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Getting your due without sucking up

September 30, 2008

You want to impress your boss. You are hard working, smart and intelligent but the other guy got the promotion.The problem is that your boss doesn’t know how good you really are. You are convinced that it’s because you can’t suck up. But couldn’t it also be possible that you are doing something wrong?

What impresses the boss and does not necessarily fall into the category of sucking up?

Here are some pointers which I picked up from the web. I added some additional points of my own and  here it is in my own words. The points are not listed in any order of importance. Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5],[6] and [7]

What language does your boss speak?
Find out if he/she is a numbers person, a visual person or a verbal person and talk in his language.

What gets under your boss’s skin?
Does he hate unpunctuality? Untidiness? Sloppy dressing? Do talkative people get on his nerves? Do smokers get on his nerves? Find out and act accordingly.

What does your boss value?
Is he/she bothered about the process or is he simply result oriented and the process be damned? For example, will he let you do it any way you want, or does he care whether you upset a customer, or do something unethical? Know what he values and know what he expects from you.

Communicate your achievements… but maintaining the balance is important because exaggerating your achievements will work the other way. Blowing your own trumpet also creates a bad impression. A good way of doing it (if your boss reads emails regularly) is to send regular reports to your boss highlighting your achievements.

Know the key players in your company
Your boss may not be senior enough or important enough in the organisation to promote your achievements. Or even if he is, yours could be a closely held company and the owner holds all the strings. Or perhaps it’s none of this. Your boss is the type who likes to take everyone into confidence before making the decision to promote you. All of this makes it essential that the key players in your company know who you are and what you do.

How you communicate your achievements without going over your boss’s head is important. You cannot do it obviously. You could perhaps take your boss’s permission to send a copy of your report to the relevant department head or find a professional reason to interact with another senior person in the company.

Meet your commitments
Consistency and dependability is what any boss will look for and any flakiness on your part can restrict his/her ability to commit to his boss. You need to be dependable.

Don’t make excuses.
Bosses hate that. In fact you need to admit your mistake and take responsibility for your actions. Your boss probably knows you made it anyway, so no point lying about it.

Give your boss his due
Don’t ever start taking credit for what your boss did. He/she would have guided you. Never underestimate the importance of that.

Look smart
Dressing shabbily, even if your colleagues do, is a sure way of creating a poor impression. Look for role models in the company you work and emulate their dress sense.

Make sure others know that you work hard
Impressions count. Even if you’ve finished your work due to your super efficiency, avoid leaving early. Also avoid idling around, chatting up people, gossiping, drinking endless cups of coffee, having your gmail account open at all times…these things are noticed and create a bad impression. Best to spend your idle time becoming familiar with industry trends or by increasing your knowledge about the company. Also, use the time to talk to colleagues, learning what their roles are. The emphasis here would be on listening, not talking.

Ensure that everyone knows you enjoy your job
Don’t ever give anyone the impression that your job is simply your livelihood, that you are working for the sake of it, that you are looking for a more interesting job…if there is one thing that people see as a negative trait…it’s a lack enthusiasm for your job. It is often equated with laziness or lack of initiative and enterprise. It won’t be long before people think of you as a shirker and the news will filter to your boss. .

Other things that can make you look like a shirker are refusing work either because you are in a hurry to get home or because it’s not your “job.”

Get along with your team members
A boss hates it when a person cannot get along with his team mates. It’s a major irritant as it means lower productivity and also result in his wasting his precious time solving disputes.

Be a problem-solver
Running to your boss with little problems makes him feel that you can’t cope. Later on you can always casually mention how you solved a sticky situation without bothering him and how you hate to go to him with little problems.

Be a good boss
If your subordinates don’t like you, you bet your boss will get to hear about it. It speaks poorly of your management skills, and worse, it increases the possibility of your subordinates going over your head and tattling to your boss. Here are some ways to be the ideal boss, but remember, they may not work with a mean employee:

  • Give credit where it is due
  • Share information
  • Allow your subordinates to participate in meetings with the big boss
  • Allow them to do their job without constant interference
  • Do not nit-pick
  • Give feedback on performance
  • Don’t fly off the handle when something goes wrong
  • Give reasonable deadlines
  • Provide opportunities to grow, whether it is a training program or new responsibilites
  • If you are new, don’t railroad existing ideas but bring about changes gradually
  • Be accessible
  • Protect him/her from your own boss
  • Create an atmosphere where the bad news is told to you without fear
  • Encourage diverse opinions

If none of this works, if your boss wants sucking up to and you aren’t geared for it then I guess you need to  quit or ask for a transfer!

(Cartoon Credits to Anshul. The second cartoon was made by him specially for this post. Thanks Anshul!)

Related Reading: Ways to suck up to your boss (Humour)
Should you change your job?
Building relationships with important people
Job discrimination at work

29 Comments leave one →
  1. September 30, 2008 9:16 am

    @ Nita/Anshul : Very nice cartoons! I loved them. I guess better management of emotions is essential to succeed at work. As a boss I am concerned about the people that work for me, I have my own set of things that I value. I do not think though that it is entirely possible to succeed by “sucking” up. Although it may work as a short term measure.

  2. September 30, 2008 10:08 am

    Another viewpoint on the things called “The BOSS”


  3. September 30, 2008 10:25 am

    IT has been a long time since I have read a work-related post from you. Cartoons were great too. 🙂

    Dressing well is important, something most people dont htink necessary. It was first mistake I made when I was new in the corporate world.

  4. September 30, 2008 11:49 am

    @ Nita

    hmmm… Hope my boss doesn’t read this post of yours!! 😆

    @ Anshul

    As usual, you are d best when it comes to cartoons!! 🙂 🙂

  5. September 30, 2008 12:09 pm

    Usually if you are good, and you know that you are good, then if you see that you are not being given what you deserve, its always a good option to change a job.

    At times, the bad feelings start to tend to take a toll on your work.

    I am not too big a fan of sucking up to anyone!

  6. September 30, 2008 12:52 pm

    You forgot the glorious game of corporate blackmail!! 😀
    Tell them you’ve got a better offer, threaten to quit, and have fun watching them trying to make you stay by doting on u! 😀
    Of course, it only works when you’re actually good at your job!! 😀

  7. September 30, 2008 1:48 pm

    @ Anshul

    Nice cartoons.

    @ Nita

    A much needed post. I guess my boss needs it more than me, but can’t pass along… 🙂 He does not appreciate humor, leave alone good humor.


    You are so right 🙂

  8. chirax permalink
    September 30, 2008 1:54 pm

    Nita, for once will have to disagree with you, most of the things you have mentioned are eventually sucking up or text book definition. because

    our bosses just don’t get it

  9. September 30, 2008 1:59 pm

    @Nita, Thanks for using the cartoons.

    @All, Thanks for your appreciation and kind words.

  10. September 30, 2008 2:03 pm

    I feel like commenting 😀 , but what if my boss comes here sometime later? 😉

    *tight lipped*

    Nice post. 🙂


  11. September 30, 2008 2:47 pm

    i am not a boss or an employee yet 😛 lol…and well most of the teachers,have favs,but i don’t do much more than being attentive in class(and asking questions :P)

  12. September 30, 2008 2:51 pm


    Great post and every sentence worth hanging on to. In one word, it’s called “selling” /”promoting” – the trick of the game. No matter how hard you work, if you can’t sell yourself it doesn’t take you places.

  13. September 30, 2008 3:09 pm

    Well almost like a DIY manual to the uninitiated and quite comprehensive – I must say.

    We were taught that “Management” should be seen as “Manage – men – t(actfully)” or as Man – age – ment(ality)”.

    Interpersonal relationships in an office environment are fascinating to study. There are so many complex variables at play and, which go beyond the workplace.

    I fully agree with your list of requirements. From my experience, I have found that a calm mind is able to do a far superior job than a restless mind.

    As a senior, I appreciate enthusiasm, eagerness to learn new things, willing to go indepth and gain a thorough grip, ability to articulate thoughts, be a group player, as amongst the more important qualities.

    Juniors are in a hurry to achieve much and a typpical twenty five year old would want to reach the pinnacle of achievement by thirty. All external embellishments are very important.

    It is important for a boss to manage expectations and channelise these energies such that the job gets done and, in the process the junior colleagues are well trained and find their career meaningful.

    From my personal experience, I handled new business initiatives and had to work in areas of which I knew almost nothing. I guess grey hair came to my rescue and the “Manage-men-t” principle helped handle technical experts and we were able to successfully set up a new business activity.

  14. September 30, 2008 3:57 pm

    Interesting post. Here are some more tips:
    * Accept that Boss is always Right
    * Don’t forget to give feedback of your tasks assigned to you
    * Don’t waste resources
    * Always plan your leave
    * Stop backbiting: of your boss to others and about fellow employees to your boss
    * Don’t spread rumours
    * Never try to access unauthorized documents
    * Understand and follow the office rules

  15. September 30, 2008 4:31 pm

    Odzer, Chirax, it’s a thin line between sucking up and trying to be a good employee isn’t it.

    Poonam, although I spend almost five years in the corporate world (advertising agency plus 1 year on the client’s side) plus several years in different publications, I was unable to do quite a few of the things listed above! Thus the subject is close to my heart. My main mistake was that I did my work and expected others to find that out! 🙂

    Sakhi, Sharad, Nikhil N, thanks.

    Aathira, one has to draw a line at being smart and just sucking up and usually I think most of us know exactly where the line is. Some people cross it deliberately.

    Nikhil, with all the cost cutting going on, this is a dangerous game even for good employees! 🙂

    Anshul, I should be the one thanking you for the brilliant cartoons!

    Vishesh, it all works the same way and it was a nice comparison with teachers. And believe me your habit of asking questions will be good for you in corporate life!

    Lakshmi, thanks. You have articulated my own thoughts pretty well. It’s one thing to resent those who manage to climb up the ladder and another to acknowledge that they did it without sucking up. Not everyone does it sucking up, some actually that that extra something, the ability to be street smart.

    Thanks Mavin. As one grows older one’s ability to manage one’s emotions certainly improves and I agree that being calm plays a great role whether one is an employee or a boss. In fact I think that this could easily be a point on the list. To be calm and cool.

    Old Sailor, although your first dictum sounds harsh, it isn’t really. If even after trying to persuade your boss that there is another way, if he/she still doesn’t agree, there is no point getting upset. One has to accept it. After all the boss is the one who takes the ultimate responsibility.

  16. September 30, 2008 5:41 pm

    @ Nita : Yes absolutely. I do agree it is a thin line. However there is nothing wrong in keeping the bosses happy eh? Although I prefer people that can tell me a thing or two bluntly sometimes. It is critical in my line of business sometimes.

  17. September 30, 2008 5:56 pm

    nice post ..will follow this when i enter corporate life,,

    but as far as i have observed in my last 10 years of studies..
    first impression is the best impression..
    u can never change the view..
    how ever there are exceptions..

    Yes, even during one’s education one comes across these things and I think the lessons you have learnt have already prepared you. The only difference is that in corporate life the price you pay is much higher. – Nita.

  18. September 30, 2008 7:38 pm

    I totally agree, but then one thing leads to another … all small small things …and soon you dont know when to put an end to it!

  19. September 30, 2008 8:02 pm

    that are all very useful points, but I am surprised YOU posted it. Exactly what you mentioned: “I was unable to do quite a few of the things listed above!” :)) I believe you are not the type to be boss´s girl, you have a free spirit, which most of them don`t like!

    What I observe is that it the smart looks and “professional” manners play a big role. On the long term it will come out, if there is nothing behind this presentation.

    Axinia, true I am a free spirit and that is why I didn’t last long in the corporate world. But if I had to do it again, I might change a few things I did and no I do not think it would be wrong. I am actually a very pragmatic person who does not see life as black and white. And like I said, being smart is different from sucking up. In fact that is the what I have tried to bring out. The difference. – Nita.

  20. September 30, 2008 9:18 pm

    Anshul, your cartoons are really good and I like your wry sense of humor that you express through them!! 🙂

  21. September 30, 2008 10:15 pm

    Nice article! I loved the cartoons. You should also mention a point to not hang around blog hopping too much. Keep that for lunch breaks 🙂

    Thanks Dineshbabu….and I better not say that or my hits might go down. 🙂 – Nita.

  22. September 30, 2008 11:11 pm

    Important & very useful article for those (+me) who are on the verge of entering the Corporate world.

    But hard to tackle bosses like Hari Sadu ( Ad)!

    Hmm, you are bound to come across at least one Hari Sadu, if you are lucky! There are enough sadistic people in the world! But generally my experience is that if a boss is threatened by you then his nastiness surfaces. A mean boss will be good to chamchas and those he sees as non-threatening. – Nita.

  23. October 1, 2008 1:24 am

    Nita, back in the day when I was foolish enough to be a boss, I learned at least one useful thing: Praise publicly, but criticize privately. That is, whenever you can, praise an employee in front of others, but never criticize an employee in front of others. Respect your staff and keep criticisms private.

    That’s in indeed an excellent point Paul. Thanks. – Nita.

  24. October 1, 2008 3:03 am

    Great article Nita. As a team leader, sucking up to bosses are a big NO for me. It just shows the negative personality and strikes the positive attitude of the individual. First impressions are always the lasting ones. Every one would remember the bad act, hardly any one remembers the hard work in place. I don’t think being a hard worker is wrong, but I do believe at times that our bosses should acknowledge the genuine hard work we do, once in a while. From my experience, motivation is also a key contribution here.

    Thanks Kiran. I agree that people tend to remember the negative things. All the more reason to ensure that the good things we do are highlighted. – Nita.

  25. October 1, 2008 4:23 am

    Have to agree with Paul there. Criticizing someone in public tends to demoralize everybody, I learned it the hard way. 😦

  26. October 1, 2008 2:10 pm

    Nice post and these are even applicable in my field. A sloppily dressed unpunctual teacher is always looked down upon. And its very essential to meet job commitments like coverage of whole syllabus or submitting some important data. We have more paperwork in our field though and always with dead lines.

  27. October 2, 2008 8:45 pm

    Sometimes its hard to understand what your supervisor wants. I have met heads who are completely incapable and have very high expectations from employees. Its really hard to please such people because all they do is to find out faults.
    Then there are some who are over-ambitious. Who put too much pressure on you to get everything right.
    Essentially, in both the cases, no matter how hard you try, you end up being screwed.

  28. Priya permalink
    October 21, 2008 9:32 pm

    My perception is that if your boss is critical, that means he cares.

    If you have a good boss, he appreciates criticism too, because that means you are thinking on your own, all he has to do then is guide you. He has to also know that you can handle his critics with a bright smile, hardwork and good follow ups. Communication is key: well written emails and precise verbal reports. My boss doesnt have time for me, so I know it is up to me to make sure he knows that I am working hard regardless of his presence.
    Never thought working for someone needs creativity too!

    Fabulous article! =)


  1. Hail to the Boss |

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