Buttering your boss – Sycophancy redefined


The use of the word buttering implies that we are falsely praising a person. A few people (with very low self esteem) may enjoy being buttered, but others do not.

Consider this. We do not like criticism from anyone – except from those we respect and when we know the persons have a genuine interest in their hearts for me. However, we like praise from anyone. Sometimes, we wish that people notice our work and achievements and talk about it.

So if I am giving positive strokes to my boss for all the good things he has done, or the effort he is putting in, I am simply acknowledging his work. Similarly if I refrain from criticising; and, in fact, support his work with additional data or timely support, then it is not false. I am talking about fetching tea and coffee, polishing his shoes and acting as if he is God, but a genuine appreciation and support goes a long way in creating rapport.

People crave recognition and empathy and providing that makes a person positively predisposed to you. It is not possible to consistently deliver results (due to no fault of ours, but accidents happen) and this positive disposition helps during those times.

Promotions simplified


You have two types of customers.

  • External customers to whom you add value by selling your products.
  • Internal customers, like your boss, who you convince to give you resources and rewards.

If both are happy with you, you are promoted.

If either one is happy with you, you retain your job.

If neither is happy with you, you lose your job.

And if you do not have external customers, you really, really, need that internal customer on your side.

I hate my boss


I have discussed beliefs before. Any action has a response based on beliefs. If you believe that the company you are working in is bad, all your judgements will be coloured negatively. If you believe, like all humans, companies occasionally make mistakes, you give it a benefit of doubt.

The company is not forcing you…your boss, (an individual) is forcing you. He has his reasons. He has a belief, based on his upbringing, experience, genetics, about how to get things done. He is not there with a life mission to make you unhappy. He is paying you a salary, he is upgrading your skills, he is teaching you life lessons.

Messages come from all weird people in life. We need to be receptive enoughto receive these messages.

Why am I being passed over?


I burned the midnight oil, I helped my colleagues finish their work in time, I fetched and carried for my boss, I made his presentations, his spreadsheets, his reports but my colleague got promoted.

I thought I was indispensable. My colleague did not work as hard as me, and in my opinion he was an ass-licker of the first order. Just because he had the gift of the gab, had better polish, came from, arguably, a better institute and was an apple polisher, he got the promotion.

What happened? What was the problem? Do I need to be a flatterer as well? Was the culture of the organisation incompatible? Is there something wrong in me! Do I need to change myself? I did a lot of agonizing and came to some conclusions.

As I look back on my life I realize that life is unfair. Sometimes I have the luck and the advantage, sometimes some one else does. Sometimes I get what I want, sometimes I don’t. So I need to shrug my shoulders and move on else I will be stuck in that time warp.

Does it mean I should get kicked on every time? I don’t think so. I think I need to learn my lesson and ensure that the next time this does not happen. I need to control what I can control.

What can I control? I can control my response to this adversity. Easier said than done, when the unfairness is hurting and I want to lash back and kill my colleague and my boss in no particular order. However, the realisation that I can control something is the first step towards control but I know the road is long and hard.

While I figure out my long term plan towards self control, what are the lessons learnt from being passed over?

I need to handle my boss. With this particular incident, I need to understand what it was that I did right, and what was it that I did wrong, in his eyes. Even if I do not agree to his (il)logic, I should seek to understand how his mind functions. This will help me modify and/or advertise the appropriate behavior. Would that be ethical? Does it sound manipulative? Ethics is easy. If I think it is unethical, I should desist. Manipulation – that is easy too, for me. If I get my objective, I think it is justified. At the end of it, he will know your mind and be careful.

Should I undercut my erstwhile colleague? If I now report to him, too bad. It is a long and arduous battle to prove his incompetence. Maybe it is better to have a long chat with him, speak your mind and ask him the way forward. Maybe not. He might not take it the right way. Maybe when the time is right. In all, the best strategy is to make him to realise my worth, say over the next 3 months, and at the same time prepare plan B – another boss in the same or different organisation.

Although the appraisal process talks about my KRA and the resultant KPIs, they are company oriented. I need a separate set of KRA and KPI with my boss. I need to know my boss’s expectations and his measures of evaluating performance. If it is subjective, so be it. It is his yardstick and I cannot change that.

Should I talk to HR? If I feel strongly, I should register a protest. Bit typically hr is busy with process and if not handled sensitively, this can backfire.

Should I be negative and show my disapproval in obvious ways. It will make me feel good. It may make the other persons feel bad. The end result would be a spiral of negativity when they will lash back and the whole relationship will go downhill. Ultimately everyone, including the organisation suffers.

am I doing the right thing?

So I have this brilliant idea! What can I do with it?


“I am a new joinee to my organisation and I have a great idea which can add to the bottom line as well as advertise me to the powers-that-be. However, I am not confident that my boss agrees with me. “

Step 1. First things first. Do I really know that my boss will not agree with me or is it something that I ASS-U-ME (some one said: let me not make an ASS of U and ME)? I need to sound out the office grapevine in terms of my boss’ personality and what makes him tick. Basic stuff: if I make my boss goods good, he will help me. This is not the time to advertise myself, I first need to establish credibility. Therefore I need to give my boss the credit for the idea and hope he will take you along. If not, I go to step 2.
Step 2. I need to go over my boss and I need to tread carefully.
  1. I first need to find out who are the influential people (every organisation has an informal org chart based on power and influence) and what makes them tick.
  2. I need to find out a way to approach him/her in an informal setting. One of the ways to do this is to join a club in the organisation that has the secretaries / the receptionists as a member. Typically the CSR or the cultural clubs are my best bet. This allows me to find out more about my target – his moods, itinerary etc.
  3. I need to have my 3 point pitch ready – how will the organisation benefit in money terms, how much will it cost and how long will it take. If I have not done my research, I am dead and the secretary will cut you dead subsequently.
  4. Once I find an opportunity, I need to introduce myself, make my pitch (in one minute) and ask for an opportunity to give a more detailed 15 minute presentation. I will probably be asked to send him a presentation.
  5. I need to create a brief presentation (3 slides: a. proposal and benefits – what and why; b. implementation and costs – who, when, where, how; c. next steps). The covering slide should have my boss’ name first and my name second.
  6. I should now go to my boss and tell him that I accidentally met the influencer and had an informal chat and now have this opportunity and want his feedback. When my boss sees his name on the presentation, he will have no choice but to help.
  7. I then make the presentation with my boss and defer to him all the way.

Step 3. If I have a go ahead, I need to implement the idea. However, this may take a lot of my time and may impact my immediate deliverables. I need my boss to agree to the change in appraisal KPIs.

There is a possibility that my boss will not like what I have done. There is also a possibility that the influencer may think that I am suited for my boss’ role but I may personally not be ready yet. I need to be ready for these eventualities and the consequences.