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What to tell your boss when going gets tough

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 as workers fret about keeping their jobs in tough economic times.

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

"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 in the United States.

"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. "It can be bad for business, keeping the yea-sayers around."

But according to some researchers, sucking up works.

Challenging a chief executive less, complimenting the CEO more and doing the CEO a personal favor increased the likelihood of being appointed to a corporate board by 64 percent, a University of Texas study found.

In a separate study Chatman conducted, job-seekers using ingratiating behavior were 20 percent more likely to land a job.

Frances Cole Jones, a professional coach and author of "How to Wow" advocates going to work early, staying late, attending meetings and volunteering for extra work.

But Bill Hanover disagrees. "If you value self-respect, the respect of your peers and leaders, then sucking-up or faking your way to a promotion will leave you ashamed and wanting," writes the author of "No Sucking Up."


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