A study published in the Journal of Management Studies found that people who ingratiate themselves a.k.a. suck up to their bosses have a better chance of climbing the corporate ladder as opposed to their not-so-eager-to-please colleagues. Not only that, they also have less distress in terms of burnout or job tension. While this might be true (we’ve all sat back helplessly and watched brown-nosers get opportunities and promotions over more deserving people), it doesn’t defend the fact that suck-ups cause problems for the rest of the team and ruin office dynamics.
We all know at least one. They are always hanging around the boss, laughing at every unfunny joke, and complimenting every breath the boss takes (okay, we exaggerate for effect). They choose flattery over hard work and live for the days others make a mistake. It’s a skill, an art form if you will. Whether your manager falls for this behaviour or not, it brings the team morale down and replaces it with blinding frustration. If you can relate, we feel your plight. We’ve listed down ways in which you can deal with a brown-noser in your team.
Keep lines of communication open with your boss
Office suck-ups are uniquely vicious creatures and it’s fascinating to watch them in their natural element. Their primary goal is to make themselves indispensable to the manager, while also pushing everyone else down. More often than not, they hog credit and relegate all conversations you have with them to the boss by adding their brand of spices and drama to make you look bad. This is precisely why it is crucial to keep the line of communication with your manager clean before the suck-up has a chance to muddle around. Ensure your manager knows who played what role in a project or how much work is on your plate etc. Don’t fall for their tricks, no matter how friendly they might seem on the outside.
Are you familiar with the white-hot rage that comes from watching a suck-up giggle and overexcitedly agree to everything the boss says (even when they are grossly wrong and bordering on offensive)? Well, if you’re reading this, I have to assume you are. However, have you ever thought about using their desperate need for approval to your benefit? Let me give you an example: Your boss has asked for someone to take up a task no one wants to do. All you have to do is sit back and wait for this suck-up to volunteer themselves as tribute. This is just one of the many ways you can get them to take things off your plate. Just remember as much as you don’t want to, stay on their good side.
Understand that ingratiation behaviour stems from insecurities
On the outside, suck-ups can seem like overachievers but they don’t necessarily perform better or worse than the average employee. Instead, they spend all their time telling bosses what they want to hear and well, showering them with compliments (yes, it’s weird). However, before you run to your office bestie with a smirk on your face and gossip on your tongue, remember that a lot of times ingratiation is the result of insecurities. They aren’t confident in their abilities and so they (over) compensate by kissing the backsides of authoritative figures and making the rest of the team look bad.
Here is the bottom line—ignore the brown-nosers. Don’t make them even more insufferable by reacting or even acknowledging their behaviour. If you ever find yourself in a murky situation caused by this person, keep your cool and stay objective. They know how to spin matters in their favour, so instead of getting all up in their face and making yourself look defensive or guilty, state your points with certainty and documented proof (emails, texts etc). Don’t let them undermine you. Just shut them out and continue to do your job to the best of your abilities.