The importance of the kiss-up


I get a lot of email, and the biggest whiners are the people who refuse to kiss up to their boss and therefore have stalled careers.

Newsflash: You have to brown nose, but the professional phrase for this act is “manage up”. This is such a basic pre-requisite for career success that I am shocked when people have to be convinced to do it.

Almost every workplace problem that I’ve heard can be boiled down to three pieces of advice:

1. Get to know yourself better.

2. Get to know your boss better.

3. Make sure you are making both of you happy.

Jared Sandberg’s column this week is a good overview of the culture of managing one’s boss, “Why Mr. Kiss-up Keeps Getting Ahead”. Sandberg is one of my favorite career columnists, maybe because usually he doesn’t even pretend to give advice; the only advice is from his headline writer.

I have a feeling Sandberg’s situation is actually a good example of managing up: He doesn’t want to give advice, he wants to do reporting. But his boss knows that career advice sells. So Sandberg writes the column he wants and lets his boss hire someone to slap advice on the top. A good example of how compromising a little can align your own goals with those of your boss.

6 replies
  1. Lisa R.
    Lisa R. says:

    Of course! This is so obvious to someone who has worked for even 5+ years, but it remains so repugnant to novices. The idea is — when you “manage” your boss by complimenting them, supporting their (sometimes awful) ideas, helping them achieve their (questionable) goals, etc., you are actuallky controlling your own fate, taking matters into your own hands; and, short of doing anything immoral or illegal, that’s the way the game is played. If it’s not for you, then be a freelancer, independent contractor, or the like. But then you will have clients to please and appease….

  2. penelope trunk
    penelope trunk says:

    Good point, Lisa. People who really don’t want to manage up should stop pretending that corporate life is going to work out. It won’t. Freelancing is a better route. Though, as a freelancer, I have to say that it’s not like I don’t have to manage up also. It’s just less intense…which is actually too bad, because I’m good at managing up.

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