When to say 'thank you' to your boss

Gratitude is an essential tool to navigating the workplace, especially when that workplace is overseen by a belligerent and insecure boss, according to a new study.

Yeri Cho, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate at USC Marshall, and Nathanael Fast, assistant professor of management and organization at Marshall, examined "the interactive effects of power, competency threats and gratitude expression on the tendency to denigrate others."The launching point was a recent article showing that gratitude expression boosts a sense of social worth.

"Maybe if powerful people received gratitude expression from their subordinates and felt socially valued, they would reduce their aggression toward others," Cho said.

To test this hypothesis, Cho and Fast conducted two experiments. Based on those experiments, they concluded: "Power holders whose competence has been threatened are more likely than others to denigrate and receiving gratitude expression has self-affirming effects for insecure power holders."

In the first experiment, Cho and Fast examined whether power paired with threatened competence would lead to denigration of a partner.

Additionally, they tested whether gratitude expression by the partner would alleviate this tendency.

To accomplish this, they told research subjects they were being divided into two-member teams and that their other "teammate" was in another room and able to communicate via written notes.

They were next asked to write instructions for how to assemble an object clearly enough so someone else could assemble it. Then they were asked to review a draft of the instructions—ostensibly written by their partner, but really written by the experimenter—and provide feedback.