15 Ways to Suck Up at Work That Won't Make You Feel Slimy
Sucking up may be perceived by many as an easy way to manipulate someone else to your own advantage. But sucking up is really an art form, a craft that must be fine-tuned and mastered to be effective.
There is actually a formal terminology for the classic term of sucking up. It's referred to as ingratiation behavior, defined as "establishing oneself in the favor or good graces of others, especially by deliberate effort." (See also: 12 Ways to Finally Get That Promotion This Year)
There are plenty of scientific studies that show that sucking up can be effective — that is, when it's done properly. As people of power (such as your boss) may become suspicious or even jaded when offered constant compliments, being a suck up can actually backfire on you if you have not yet mastered the art of sucking up.
Here are some basics to get you started.
1. Gauge Your Target
There are some bosses who thrive on constant, blatant compliments, and there are bosses who detest them. You need to figure out your strategy based on how your boss responds to such instances. If your boss gives you a weird look when you compliment her, then back off and take a more subtle approach. Instead of, "You're so amazing, wonderful, smart, awesome, at everything!" Say something along the lines of, "I'm glad I get to learn so much from you everyday," or, "I've learned so much about being adaptable by watching how you handle situations."
2. Retain Your Values
If your boss is all about the Brown Nosers, but sucking up is not something you are comfortable with, you need to make a decision pretty quickly about your future at the company. Don't ditch your values for the chance to get ahead. It's rarely worth it in the end.
Plus, if you're not being authentic and truthful about the compliments you're spewing (and if you're not a Meryl Streep caliber actor), then it's going to seem phony, which is completely counter-productive.
3. Be Well-Rounded
While your initial target for a good impression may be the boss in charge, you also need to consider the other people in your work environment that should have your focus. Effective sucking up should include anyone who can influence the decision to promote you such as your big boss's support staff, administration team, and management leaders.
These people are most likely your coworkers. Moral of the story: Be nice to everyone.
4. Know Where the Line Is
There is a big difference between friendly compliments and blatant flattery, so make sure you know where to draw the line. Following others around like a puppy and throwing compliments like confetti will become annoying and will not be effective, at all.
Subtlety and authenticity must be your guiding lights.
5. Ask for Guidance in a Flattering Way
Approach your target under the guise of asking for advice or guidance with some flattery thrown in for good measure. For instance, start the conversation with, "I really admired the way you handled the Smith situation. Do you have any advice for this issue I am having?" This is a nice way to pay a compliment while gaining some one-on-one time with your boss.
6. Observe and Regurgitate
What do you learn from your boss or coworkers on a daily basis? Constantly take notes (mental or actual — there's no shame in jotting down things) of the great things you are observing, and then, when you have the opportunity, bring up elements of what you learned when meeting with your boss on other matters. Boss or not, everyone loves hearing things about themselves. Observe and play back the good things you've been seeing.
7. Dish Compliments to Their Allies
When given the chance to associate with friends or confidants of your boss, feel free to show your admiration. Mention how well you think your boss does managing the team or throw out a compliment like "he/she has such great ideas." In some cases, you might even receive a compliment in return if your boss has expressed their opinion of you to them.
Likely, your compliment will get back to your boss and then, guess what? You'll get thought of in a positive light, again.
8. Expand on a Common Passion
If you learn your boss is a clothes' horse, an avid hiker, really into baking, or shares a passion for your favorite hobby, start a conversation about it. "Hey, I heard you're quite the fisherman. What kind of bait have you been using?"
Create common ground and you'll have more to talk about. People like people like themselves.
9. Acknowledge an Affiliation You Share
Find out if your boss is a member of the same church, same alumni association, or the same parent/teacher organization. Bring up connections you may have in common. Your boss may be more likely to remember you when he or she can relate you to other areas of their life outside of work.
10. Ask for an Expectations Refresher Course
Speak with your boss about setting some time aside to have a serious conversation to discuss expectations — the company's and yours. Focus on the things your boss expects of you overall and your boss's general thoughts on daily issues that can make a difference. Make sure the things you are doing every day and the way you do them is what your boss expects.
By taking the initiative to connect with your boss and make sure you are meeting expectations, you'll show that you value your boss's opinion of you.
11. Request More Responsibilities
As they say, actions speak louder than words. Don't just throw constant compliments at your boss. Let your actions speak for you. Request additional responsibilities, a bigger work load, or volunteer to handle the extra projects that need to be done. Proving your ambition can have a bigger impact than saying, "What a great blazer!" every single day.
By showing you care about what the boss cares about (you know, your workplace), the boss will see that you are an action taker and not just a talker; a very important distinction.
12. Be Socially Appropriate
In the age of social media you really need to retain perspective on what is appropriate and what is not. If you are tagging your boss in every Facebook post and Twitter statement as if you are now BFF's, you will likely come to regret it. Gushing and gloating publicly may not only be a turn off for your boss, but it could also cause some serious office drama amongst your co-workers. Be a professional, not a creeper.
Even if you do get along great with your boss on a personal level you've got to stay professional. Texting at 1:00 in the morning might be okay with your buds, but if you try to take your relationship with your boss to that level of personal, it will not help you garner any raises. It will only show that you lack good judgment.
13. Prove You Are a Leader, Too
If you want to be taken seriously as a leader, be a leader. Find the balance between keeping your boss happy with your performance without alienating other staff. Be sure to implement good time management skills in your everyday work life. Don't engage in office gossip or get caught loitering in the break room every day. Stay on task and act like the leader you want to be seen as.
14. Don't Be a Wallflower
In line with proving your abilities to your boss and the office in general, you must find the confidence to speak up in meetings, other team activities, and individual meetings. Show people what you are made of by offering suggestions, ideas, and confidence in your abilities rather than sitting quietly without an ounce of ambition. Get recognized for the value you add to your position and to the company as a whole.
15. No Tasks Are Beneath You
Want to show your boss that you care? File what needs to be filed. Do the menial tasks that move the office forward, and generally, don't try to pull "rank" in any way. Do whatever needs to be done. You might be hired to be the Creative Director, but if someone is out sick, or if something simply needs to be done, step up and do whatever you've got to do.
Taking initiative and staying humble will show your boss that you are awesome, and you should probably be considered for a promotion when the time comes.
It comes down to this: Sucking up isn't about flinging out random compliments and bringing your boss her favorite coffee drink every chance you get. Sucking up, effectively, is about having a genuine concern and care for the company and showing it every chance you get.
What's your best suck up advice? Would you honor us with a comment or two from your experience?