Suck Up to Your Boss Without Being Obvious

We all do it: release an extra snicker at a joke, give a casual compliment or have the inclination to agree. We all like to hand the boss a little extra attention, secretly hoping it makes us look better in her eyes. But there are those who do it well and come off as polished and respectful, and those who are just hopelessly obvious yes-men.

Here are some tips on being a stealthy suck-up:

What NOT To Do

  • 007s need not apply. Don't be a spy for your boss. There's no need to report everything that goes on in the department, warns Liz Ryan, a former corporate Fortune 500 vice president with more than 20 years of human resources expertise. You "gain your boss's trust and confidence by being mature and professional, not by being the office snitch."

  • "Have you lost weight?" Don't incessantly compliment your boss. "When she's truly distinguished herself," Ryan stresses, "go ahead and tell her." But daily proclamations like, "You look great," or "Your presentation was incredible," only make you appear artificial and brand you a parasite.

  • Heel! Do you track your boss so persistently your bloodhound would be proud? Don't follow your boss around like a puppy. Being dogged relentlessly by "Mr. Johnny-on-the-spot" can become quite annoying.

  • Where'd the cheering section come from? Your boss doesn't need her own laugh track. Don't give a hearty guffaw at every lighthearted little comment she utters. It makes you look phony.

  • "I agree completely." Don't agree with everything your boss says. "Your boss will appreciate your willingness to speak up, even to disagree with her, more than your blind loyalty to her," Ryan advises.

What You CAN Do

  • Time is money. Be on time. That means being punctual when arriving to work or meetings and finishing projects on deadline. Your boss will recognize this and appreciate it much more than an idle compliment.

  • All for one ... Be supportive. When in a meeting, reference a comment your boss made or build on one of her ideas. She will welcome having someone else in her corner and most likely will return the favor.

  • Everyone needs validation. Notice when your boss has accomplished an impressive feat. When he finally completes that project she's been laboring over for weeks, let her know you recognize the considerable effort she's made. "Be honest and straightforward -- but don't gush," Ryan advises. "Bosses, like everyone else, need reinforcement."

  • "Psst ... Pass it on." Avoid becoming embroiled in office gossip. "When someone says, 'Your boss sure made a dumb move,' don't agree or disagree, but say 'Why don't you share your thoughts with her?'" Ryan suggests. Your boss will be grateful you steer clear of the breakroom scuttlebutt that can distract you from doing your job well.

  • "Let me give it to you straight." Be an adviser to your boss. "Give your honest opinion," Ryan says. Even if it's not what he wants to hear, you can deliver your viewpoint gently. "This will endear you to your boss more than any amount of sucking up could do."

Next: Worst Boss Stories -- Ever! >>

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