” Bain said.
That doesn’t mean promoting your own ideas is always wrong, Bain said – in specific contexts, such as job interviews, it’s important.
The research also didn’t show you’re more likely to get promoted just because you endorse your colleagues, Bain said – but at the very least you’re not hurting your chances.
The quality of the idea you promote matters, she said. If a person promotes an idea they know is bad, it could make them look bad, she said, adding that this needed further investigation.