Brownnoser… Sycophant… Lackey… Yes-man… Teacher’s pet… Toady… Smithers…
What do all of these words have in common? Well, while obviously scornful, they certainly describe one (or many) of your coworkers.
The very same coworkers you probably make fun of along with your go-nowhere colleagues. Those people you love to hate at every office social event.
What’s that you say? There is no way you’ll ever stoop down to the ass-kissing level to get ahead? Well, that’s perfectly great for the rest of us. Let me be the first to welcome your precious and short-sighted moxie to the professional workplace.
You get to be the Admiral Ozzel to my Darth Vader.
I (like many of my GenX colleagues) will gladly make sure to wipe my exceedingly comfortable and classy size 10.5 (size 44 for my Euro readers) oxblood ECCO’s all over your pathetic Izod polo shirt, as I step over you into my next promotion review.
Side note: I’ve also obtained an awesome spouse who has impeccable taste in clothes and loves nothing more than to point out the finer points of couture (usually while I’m jumping rope and doing crunches). I highly recommend the spouse for career advancement – you really should look into finding one of these too.
And, after I accept said promotion (with additional bonus structure included), I’ll be keeping careful note of exactly how well every one of you remember the important minutiae of my personal and professional life.
“What a douche,” you are probably saying in that haughty, professionally inexperienced GenY accent. “I’m not gonna play that game, I’m going to be rewarded by my own merits and goal-driven achievements!”
And then you steeple your adorably teeny-tiny, baby-soft 22-year-old hands together and think inwardly to yourself, “And once I get to be his boss, I’m gonna make his life SO miserable!”
But, unfortunately for you, it’s not going to happen.
I’ve got more than 13 years of workplace experience on you (plus many years of graduate school; where a sizable number of senior faculty members fine-tuned my suck-up prowess until it gleamed like an Audemars Piguet).
Oh, you don’t know what an Audemars Piguet is? That’s too bad. Better go back to the shallow end of the pool, chump; only the big kids get to splash on this side.
By now, there are so many specialized professional weapons hidden on my person that I should actually have to tell people I’m Boba Fett and be registered with the state; I’m the workplace equivalent of krav maga, as it were.
Point being, when I meet a newly minted GenY graduate entering the professional realm, I see this: A young person, taking a solitary hike somewhere in the rugged Columbia Gorge, looking thoughtfully into the sunset – thinking about how successful they are going to be if they just go to work every day, try really hard and be rewarded over and over again by their merits alone.
This whole “I’m not gonna kiss anyone’s ass to get ahead” scenario you are playing in your head is just bizarre.
To me your mental picture of reality looks a lot like an advertisement for the University of Phoenix. You know, the one where the person wants to get on the fast track to success but doesn’t know how yet?
Okay, fine, like a benevolent GenX Daddy Warbucks, I’ll help you figure this game out.
According to research from James Westphal and Ithai Stern at Kellogg School of Management, via penelopetrunk.com: “…being adept at ingratiating behavior was the number-one factor for getting positions at the top of the corporate ladder.”
One of the best things I’ve found you can do to strategically brown-nose in the workplace? Ask for advice.
Not general advice on where the best food-cart pod in the city is, advice like: “How were you really able to negotiate an increase in that account budget so adroitly, especially when we all know hand sanitizer sales always plummet during the spring quarter?”
Another one: Don’t speak ill of your direct manager, to anyone, ever. Never. Not once. Not even if that manager is actually a complete and total nincompoop.
Not even if that manager thinks Michael Bay is the greatest director in Hollywood. In fact, the best thing you can do is find a way to subtly compliment their god-awful taste in cinema to their colleagues and clients.
Yes, it’s okay to disagree with your manager about a decision or client plan, but do it in private and be prepared to tell them exactly why you disagree with them.
Example: (after everyone but you and your supervisor have left the room) say, “You know, I understand why you think a direct mail campaign to high-school kids might be a good plan to increase awareness of Four Loko in theory, but I think you should know I’ve done some research and it looks like the state liquor control board is going to ban all caffeinated malt beverages with 12.5% ABV early next month, so maybe we should have a semi-legal back-up plan ready for the client …you know, just in case?”
Memorize the name of your supervisor’s spouse, that spouse’s career, how many children they have and their alma mater. Try to ask about them once a week or where appropriate. Remember their answers.
WARNING: Do not, under any circumstance, come across as a creep by asking about their children (or spouse) while staring at a picture of a recent family vacation on the Costa del Sol, Spain.
You want to know what the real suck-up secret is? Show some actual interest in helping your supervisor be successful.
Show some loyalty. Work hard to make both of you look good. The professional world is filled with individuals who’s supervisors have been hired away to a better career at another company and they took their most loyal team members with them. Happens all the time.
And you know what it means for you if your supervisor gets promoted and you have curried favor with them? You’re the heir apparent for that open position.
So pucker up, buttercup and kiss that booty, but do it strategically. Kiss it where appropriate. Smooch it when necessary. Gently caress the relationship. Don’t make it a PDA.
Do everything you can to bring yourself into the good graces of a supervisor, but do it tactically and purposefully; don’t make it obvious.
And just so you know, there is a very strategic, tactical, deliberate and well-planned reason that each holiday season I give handmade pickles, alpaca-fur mittens woven upon my basement loom, time-consuming organic garden-grown marinara sauce and assorted home-roasted coffee beans to my supervisors…SMOOCH!
In addition, I also make it a point to kiss ass when I:
- Get to work early
- Leave later than necessary
- Be nice to Admins
- Always try to do my best work
- Go beyond the minimum requirements for any assignment
- Take a “working lunch” at my desk 3x a week
- Dress for the job I want to have, not the job I have
- In every challenging situation, ask myself, “what would Batman do?”
- Know exactly how I can make my supervisor’s job a little bit easier for him/her that day
Being a really good sycophant takes a lot skill and patience. It takes practice. It also takes many different forms. Think of it as more than brown-nosing; think of it as career security.
So don’t be so scornful of a little workplace ass-kissing, because you never know if that little smooch today is going to be the French Kiss of Power tomorrow.