Suck My Kiss by Jan Tik. CC BY 2.0

Be a Suck-Up at Work and Get Ahead: It’s Flattery Science!

Forrest ChristianCareers, Coaching 3 Comments

You’re a smart person with great ideas. Other people may not see this but I do. It’s because of this that I want to tell you about a key way to get your boss to like you. Because a boss who likes you will give you better assignments, more time off, and better pay. Even for the same performance.

It turns out that flattering the boss is one of the best things you can do. And there’s no upper limit beyond which he will see you as a blatant ass-kisser. (Caveats below!)

It’s weird, because you know that if someone flatters you insincerely, you see right through them. You’re smarter and more savvy than most people. You see right through this type of thing. This causes you to not want to be a suck-up at work, since you don’t want to be known as an insincere brown-noser.

Except that, as Jeffrey Pfeffer points out in his book, POWER: Why Some People Have It — And Others Don’t, the research shows that ass-kissing (the technical term) gets results. And you need to know what to do to get ahead of those losers you work with.

Most people underestimate the effectiveness of flattery and therefore underutilize it…. There is simply no question that the desire to believe that flattery is at once sincere and accurate will, in most instances, leave us susceptible to being flattered and, as a consequence, under the influence of the flatterer. So, don’t underestimate — or underutilize — the strategy of flattery. University of California—Berkeley professor Jennifer Chatman, in an unpublished study, sought to see if there was some point beyond which flattery became ineffective. She believed that the effectiveness of flattery might have an inverted U-shaped relationship, with flattery being increasingly effective up to some point but beyond that becoming ineffective as the flatterer became seen as insincere and a “suck up.” As she told me, there might be a point at which flattery became ineffective, but she couldn’t find it in her data.

That’s right: there is no upper bound to the effectiveness of flattery. Regrettably, Prof. Chatman has not seen fit to publish these results.

Thankfully, she’s not the only one writing about this. More on that tomorrow.

Image Credit: “Suck My Kiss“, © Jan Tik. Via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Comments 3

  1. You need to tell people that there’s a difference between just ingratiating yourself and actual flattery. We’ve talked about this enough that I know you know, but someone is going to think just giving insincere compliments will work. It doesn’t. It backfires.

  2. Post

    Hez, you’re probably right that many people don’t quite get how to flatter. The key, which is explained in Part 4 (and maybe part 5 if I get around to it) is that you have to believe what you are saying. There are good points to everyone, or at least there are points that people believe are good about themselves. If you just try obsequious behaviors, it won’t work: too many of them backfire.

    That said, at higher levels, you have to be more nuanced in your flattery. There was a study of execs awhile back that talked about this. What’s interesting abou that study is how mnay of the executive behaviors resemble what psychopaths do in the same situations.

  3. It works I tested flattering someone over 1,000 times in a month and what I found is at the start there is a positive result,then it starts getting negative(Them being kind of annoyed,etc),but then it sudden starts getting positive and produces interesting results.I got more calls from the person,invited more,being complimented more by the person and more.It WORKS!!!!

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