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How to Flatter a Boss

by Lisa McQuerrey

Flattering a boss can be constructive or destructive, depending on the approach you take. Giving genuine compliments and behaving in a professional, positive manner with your boss can gain you favor, while issuing insincere or over-the-top flattery can make your boss uncomfortable and call your credibility into question. Excessive flattery will also be recognized by your colleagues, and they may resent your attempts to ingratiate yourself to the boss.

Compliment Professional Effort

Don't issue false flattery about inconsequential things like your manager’s new car or her choice of shoes. Rather, focus on professional commendation. For example, tell her you read her recent editorial in the newspaper and found it inspiring, or congratulate her on achieving a professional designation within your industry. This demonstrates genuine interest without the appearance of impropriety.

Give Genuine Praise

Save your accolades for praiseworthy events. Gushing about your manager’s brief introduction of a new staff member at a company meeting falls flat and is inappropriate. But commending your boss on delivering an in-depth research report at a corporate retreat demonstrates your respect for her hard work and skills.

Ask for Advice

Show your admiration for your boss by asking for her advice. Tell your manager you wish you had her time management skills, and ask for tips. Mention you’re interested in getting involved in a committee or board she runs. This shows your professional ambition while flattering your boss at the same time.

Don't Put Down Others

In your efforts to flatter your boss, don't inadvertently put down others in the process. For example, don’t tell your boss her presentation was obviously much better than another manager’s, or that she clearly should have been given a promotion over someone else in the company. This unprofessional approach is likely to make your boss feel uneasy and make her question your motives.

Go to the Top

Nominate your boss for an industry recognition or send a brief message to her immediate supervisor commending her for particular efforts or accomplishments. This form of flattery is subtle yet effective because you’re flattering your boss indirectly, which adds to its credibility. For example, tell your supervisor’s boss how much you appreciate her mentoring efforts or the extra time she puts into team-building initiatives. Word will get back about where the compliments came from, helping you score valuable points.

Don't Go Overboard

There's a fine line between issuing sincere and well-timed compliments and sounding ridiculous. Use professional verbiage, whether flattering your boss in person or via written correspondence. Be brief and to the point. For example: “I was very impressed with the way you handled that contentious interaction with a customer this morning. I'm learning a lot about effective management skills by working with you.” This approach lets you acknowledge something you admire about your boss without sounding like you're after something.

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