WORKPLACE / MAR. 16, 2015
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When Brown Nosing Doesn't Work

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Last year I wrote about various strategies you can deploy to brown nose your way to the top of the career ladder.  It was based on research that identified the eight different types of schmoozing that are particularly effective at ingratiating you with your bosses and ensuring that you climb the greasy pole to the top of your field.

See Also: Strategies to Help you Suck up Your way to Success

It included tips such as having a fake argument, masking flattery as advice, and giving compliments in a bashful way.  A recent study suggests however that such tactics may well backfire on you and end up doing more harm than good. 

It revealed that a good manager is less likely to be sucked in by brown nosing. A good manager can see a mile off when an employee is doing great work because they truly believe in it and want their organisation to thrive versus one that is merely trying to further advance their own career in any way they can.

The study, led by researchers from the University of Ottawa, revealed how managers usually play a major role in the promotions and pay structures within any organization.  The ability to detect when someone is acting or behaving with poor integrity, versus someone who is authentic is crucial to ensure that the right people are rewarded and recognised.

The study broke employees down into two distinct groups Actors and Actors. Soldiers were believed to act primarily in the interests of both their organisation and their colleagues. Actors, on the other hand, were shown to act primarily in their own self-interest. While both groups can provide positive boosts to their organisations, it is nevertheless important that managers can distinguish between the two groups.

Actors versus Soldiers

The authors set out to explore just how good managers are at knowing who the soldiers were and who the actors were. They tested managers across 21 bank branches and found that the managers were surprisingly good at knowing which of their team fell into which camp. Thus dispelling fears that our organisations may be rewarding the schmoozers rather than those with the best interests of the organisation at heart.

The results chime with previous studies that show that managers typically prefer soldier type employees to their actor based peers.  These conclusions have been built upon the finding that there is usually a very good reason for having this preference. The study found that the quality of work provided by selfless ’soldiers’ was typically considerably higher than that of their more self-serving ’actor’ peers.

All of which, the researchers suggest, might mean that people who engage in brown nosing might actually be doing more harm than good. Their selfish ways may actually end up harming their employer, which in turn will have a detrimental impact on their own career prospects.

See Also: Favouritism vs Discrimination

With managers being pretty adept at sniffing out brown nosing behaviour, it also seems unlikely to benefit your career by ingratiating yourself to your boss.

"Supervisors are able to accurately identify the motives behind their subordinates’ organizational citizenship behavior, and they are not fooled by good actors," the authors conclude.

Have you managed to get ahead by brown nosing? Do you think managers are that good at weeding them out? Your thoughts and comments below please...

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