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A guide to shameless brown nosing

No one really wants to be teacher's pet, do they? Picture: Phill Magakoe

No one really wants to be teacher's pet, do they? Picture: Phill Magakoe

Published Dec 9, 2011


Back in school nobody ever liked a kiss-ass. Those who sucked up to teachers were mocked, ridiculed and had bags of poo flung at them. It was just the order of things.

Those who revolted against the system were labelled as “cool” and “hip” and earned the admiration of their peers. Of course, once you leave school and face the reality of entering the “grown up” world, your perspective on how things actually work changes somewhat.

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Those who were nerds, teacher’s pets and suck-ups continue to be nerds, teacher’s pets and suck-ups and continue to thrive and become successful unless, of course, years of systematic abuse by peers takes its toll and they become junkies.

The rest of us who thought kissing ass was “uncool” are forced to adapt to survive in the jungle that is the corporate world. Whether we like it or not, the system is a kiss hierarchy that must be respected and adhered to. Those who refuse to let go of their rebellious high school personas and insist on having a “f*** you” attitude either end up in jail or in the soup kitchen line. They do not become rock stars as they might have thought they would back in Grade 11.

Sucking up to the boss is something that is necessary sometimes in order to climb the corporate ladder. Those who suck up in the office environment do it for the very same reason that they did it in high school; to earn the favour of those who wield power.

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Authoritative figures like senior managers or CEOs are often very much like crazed dictators in a sense that they thrive on having their egos stroked and surround themselves with “yes men” who are duly rewarded.

Great kiss-asses usually become these yes men and go on to earn seven-digit salaries and eventually end up on top of the food chain, hence perpetuating the kiss ass cycle.

Now I am pretty certain that there are people reading this who are in senior management and who will no doubt claim, “I never kissed any ass to get to where I am”.

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If you’re one of those people, you’re deluding yourself. Chances are you’re such a great kiss-ass, barely anyone noticed. After all, sucking up is a subtle art, a play that needs to be executed with precision in order to not attract the attention of your colleagues (who will turn against you) and also not be blatantly obvious such that your boss detects your motives and realises what a sneaky little bugger you are.

Great ass-kissing is a delicate combination of ego stroking, bullshitting and method acting. Of course, you will also need a certain amount of competence in your job to ensure it all comes together.

Here’s how it’s done.

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How to suck up to the boss (without making it too obvious)

The art of the compliment

Paying your boss compliments is a good place to start when commencing your suck-up campaign. However, it can be quite difficult to find the right balance between being complimentary and annoying. If you’re too heavy with the compliments you run the risk of making your manager uncomfortable. Keep it simple. Compliment your boss’s tie, suit or jacket. Something like “that’s a great looking tie”, works. Groping his ass and saying “nice, have you been working out?” is not a good idea.

Don’t be a rat

Many suck-ups desperate to climb the ladder make the very amateur mistake of believing that being the office spy is the way to score points with the boss. Never rat out fellow employees – this will only make you look untrustworthy.

Gentle applause

Bosses often fancy themselves as standup comedians and will sometimes share their wisecracks with staff. Your boss might even specifically choose you to listen to his one-liners. Regardless of whether he is funny or not, the correct response is a smile and a short chuckle. High-five him if he wants one but, once again, don’t overdo it.

Email etiquette

Keep in contact with your boss on email throughout the day, letting him know about the projects you’re busy with. This will show you to be diligent. However, don’t flood his or her inbox with messages all day. This will just be annoying. Depending on your relationship with your boss, you might receive the odd joke email – politely reply with a “haha” or “lol”.

Sending joke emails of your own will score you points but be selective and don’t spam.

Know your boss

Watch your boss’s movements, learn his routine, know what time he arrives and when he leaves and then act accordingly. Ensure that you’re always there before him and leave after him. If, for some reason, your boss is always working late (like if he is “involved” with his secretary), always let him know when you’re leaving; an e-mail will do – you need not go banging on his office door. If you do plan on skipping out early, always leave a jacket behind on your chair. This will make it appear that you’re still in the building and will cover for you in case you’re late the next morning too.

Get in the game

Always participate in meetings. Never sit there like a dud. Ensure that you get noticed and if you haven’t got anything particularly smart to say, just throw in as many big words as you can in a sentence. Words like “quarterlies” and “synergy” should be part of your daily vocab.

Also, volunteer for as many tasks (the easy ones) as possible.

Dance, Monkey, Dance

Christmas parties and other office functions are your time to shine and let the boss know just how funny or talented you are. Pull out all your best party tricks and repeat the ones from last year if the boss wants you to. It’s this sort of crap that gets you remembered in the long run.

I know a guy who set his hair on fire three times in one night for his boss’s amusement. He was promoted a month later. Coincidence? I think not. - Sunday Tribune

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