On occasion, you may find it advantageous to curry favor with ("suck up to") a superior. The Company has developed these guidelines.
Flattery: A sycophant's best friend. A perky greeting coupled with a thoughtful compliment (e.g., "Sir, you handled that Congressional inquiry with such aplomb!") is a surefire way to draw a supervisor's approving glance. A suitable strategy for beginners and experts alike.
Imitation: Aping the appearance or affectations of a higher-up can lead to undeserved career advancement. Begin modestly by selecting ties or handbags favored by your supervisor. If you sense mutual comfort, try securing lunch reservations at the boss's favorite restaurant. Note: Aggressive mimicry may be mistaken for stalking, an inadvisable career-building tactic.
Martyrdom: Many employees report success casting themselves as workaholic servants to their corporate masters. An effective technique: sending email or voice messages late at night or absurdly early in the morning. Accomplished martyrs may engage junior employees to produce such correspondence on their behalf.
Backstabbing: Taking credit for others' work can result in rapid professional gains. Normally, colleagues will resist confronting you — or will come off as petty and jealous by sharing their concerns. Some employees may attempt to backstab their own boss, a risky strategy recommended only for experts.
Mindless Agreement: Support even the most abysmal decisions made by those above you. (E.g., "You want to make an illegal insider trade using my name? I'd be honored!") Note that this is an acquired skill. Beginning sycophants report that the urge to think independently degrades only after 12 to 14 months on the job.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2003 issue of Fast Company magazine.