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Suck up to boss without being obvious

By Anthony Balderrama,
There are good ways and bad ways to try to make points with your boss.
There are good ways and bad ways to try to make points with your boss.
  • In these tough economic times, you may be tempted to suck up to your boss
  • Wrong: Tattling on coworkers, false flattery, being a Yes-man
  • Right: Be on time to work, meetings; give credit where due, don't gossip

( -- Every office has the resident boss's pet. The worker who is all too happy to fawn over the manager's idea, no matter how bad it is.

Everyone sees through the act. It's merely a way to stay in the boss's good graces and hopefully earn some preferential treatment.

No one likes this person. Sometimes not even the boss. Sometimes the boss does savor the attention and rewards it. You sit by while attention, promotions and other perks get handed out to the employee most willing to suck up.

If you're not the kind of worker who is willing to wear a fake smile every moment of the day, you can still make a good impression on the boss. You'll earn the right kind of recognition from your boss and maybe your co-workers.

First, here are the wrong ways to suck up:

• You are not 007

Your boss can't be everywhere all the time, and when she's not looking, employees are bound to slack off or air some grievances. That's OK. You don't need to sleuth on her behalf and report back. Not only will you lose the trust of your co-workers, but your boss won't be impressed with your duplicity.

• Is it me or are you getting younger by the day?

Who doesn't appreciate flattery? People who can sense false flattery, that's who. Compliments don't matter when they're handed out too frequently because the recipient begins to question your authenticity. Reserve your praise for situations when your boss truly dazzles you and your words will mean something to him.

• Smothering your boss

No matter how much you want to impress your boss, don't monopolize her time. E-mails, pop-ins, reports, meetings -- give her some rest. The way to impress her is to do a good job. Annoying her won't earn praise.

• LOL You're hilarious!

Your boss is probably a nice, great person. He might even be funny. Chances are he's not a laugh riot. It's OK to chuckle politely when a joke falls flat, but don't overcompensate. Nothing screams "I'm a big phony!" like someone who sounds like a 1950s studio audience.

• Do you ever have a bad idea?

You might not realize that your boss looks to you, her employees, for all kinds of support. She doesn't want to always hear a chorus of "Yes, I completely agree with you" every time she proposes a new idea. Tactful, honest feedback, even when you're disagreeing with the boss, is appreciated and can get new ideas rolling.

And here are the right ways to do it:

• Be a clockwatcher

No, not the kind that can't wait to leave work. The kind of clockwatcher who cares about being on time. Arrive on time or early in the morning. Don't be tardy to meetings. Don't leave 20 minutes early every afternoon. Show your boss that you're not looking for any opportunity to ditch work.

• Go, team, go!

Sure, don't pretend like every idea the boss has is genius, but do give kudos to the ones that are. Give due credit to the boss even if her idea is just a stepping stone for a bigger idea that you have. It shows you recognize others' accomplishments and that you're interesting in maintaining good relationships with your team.

• Cover your ears

Gossip is part of the workplace, and you can't escape it. You can, however, refuse to participate in it. Ignore what you hear and don't repeat it to others. In fact, if you hear something that is false or that can be easily addressed, suggest to the gossiper that he or she discuss the situation with the boss. You might not get credit for being a problem solver, but resisting the temptation to engage in gossip makes for a better workplace for everyone.

• "Here's what I think"

Sometimes bosses aren't as in tune with their employees as they think they are. Meanwhile you might know exactly what's going on at work because you work more closely with your colleagues. You can tell the boss, "Listen, although you envisioned ABC happening, XYZ is really what's taking place."

Because you have a better perspective, you can explain why things aren't working and possibly give your own suggestions. As long as you demonstrate that you're keeping him informed and not trying to do his job or tattle about your co-workers, your honesty will be appreciated.

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