We all want to be seen in a positive way by our bosses—especially when starting a new job. However, there are many positive qualities that we want to show our new supervisors in hopes that they will notice and invest in us. What qualities are best to highlight? Researchers studying newcomer socialization, defined as employees transitioning from organizational outsiders to organizational insiders, suggest that two beneficial ways to present ourselves include displaying ingratiation and self-promotion.
SELF-PRESENTATION AND SUPERVISORS
New research (Gross et al., 2020) suggests that newcomers should engage in both ingratiation and self-promotion in order to influence how supervisors treat them. Ingratiation is behavior people use to appear likeable, such as doling out favors or compliments. Self-promotion is behavior people use to appear competent, and includes highlighting personal strengths or talents.
The authors suggest that new hires who engage in ingratiation and self-promotion actively shape and influence how their supervisors perceive them. This is important because supervisors often lack adequate information to make useful judgements of new hires. The authors argue that newcomers who engage in ingratiation and self-promotion may receive higher levels of support from their supervisors, such as help developing important social relationships or help adapting to the new jobs.
THE RESEARCH STUDY
To test their hypotheses, the researchers surveyed 355 recent university graduates who were in the process of starting new jobs. The researchers surveyed the participants at three time points: at initial contact, after being on the job for two months, and after being on the job for four months.
Results from the study suggest that newcomers who engaged in ingratiation were more likely to receive supervisor support in building social relationships. This increased supervisor effort was related to newcomers having increased emotional attachment to their organization. Results also suggest that newcomers who engaged in self-promotion were more likely to receive supervisor help in functioning at their new jobs. This increased effort from supervisors was related to increased job performance ratings and promotability.
An interesting caveat to this study was that engaging in ingratiation and self-promotion was not particularly helpful for those who were previously skilled at rapport building. Engaging in self-promotion was also not particularly helpful for those who worked in jobs with clear expectations.
Results from this study suggest that newcomers can influence their socialization success by shaping supervisor behavior. Taken together, engaging in both self-promotion and ingratiation may improve job success for newcomers, via increased emotional connection to the organization, job performance, and promotability.
Gross, C., Debus, M. E., Liu, Y., Wang, M., & Kleinmann, M. (2020). I am nice and capable! How and when newcomers’ self-presentation to their supervisors affects socialization outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, advance online publication.