Really. Professors at the Kellogg Business School did an entire study and figured out that people with a legal background are especially skillful at sucking up — and sucking up will take you far.
On the one hand, this shouldn’t surprise anybody. People kiss up because kissing up works. On the other hand, the study is massively disappointing. You’d think that people could see through blatant brown-nosing. But people in powerful positions either can’t see through the BS, or they actually like it when underlings kiss the ring.
Truth to power? Overrated. Sniveling in front of your betters? That’s what people are looking for…
1) Frame flattery as advice-seeking. For example, you can ask, “How were you able to close that deal so successfully?”
2) Argue before accepting a manager’s opinion.
3) Compliment the manager to friends in his or her social network.
4) Act as if you realize that flattery will make the manager uncomfortable. For example, you can say, “I don’t want to embarrass you but your presentation was really top-notch.”
5) Agree with the manager’s values before agreeing with his or her opinions.
6) Tell the manager’s friends how much you agree with his or her values.
7) Bring up affiliations you think you may have in common with the manager, such as a religious group or political party.
Can you do these seven things? I can’t. I couldn’t while at the firm. Fake arguments? Value agreement? Eww, yuck.
But if you aren’t willing to pucker up, be prepared to take a career hit.
Corporate Sweet Talk [Kellog Business School]
Give ‘Em Lip Service [The Careerist]
Profs Who Studied Importance of ‘Ingratiatory Behavior’ Offer Brown-Nosing Basics [ABA Journal]