It's hard to stand out at work, even more so in a virtual environment, when interactions are usually limited to email chains and video calls. There is, however, an easy way to boost your popularity and influence at your job, according to a new study.
The study, "Amplifying Voice in Organizations," shows that promoting a colleague's ideas during a meeting can help strengthen your career. Researchers studied nearly 2,800 people and found that people who repeated or praised a colleague's idea during a meeting, with credit, were admired more than those who amplified their own ideas or stayed quiet.
Dr. Kristin Bain, assistant professor of management at Rochester Institute of Technology's Saunders College of Business and one of the study's authors, tells CNBC Make It that the research challenges the notion that people need to be aggressive or competitive to get ahead in their careers.
"We found that if people promoted their own ideas and really only advocated for themselves, they weren't as well-liked by the group," Bain says. "But if they championed another person's suggestion, that's when they gained some status in the group, showing that how you respond to others' input can really affect how your co-workers see you."
In the study, Bain and her team introduce the concept of "amplification," which they defined as "the public endorsement of another person's contribution, with attribution to that person." The researchers tested the effectiveness of amplification using three methods: first, through two experiments in which participants read a fictional meeting transcript and rated the participants on their behavior, then, by training employees of a non-profit organization to practice amplification at work over a two-week period and recording the results.
Overall, amplification proved to be an effective tactic: both the "amplifier" and "voicer" of the original idea were viewed as highly respected and admired by their colleagues, thus making them more influential at the company, Bain notes. Amplified ideas were also seen as higher quality than ideas that were not promoted by others.
To incorporate this tactic in your daily work life, Bain suggests listening carefully during meetings and intervening if a colleague's feedback is ignored. "I think we've all been in meetings where we've said something, and no one really paid attention, but then 30 minutes later, someone else says it and everyone thinks it's a brilliant idea," she says. "Amplification can help make sure more people are heard at work, that teams are considering all suggestions and people get proper credit for the ideas they have."
Bain has experienced first-hand the positive effects of amplification: when she first joined the RIT staff last year, she didn't feel comfortable speaking up during meetings. "I put an idea into the chat of one of our video meetings, and my colleague, who was much more social, flagged it to the group and said, 'I think Kristin has a good point here,'" she recalls. "On a personal level, it feels great to have your words acknowledged, and it made my co-worker look very proactive."
Amplification can also boost your career development. When the researchers asked which employees they would give a salary bonus or promotion to, they "overwhelmingly" chose the amplifiers, Bain points out. "There could be a significant reputational benefit from this practice," she says. "No matter what your current position is, everyone can gain something from amplification, and it can create a really positive work environment."
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