Those Closest Wield the Sharpest Knife: How Ingratiation Leads to Resentment and Social Undermining of the CEO
Author(s): Gareth D. Keeves, James D. Westphal, Michael L. McDonald
Abstract: Using survey data from CEOs and other top managers at large and mid-sized public companies in the U.S., as well as from journalists, we explore how ingratiation, a fundamental means of building and maintaining one’s social capital, may trigger behavior that damages the social capital of the person being ingratiated. Although ingratiation, such as flattery or opinion conformity, may elicit positive affect from its target, we suggest it can also elicit a specific form of negative affect toward the target, which in turn can trigger interpersonal harm-doing. Focusing on ingratiation by top managers toward the CEO, we find that ingratiating managers are likely to develop feelings of resentment toward the CEO and that ingratiation may be especially likely to elicit resentment among top managers when the CEO is a racial minority or a woman. We also find that negative affect from ingratiation can induce interpersonal behavior that has the potential to damage the social capital of the influence target, as feelings of resentment that result from ingratiatory behavior can trigger social undermining of the CEO in the manager’s communications with journalists.
Publication Title: Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 62(3)
Pub Year: 2017
Pages: 484 – 523
URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/0001839216686053
Keywords: chief executive officers, corporate governance, top management teams, ingratiation, flattery, resentment, social undermining, social influence

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