Consider the all-too-familiar boss’s pet employee at an office. He uses flattery, goes out of his way to help the boss, curries personal favors, and constantly tows the boss’s line no matter how unreasonable it is. He never corrects the boss when necessary. He either sugarcoats or withholds information that the boss would rather not hear. Over time, he has perfected the art of stroking his boss’s exaggerated sense of self-worth.
How about leaders who go overboard on their intention to exceed customer expectations and turn out to be “customer compelled?” They bend over backward to fulfill every whim and fancy of their customers to the likely peril of their own organization’s values and priorities.
Sucking up or brown-nosing is widespread approach to win a boss’s approval solely with one’s own self-interest in mind. Consider the consequences of sucking up:
- An employee that sucks up to his boss loses the respect of his peers and employees. They assume positive discrimination and favoritism because of his ingratiatory behavior. The suck-up recursively promotes sucking up in his organization—he encourages others to establish themselves in his good graces.
- Suck-ups quickly get into a pattern of slavishly reacting to every impulse of the boss. Without realizing, they become vulnerable to obligations to support their boss. Neither can they set limits on favors, nor do they stand up for themselves or their employees.
Be Resourceful, Don’t Suck Up
“One does not make the strengths of the boss productive by toadying to him. One does it by starting out with what is right and presenting it in a form which is accessible to the superior.”
* Peter Drucker, in The Effective Executive
Contrary to popular opinion, a vast majority of promotions are not handed out to employees who are most willing to suck up. Research and empirical evidence proves that employees who are honest, sincere, open, straightforward, and helpful earn management’s respect and attention over time. They move up fast because of their demonstrated ability to make the right choices. In addition, most people can innately distinguish the brown-nosers and differentiate genuine compliments from insincere flattery.
Do not get me wrong. There is enormous value in being helpful to the boss. After all, making yourself resourceful can go a long way in staying in the boss’s good graces. It can open professional opportunities and increase your access to new ideas, initiatives, and restricted information. However, there is an obvious boundary between doing favors and sucking up. Running an urgent errand when the boss is busy preparing for an important meeting or watching over his pet when he is travelling are well within reason. Compromising your values and priorities just to get on the boss’s side will not get you anywhere in the long term. Try these suggestions:
- Be sincere and timely in your compliments. Refrain from making flattering remarks.
- Use facts and logic to support or challenge the boss’s ideas. Never praise, or comment on your boss or his plans in front of others.
- Ask your boss how you could help him achieve his goals and follow-up earnestly.