Doing this simple thing may make you your boss’s favorite employee

The relationship between supervisor and subordinate, due to its very nature, is often less than friendly.

Anyone with experience managing other people knows that you can’t necessarily be buddies with all of your employees, but at the same time, no one wants to be universally feared and hated by their co-workers either. Such is the tightrope all supervisors must walk.

It isn’t always easy to be the boss. But, that’s why they make the big bucks right? Putting salaries aside for a moment, a new study from the University of Central Florida has a piece of advice for everyone out there who frequently feel like giving their boss the cold shoulder. 

Try to be a bit nicer and show some appreciation for your manager. Researchers say their findings indicate that supervisors are more energized, optimistic, and helpful toward their subordinates when they feel appreciated. So, taking a moment to say something pleasant to your boss will actually make your life easier in the long run.

Conversely, if your boss feels unappreciated and despised, chances are all that negativity is going to lead to a more irritable, abrasive supervisor. That’s not good for anyone in the company.

“Based on theory, we knew feeling appreciated by another person sends a strong signal that you are positively regarded, and feelings of positive regard evoke a sense of vigor–or high energy,” explains Maureen Ambrose, the Gordon J. Barnett Professor of Business Ethics and a UCF Pegasus Professor, in a release. “This is important because research indicates when people possess higher levels of resources, in this case, energy, they are better able to maintain a positive outlook and engage in positive behaviors at work. We know when supervisors have feelings of depletion–or low energy–negative things happen. For example, when bosses have low energy, they engage in more abusive supervision, creating worse workplaces for their employees.”

These findings have financial implications as well. No company is going to succeed if employees and managers can’t get along or there’s a constant tension in the air. A happier boss means happier employees, which subsequently leads to efficiency and profit.

Understandably, the majority of pertinent research on this topic had approached things from the perspective of the subordinate. For example, what impact does an overbearing or manipulative manager have on his or her employees? The boss is in a position of power, so it’s only natural for everyone to sympathize with the lower-level workers. This research serves as a reminder that bosses are people too, and they need a little bit of encouragement and appreciation from time to time as well.

“Our study also found that feeling appreciated by employees was positively related, via energy, to supervisors’ psychological well-being. Psychological well-being can buffer individuals from the negative effects of job stress,” Ambrose adds.

Let’s face it, countless employees would probably rank their immediate supervisor as one of their biggest sources of stress on a day-to-day basis. It’s common for employees to feel like they’re being singled out by a boss or unfairly criticized/spoken down to. In those moments, it’s very tempting to fire back a sarcastic remark or dirty look. If you ever find yourself in a situation like this in the future, it may behoove you to respond with some honey instead of vinegar.

The team at UCF asked a group of managers to respond to a series of surveys twice daily for a period of 10 consecutive workdays. Every day, those surveys asked supervisors how appreciated they felt by their employees that day, how energized they were feeling, and how those two factors were impacting them personally (life satisfaction, optimism) and professionally (job satisfaction).

“On days supervisors felt more appreciated, they had more energy, and this translated into higher levels of optimism, life satisfaction, job satisfaction and helping,” comments study co-author, Clemson University professor, and UCF alumna Sharon Sheridan. “This was interesting because our field hasn’t connected feeling appreciated to higher energy, and we typically look at how supervisors can boost the resources of subordinates–not the other way around.”

“Taking this upwards perspective may help us better understand supervisors’ lived experiences at work and why they do the things they do,” Ambrose concludes.

Many employees can’t help but see their manager as an adversary. An antagonist they must do battle with day in and day out. It doesn’t have to be like that, though, and this study shows a little bit of appreciation or kindness goes a long way.

The full study can be found here, published in the Journal of Management.