Over two decades, social influence researchers have called for a study that would examine how, why, and when influence tactics are effective. Informed by balance theory, the present study proposes that subordinate and supervisor political skill impacts the effectiveness of ingratiation attempts. The results from a survey of 228 supervisor–subordinate dyads in Chinese firms indicated that subordinates with high political skill are less likely to have their exhibited ingratiation behaviour perceived by their supervisors; however, supervisors with high political skill are likely to perceive ingratiation behaviour demonstrated by their subordinates. Moreover, the most successful condition for enabling subordinates to hide ingratiation from their supervisors is when the subordinates are politically astute and the supervisors are not. Furthermore, when supervisors perceive ingratiation behaviour, they rate low on the job performance and promotability of their subordinates; these low ratings are explained by the undermined personal reputation of the subordinates due to their ingratiation detected.