Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Feedback: Fight back against the office suck-up

Some feedback I get:

What do you care?
1) Ignore this person, he's not your problem.
2) Mind your own business. It's not your job to control or monitor or complain about the behavior of your co-worker. That's your boss's job. Let him handle it.
3) Get back to work. You're getting paid to do the job you were hired to do, not keep track of your co-workers.
4) Grow up.

In the real world this does not happen. Everyone knows that you have people in offices who do not have the skills to keep their jobs but they do keep them, how they do it is by brown nosing and sucking up. In this process they make up stories about people who just want to work and get paid which in turn ruins their reputation.

On Power
I used to think like you. I'm a VP now and flattery doesn't get people anywhere with me. The reason is confidence.

Suck-ups are looking for power. Ther problem is, they have no skills with which to acquire that power naturally, so they use manipulation and disguise to obtain it. It is better to fight these people quietly before they have the opportunity to negatively impact your workplace.

Early on in my career, I suppose I was 25, I thought suck-ups were annoying little people. The most harm I saw them doing was to their own reputation. One day, I was told that the department was restructiong and I was being given my 2 weeks notice. I couldn't understand it. I was extremely hard-working, delivered on all my objectives and was generally well-liked.

A bunch of people in the office arranged for a piss-up on my last day. My entire department except the VP was there. During the course of the evening, 4 people confided in me at separate times. The suck-up had bent the VP's ear enough, so when the VP couldn't find a better position for him, he made one, where I sat. At first I was in disbelief, so I started asking a few casual questions. Turns out almost everyone knew.

Suck-up was there. After I was confident that this was true, suck-up approached me, offering his support. I didn't confront him about it. I simply said that I wished I knew why? Paying close attention to his face, the slightest grin crossed it, his pupils dilated, he became flushed and said these things happen. I knew it was him, and I vowed to figure out these people so it would never happen again.

I made friends with him.

A year after getting fired, I ran into the VP. I was much more confident, being paid more and was in a more senior positon to the one I'd been fired from. I courted his attentions for months and finally won his confidence. We actually became good friends. In doing so, he told me the truth about suck-up. Praised me for how well I had done the job and remarked about his incompetence.

Five years went by, and I still kept in touch with suck-up. He was still in the role I had vacated, I was now a Manager for another, more notable company. One day, we needed to hire the exact position I had before, and suck-up after me fulfilled.

On approval from my friend, the VP, I hired suck-up on purpose, luring him with what looked like more money and an extra week vacation. He came on and was sucking-up to me, the directors and the VP within weeks. One month after he started, I discovered the inevitable level of incompetence he was famous for in his last role, I knew he would as I had kept in touch with others as well.

I brought him into my office and told him to sit down. He started commenting on how nice my suit was, blah blah blah, suck suck suck.

I looked at him blandly and asked him some questions about how he was going to improve his performance, yadda, yadda, yadda. He provided some vague comments about attention to detail and the like.

Then I looked at him straight and said, "You'd thought you could get away with what you did five years ago, didn't you?"

His face sank, and he turned bright red. "I don't know what you mean!" (insert sucking sound here)

"Yes you do. Tell you what. I'm going to let you off easy, you're fired and we're even. Clean out your desk." I continued, "Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. I spoke with our old VP yesterday, and they were glad to get rid of you. They hired someone that actually has skills."

The point of the story is not to illustrate how sweet my revenge was, but to show you how the nature of relationships change only if you can make them change.

Suck-ups will eventually get found, but surreptitiously forcing the hand doesn't hurt anyone but the, and could potentially save your job.

I take a proactive approach to suck-ups now. I weed them out of the grass and crush them before they get the opportunity to hurt anyone with real ambition.

The essence of power is to eliminate those around you who can challenge that power. A suck up does that by focussing your bosses attention on what the suck-up wants, rather than the reality. once that attention is off of you, it is harder to get it back.

This being said, reputation is everything. The only people who know what I did, are myself, the VP and the victim. The VP won't talk because I helped him out by not having to pay this guy his severance. The victim won't talk because he was too humiliated. I understand through my contacts that he hasn't been able to find anything better. This pleases me considering my rank.

Last year, the VP became CEO of another company. One of the first things he did was hire me. He said that anyone who showed the amount of patience and perseverance I did in exacting my revenge needed to be with him as his aide-de-campe.

It's a great partnership now and everyone is happy.

Grow up... EXACTLY
Keep in mind you are not being paid to create a level playing field for you and your co-workers. If your boss is not able to see through the smoke screen maybe you should consider working somewhere else where these people are weeded out at the first layoff.

It's a 2-way Street
Have you ever considered the boss LIKES being sucked up to? If he was smart enough to see it for what it is and didn't like it, he'd put a stop to it. Don't ever put yourself between the boss and the suckup or you might get squashed. As someone else has already advised, just do your job and make your own achievements.

BAD advice!
This strategy:
"1) Ignore this person, he's not your problem.
2) Mind your own business. It's not your job to control or monitor or complain about the behavior of your co-worker. That's your boss's job. Let him handle it.
3) Get back to work. You're getting paid to do the job you were hired to do, not keep track of your co-workers."

I know. I tried it. I eventually ended up with a boss who would come up with these "great ideas" only to come up with another a week or two later... none of them were easy to implement and none of them worked. He's a primary reason I quit. Funny thing was, if you caught him off guard, he'd say things like, "I'm only having a weekly meeting because I was told to have a weekly meeting."

Not well thought out
Don't assume your boss can see through it. Some bosses have low self-esteem. They want to feel superior and if this guy's helping them feel that way, they'll soak it up.

Find a way to make their suck-ups obvious, and then the axe will fall.

Bigger point, don't ignore it. It will do you mroe harm in the end.

Ignoring the problem...
...DOESN'T make it go away. I have one of these to deal with, and the biggest problem is that the individual seeks to take on MY job responsibilities by placing themself in a position of criticality where they are in charge and I have to seek their approval to get things done. The biggest problem is that these people want the authority without the responsibility that comes with decision-making.

Worst part is that my boss knows what is going on and yet refuses to do anything about it.

No comments: