Sucking Up: The Essentials

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sucking upThough the office suck-up is often the guy that everyone loves to hate, more and more frequently sucking up is becoming required behavior for getting ahead in a career. And whether we want to admit it or not, most workers have fallen back on well-honed suck-up skills from time to time. But is this really a bad thing? Perhaps if suck-ups were more positively labeled as “enthusiastic,” or “ambitious,” more people would start using this useful strategy a little themselves.

Former self-proclaimed “teacher’s pet,” Lindsey Pollak, who also authored the book From College to Career, says, “Getting in good with the people who manage you and are above you is a pretty smart thing to do. These are the people who pay you and promote, so of course, they have a say in how successful you’ll be,” she continues, “Really successful people focus just as much on their relationships as on the substantive parts of their job.”

Though, admittedly, there are some approaches to sucking up that are better than others. While putting in some well-intentioned efforts to build a better relationship with your boss can help get you positive attention from the higher ups, laying it on too strong can risk damaging your professional reputation. Sucking up without being “the suck-up” can be achieved by approaching people with a genuine attitude.

It is easiest to say and do the right things when you actually know what your boss wants. Speak to your boss and figure out his or her expectations for your position and how they would like to be approached by those that he or she oversees. Next, consider that flattery should never be used to replace hard work. In other words, don’t expect your boss to be impressed by your ability to spout out compliments by the drove but fail to do your job. To truly show your ambition, volunteer to do more work or initiate new projects. But don’t go too far since your coworkers may not look very kindly on having their work taken out from under them.

While on the topic of flattery, be sure not to do it too much and it helps to make it genuine. While it is true that most people like to be flattered, it is also not difficult to discern between true respect and empty compliments. And don’t overdo it. There comes a point when too much flattery can become downright awkward, and even stalker-like; especially since the dawn of social media.

“If you are friends with your boss on Facebook and constantly saying how cute her kids are or how brilliant her posts are, that gets a little creepy,” Pollak says.

Finally, don’t forget to do a little sucking up in reverse. Career adviser Charles Purdy says, “You also have to suck down because you just never know where people will end up. It’s very shortsighted to suck up to one person and not another.” Seek to be helpful to everyone whom you work with closely. The more expansive your professional network, and the more people who like you, the better chance you have of making the right impression on a person who can benefit your prospects at your company now or into the future.

Read more in Business Communication

Joshua Bjerke, from Savannah, Georgia, focuses on articles involving the labor force, economy, and HR topics including new technology and workplace news. Joshua has a B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in International Studies and is currently pursuing his M.A. in International Security.