How to suck up without being obnoxious

06/14/2013 8:00 AM

06/13/2013 11:04 AM

Fans of “Mad Men” this season have watched Bob Benson, a new character, weave himself into the fabric of the ad agency.

Under the guise of putting the firm’s interests first, the ever-helpful Benson is ingratiating himself with other workers. Viewers will see his character development play out. Meanwhile, he’s an object lesson for ambitious people on career paths.

There are right and wrong ways to do what’s commonly called sucking up. Or brown nosing. Or bread buttering. The right way is artfully enough that co-workers don’t gag about it and the bosses don’t see through it with disdain. Some basics:

• Be visible. Volunteer – and make good contributions – on valued projects and committees outside your work unit. Ditto on good contributions within your work unit. It’s not enough to sit quietly and do your assigned job. Take initiative.

• Be subtly self-promotional. There’s a fine line between unwarranted bragging and sharing accolades. If a customer writes you a thank-note, share it with your boss. Don’t be shy about passing along a verbal compliment about your work. It’s okay to drop by your boss’s desk and say, “I just had the nicest call from…”

• Be positive. Say nice things about high-priority projects in the organization. Don’t dish out fawning compliments to the hierarchy, but be supportive. Praise things that are important to the bosses. You do know what those are, right?

• Ask for input. Be careful with this. You want to solicit your bosses’ advice, but not so often that you seem clueless. Clearly and briefly, ask to bounce to your own ideas off them because you want their wise counsel or buy-in.

• Use casual encounters. Say hello. Start friendly conversations. A simple, “How was your weekend?” puts you in their frame of vision. As Bob Benson shows, making personal connections is critical to looking valued, if not essential.

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