More Canine, Less Feline

Posted by jlubans on December 01, 2022

Caption. Bridger doing her job. (Author photograph)

During the week when many Americans offer thanks, the WSJ ran an article, “In Praise of the Office Suck-Up”.
It explains the role and rationale behind the ubiquitous kiss-uppers, sychophants, grovelers, fawners and flunkies on display in the workplace/classroom.
Maybe you’ve engaged in some sucking-up of your own?
Now, calling someone a suck-up – defined as a person who flatters another in order to get ahead - is not going to win you friends, so just plug it into your silent workplace taxonomy.
You may recall Robert Kelly grouped followers into categories: the Alienated, Stars, Survivors, Sheep and Yes-Men. The suck-up is Kelly’s Yes-Man.
Unlike Sheep, Yes-Men are less dependent-minded and more able to think for themselves.
Probably the key to why Yes-Men get promoted, is that they are active – they make things happen - even if only to please the leader.
When a boss can rely on a suck-up to carry out his directive, he takes notice.
So, when promotions and pay raises come around, guess who’s top-of-mind?
Suck-ups are not going away, even if we profess disdain; they exist in every social group. Indeed, one psychologist claims: “The reason we don’t like suck-ups is because we’re suck-ups” ! (Emphasis added.)
Interestingly, in studies of organizational dynamics, a group that has a balance of suck-ups and regular folks, gets more stuff done than groups that are all suck-ups. (They spent too much time battling for the boss’s favor instead of getting the job done.)
When there are too few suck-ups, the team may not communicate enough with the boss and may result in the team’s not getting necessary resources.
We all know intuitively that people – including ourselves - like to be complimented about their bright ideas and accomplishments. The boss is no different.
The person we regard as a shameless toady, the boss may see as someone supportive of her initiatives to improve the workplace.
While we believe the flatterer is only “in-it-for-himself”, the boss regards as an ally who takes positive action.
Don’t we all want to move up, get rewarded, be recognized, and achieve personal goals? We don’t want to be overlooked, do we?
There’s nothing particularly sinister in ambition and in recognizing you will need help from others to get where you want to be.
Someone who never offers praise may be short on social skills or envious.
Praising and supporting should be part of how you behave at work – praise those due praise.
Don’t over-do but don’t resent anyone other than yourself being praised.
It’s a matter or degree. If your praise-giving is syrupy and exaggerated, it’s not going to earn you any points.
If you do not routinely blow your horn or sing your praises, what can we learn from those who are masters at sucking-up?
If you are more like a cat (aloof, circumspect) you could turn to man’s best friend for some clues on how to gain recognition and ingratiation.
First, no faking. If you have to lie to suck-up, don’t.
A Dog is sincere; none of what she does is a connivance.
A Dog listens; he will sit with you for hours while you cogitate and talk to yourself.
A Dog doesn't hold grudges nor engage in gossip.
A Dog expects the best from you; she has high expectations. You should too.
A Dog jumps for joy when happy, he greets enthusiastically.
A Dog accepts himself, no imposturing.
A Dog is loyal and dependable.
A Dog plays every day, she takes joy in play. Play is his/her job, so to speak. Leading you on a walk is in the job description and she does it with zest.
My book, Fables for Leaders, many of which illustrate dog wisdom, is available. Click on the image and order up in time for Christmas!

And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle
© Copyright text and photo by John Lubans 2022

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