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Dual promotion: Bragging on your co-workers makes a good impression

It’s okay to brag on yourself in the workplace, as long as you compliment your co-workers too, according to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

The researchers suggest that this type of “dual promotion” strikes the proper balance of competence and warmth, whereas self-promotion does not typically make the best impression. 

Giving credit to others

“To create favorable impressions and receive credit, individuals need to share information about their past accomplishments,” wrote the study authors. 

“Broadcasting one’s past accomplishments or claiming credit to demonstrate competence, however, can harm perceptions of warmth and likability.” 

“In fact, prior work has conceptualized self-promotion as a hydraulic challenge: tactics that boost perceptions along one dimension (e.g., competence) harm perceptions along other dimensions (e.g., warmth).” 

“In this work, we identify a novel approach to self-promotion: We show that by combining self-promotion with other-promotion (complimenting or giving credit to others), which we term “dual-promotion,” individuals can project both warmth and competence to make better impressions on observers than they do by only self-promoting.”

Focus of the study 

The researchers – from Vanderbilt, George Mason University, and the University of Pennsylvania – emphasize the distinction between dual-promotion and ingratiation, which is when an individual speaks highly of someone in their presence to get in their good graces.

Dual-promotion, on the other hand, is when an individual praises the achievements of another person whether or not he or she is present for the conversation. 

“With dual-promotion, the goal isn’t directly about improving relationships with the person being complimented, but rather about demonstrating that you care about this other person to a third party to demonstrate your own warmth and competence,” said study co-author Dr.  Eric VanEpps, an associate professor of Marketing at Vanderbilt University.

Self-promotion dilemma

The researchers suggest that dual promotion is a good strategy to use at a job interview, but most people don’t. 

They said that previous studies have identified “so many behaviors” people use to self-promote that academics have coined the term the “self-promotion dilemma.”

The team initiated the research with surveys targeting hiring managers. These employers reported that the majority of job candidates they interviewed used only self-promotion (69.1 percent), while the vast minority (12.6 percent) used dual-promotion.

“It seems like people either don’t think of talking positively about others in the moment, or they’re worried that they would look worse by comparison,” said Dr VanEpps. 

“But we find over and over that it’s good to compliment your colleagues, especially – this is the ‘dual’ part of dual-promotion – alongside claiming credit for your own abilities and achievements.”

Favorable impressions 

The team also completed seven experiments involving 1,488 participants.

“In seven preregistered studies, including analyses of annual reports from members of Congress and experiments using social network, workplace, and political contexts, we show that individuals who engage in dual-promotion create more favorable impressions of warmth and competence than those who only engage in self-promotion,” wrote the researchers.

“The beneficial effects of dual-promotion are robust to both competitive and noncompetitive contexts and extend to behavioral intentions.”

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