I’m always shocked to hear that people don't like brown-nosing. If I could do it, I definitely would. But as someone who has Asperger’s, brown-nosing always looks very difficult. So I have been looking for someone to teach me how to be better at brown-nosing, and finally, I found it.
First, here is research from James Westphal and Ithai Stern at Kellogg School of Management. They found that being adept at ingratiating behavior was the number-one factor for getting positions at the top of the corporate ladder.
This is not surprising to me. What is surprising is that the research comes with a how-to provided (perhaps inadvertently) by the American Bar Association Journal.
According to the study, here are the traits that are most likely to be rewarded.
1) Frame flattery as advice-seeking. For example, you can ask, “How were you able to close that deal so successfully?”
2) Argue before accepting a manager's opinion.
3) Compliment the manager to friends in his or her social network.
4) Act as if you realize that flattery will make the manager uncomfortable. For example, you can say, “I don't want to embarrass you but your presentation was really top-notch.”
5) Agree with the manager's values before agreeing with his or her opinions.
6) Tell the manager's friends how much you agree with his or her values.
7) Bring up affiliations you think you may have in common with the manager, such as a religious group or political party.
To me, this list is incredibly handy. I think maybe people don't like brown-nosing behavior because they think anyone could do it if they put aside their moral compass.
But this is not true. For many people, brown-nosing is very hard not because it's immoral per se, but because it’s so hard to think of what to say. The nuances required for successful brown-nosing behavior are like trigonometry for your emotions—too complicated to be done on the fly.
I can memorize this list. Or maybe just one or two from the list, and then I can try to say something like this when I want to make someone feel good.
And this is why I don't understand why people think brown-nosing is compromising their integrity. Brown-nosing is just making someone feel good. Isn't this always a nice thing to do? How could it ever hurt anyone? What's the moral objection? I don't get it.
Also, the American Bar Association essentially defines brown-nosing as “ingratiating behavior.” I looked up ingratiating in the dictionary. The first definition I found was: “To bring (oneself, for example) into the favor or good graces of another, especially by deliberate effort.”
I absolutely don't understand why this is bad. In fact, I am pretty sure that the reason everyone told me I was terrible at dating was because I was not able to be ingratiatory. You are supposed to be that, right?
So can everyone please shut up about how they are not going to brown-nose? The world would be a better place if we would all do that, all the time. I am not able to do it without extreme coaching, but for those of you who can do it easily, you should feel blessed. And, you're probably in line for a promotion.