Workers "sucking up" is bad for business say experts

Tue Apr 14, 2009 7:20am EDT
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By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - If there's a bit more false flattery and loud enthusiasm at the office than usual, don't be surprised.

Whether it's called buttering up the boss, brown-nosing, sucking up or managing up, experts say ingratiating behavior is bound to be on the rise in the workplace as workers fret about keeping their jobs in tough economic times.

But such behavior can be bad for business, they said.

"People who tend to 'manage up' anyway are managing up more. They really want to make sure people are noticing what they're doing," said Max Caldwell, an expert in workforce effectiveness at Towers Perrin management consultants.

"It's a mentality of 'I not only want to do a good job, but I want to be seen as doing a good job,'" he said.

That behavior increases when stakes are high, said Jennifer Chatman, professor of organizational behavior at the University of California at Berkeley.

"It's what we do when we feel ourselves vulnerable or susceptible to the decisions of others," she said. "I would have every expectation that if we went out and tried to collect data right now, that it was going on in a big way because people are feeling more vulnerable."

In such an environment, underlings may be more likely to lavish praise on bad decisions or poor judgment by a boss and avoid being candid or bearing bad news, she said.   Continued...

<p>A worker leaves an office building in the Canary Wharf financial district of London, April 2, 2009. REUTERS/Simon Newman</p>