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Office Life

Subtle ‘sucking up’ can be a career strategy

Self-assessment quiz – True or False:

  1. I pay attention to when and how I can help my boss during stressful, busy times.
  2. I consider myself a team player.
  3. I believe everyone benefits from a little praise.

Sucking up to your boss and other higher-ups can … well … suck. And let’s face it – no one likes a brown-nosing, overt suck-up. It’s disingenuous, insincere, and annoying as all get out. But that’s not to say there isn’t room in your work life for kinder, gentler sucking up. Let’s simply reframe it and call it praising or boosting others. Believe it or not, it can have its benefits.

We need to have compassion toward one another at work. Dropping a card on your boss’s desk for her 10-year work anniversary or because she kicked ass getting all financials in on deadline for the international board meeting can actually be pretty classy rather than cocky because you demonstrated that you were paying attention to the little stuff.

Noticing others’ hard work and showering them with appropriate and sincere compliments can go a long, long way. Team morale can go up, you could help boost a colleague’s confidence in areas you may not even be aware of, and you just might make a few friends along the way.

As a senior vice president in a global corporation, one of my most memorable employees was someone we’ll call “Judy.” Judy paid attention to me and her job. She took notice of the little things like if I needed a 3:00 p.m. M&M pickup, or would gently point out that I’d left someone off an email. She complimented me when a project was handled well, when it seemed like no one else had even noticed. Her attention made me feel more secure and confident in my daily office life because I felt like there was at least one person on the team who had my back. I could count on her for little and big things because I knew she paid attention to details AND to people. I had another colleague — let’s call her “Sharri” — who was always so darn positive when the rest of us felt demoralized and defeated that just knowing she was going to be on a conference call made the entire call bearable. She would end calls or emails with the chant “Teamwork makes the dream work!” And we believed her.

If your work environment is not this touchy-feely or doesn’t have an open-emotion policy, maybe it’s because no one has ever tried! To quote Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and become the person who takes a risk to make the work environment encouraging. And do it in writing! You don’t have to turn your office into a never-ending, feel-good Lifetime Hallmark card or movie, but instead of moaning about everything that’s wrong with the work environment, start sending “Job Well Done” notes instead. Or write a motivational quote on that dead whiteboard in the kitchen that no one uses. Sending a teamwide “Keep Up the Good Work” email during a grueling deadline time is not sappy. It is encouraging and thoughtful. Be sure to include your boss. Everyone appreciates some good old–fashioned sincere sucking up — er uh, excuse me — praising from time to time. And it makes you stand out.

Your boss may notice that you operate from a place of compassion and possibly put you on a special client assignment that requires tact, introspection, and a nurturing approach in which you have now fully demonstrated you excel. Being human could open doors you didn’t even realize were on your horizon. Try it, and let me know how it works for you.

Cheryl Grace is the sassy aunt, best friend, and mentor you’ve always needed in your life. The successful jet-setting, global corporate executive founded the aspirational lifestyle brand Powerful Penny LLC. Her products, workshops and speeches probe, inspire and empower to ensure those who really want to can get to their next level of best. Her blogs on careers, prosperity, relationships, family, looking and living fabulously, and living a five-star life can be found at www.powerfulpenny.com.

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