Kevin McCarthy tried sweetening up to President Trump with speciality Starburst, but workers and bosses tell Moneyish the real tricks to winning someone over.
Some people will do anything to get on their boss’s sweet side.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy noticed that President Donald Trump favors the red and pink Starburst fruit chews, so he tasked a staffer with buying the candy in bulk and sorting out the strawberry and cherry-flavored treats, the Washington Post reported this week. He then presented the hand-selected treats to the “grinning” POTUS in a jar with McCarthy’s name on the side.
But McCarthy’s not the only person to suck up to his boss.
Danny, a marketer who asked to withhold his last name, told Moneyish that he pulled out all the stops in trying to impress the president of the company he worked for a few years ago. He knew the head honcho came in an hour earlier than everyone else, so Danny started coming in early, too. Problem was, he needed an excuse to walk by the executive’s office to show that he was also getting a jump-start on the day.
“I quickly ran out of reasons, though, to be passing by his office and making noise,” Danny told Moneyish. “My favorite and most innovative idea was rolling a closed can of Coke down the hall outside of his office, then chasing slowly after it to retrieve it. ‘Sorry about that. You know how it is,’ I said aloud as I followed behind the soda can to catch up to it, waving at the president of the company as I went by.
“He didn’t actually care. I suspect he knew what I was doing,” Danny laughed.
An entertainment reporter who asked to remain anonymous told Moneyish that he’s a “real people-pleaser” who looks for a chance to “shine” with his bosses. So when he got a new managing editor a few years ago who was an opera fan, this writer developed an ear for arias, too.
“It was not necessarily my cup of high-C, but he had a deep love for it, so I was willing to dip my toe in,” said the reporter, who studied up on sopranos and spent New Year’s Eve watching “The Magic Flute.”
“This paid off because it ended up opening a line of communication between us, and it gave us something in common that wasn’t widely shared,” he said. “It’s great to think that you and your boss are speaking the same language.”
Engineer Devin Coyne recently joked on Twitter that, “My boss decides what my pay raise will be so you best believe I’ll be sucking up to him for the next month.” But she actually scored that almost 3% increase by doing the kind of kissing up that managers love best: Coming in on weekends to finish projects, volunteering for assignments and showing initiative by setting meetings with her manager and department head to discuss enrolling in her company’s continuing education program.
“It was more about finding a balance of mutual respect, but also a little bit of friendship,” she told Moneyish. But even she also greased the wheels a bit by acquiring a taste for her manager’s guilty pleasures: country music and Philadelphia sports teams. “Yeah I definitely started paying more attention to the Philadelphia Eagles whenever they would play,” she admitted.
It’s natural to want your boss to like you, and some research shows that the targets of ingratiation tactics form more favorable opinions of the people sucking up to them. It could even help your mental health, according to a 2011 study suggesting that “politically savvy professionals” who use ingratiation with their superiors as a career aid avoid the psychological stress, including job tension and emotional exhaustion, that their coworkers less skilled in buddying up to their bosses suffer.
But it’s easy to go from ingratiating to insufferable faster than your colleagues can say “kiss-ass,” and that’s because most brown-nosing comes across as inauthentic.
“I can always tell when it is about time for someone’s annual review and raise discussion, because suddenly I start hearing from people who never usually keep me posted on anything,” Alison Brod, founder and CEO of Alison Brod Marketing + Communications, told Moneyish. “Suddenly, status updates get sent to me on their clients, and they pop into my office to ‘fill me in.’
“It doesn’t influence me,” she added.
“It’s not about sucking up, it’s not about going to get your boss coffee, it’s not about anything overt – that just seems very insincere,” Aliza Licht, marketing executive and author of “Leave Your Mark,” told Moneyish. “The people that develop a relationship with me are the ones who realize it’s about doing their best work.”
So yes, there are ways to win over your boss without embarrassing her or yourself. Here’s some suggestions.
Be authentic. The problem with most gestures is that they smack of kissing butt from a mile away. But a recent study found that when schmoozers identify things they have in common with their managers (you’re both parents, or you both ran track), they trick themselves into actually liking them, so their interactions moving forward are more sincere than if they just pretended to like their boss and laugh at their jokes. So fake it ’til you feel it, and then make your ingratiating moves.
Be subtle. When a New York creative agency was giving $100 American Express gift cards to nominated coworkers for exceptional work during a company-wide meeting, Andy (who declined to share his last name) noticed the finance coordinator was out of the gift cards. But he made a show of shouting out his manager’s name for a gift card anyway. “I later told him that I didn’t know they were out of bonuses, but wanted to give him credit. He loved it,” he said. “He’s always been nice, but he’s been much nicer since then. He even gave me a Christmas card.”
Be persistent. Brod advises against workers ever sending her presents, but one wannabe employee grabbed her attention by sending Brod gifts with the company logo on them for months. “It was the constant flow of not giving up,” she told Moneyish. “I figured she was either a psychopath or really, really wanted to work here, and at the very least, I could meet her. I finally agreed to interview her … and then actually hired her as my assistant.”
Suck up through hard work. Marketing director Michael Russo will never forget the temp who wanted to get hired so badly, he researched the company’s competitors and wrote a 39 page report on what the company was doing right, and where it was lacking. Was it overkill? Yes. But he got the job. “Having someone on your team who will go outside of their working hours to show how dedicated they are in this industry is rare,” said Russo. “Something even as simple as showing up 10 minutes early and leaving 10 minutes late on your own time says a lot about your character, and is someone who almost any employer would be glad to have on their team.”
Gift the greatest gift. “It’s a nice gesture every once in a while when someone leaves a coffee on my desk, or they bring me a little gift like candy corn for my birthday,” said Licht. “But the greatest gift you can really give your boss is to be indispensable: Go the extra mile, think about the big picture and anticipate what your boss is going to need.
“At the end of the day, if you make your boss shine, your boss will love you,” she added.
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