The Suck-Up Coworker


I‘ve had a lot of people writing in to ask me what to do with this particular coworker challenge. Barbara from Ohio perhaps described the issue best. She wrote: “Whenever our VP asks how things are, she tells her they ‘couldn’t be better’ – even though we’ve all discussed where things need to be improved. Whenever the VP has an idea, she automatically agrees with it – regardless of whether or not the idea is workable. The problem is that, because of her, management is not getting a clear picture of things – and we sometimes set ourselves, and the VP, up for failure. I know she’s just trying to be positive around the boss – but I think the VP would equally appreciate honesty…”

This is the employee who is so concerned with having a positive relationship with the boss that she will say and do most anything to keep the boss happy. Now, it should be noted, of course, that trying to keep the boss happy is not on its own a bad thing. Quite the opposite. There is nothing more valuable to a company than responsive, motivated and diligent employees. And while employees with these qualities are occasionally called “Suck Ups,” it is usually more of a reflection of the attitude of the name-callers than it is the employee in question. The people we’re talking about here, however, are the coworkers who, in misguided efforts to make the boss happy, end up making everyone else miserable.

The best way to deal with this type of coworker is to appeal to her motivation to look good in front of the boss. The next time she exhibits the behavior, talk to her about it afterwards – and put it in context of how her actions might potentially impact how the boss perceives her. For example: “You know when you told the boss that everything is great? She’s going to be pretty ticked off when she finds out we didn’t tell her about the issues we’re dealing with around here…”

Hopefully, when she sees that her actions might have the opposite effect intended, she’ll think twice before she does it again. Whatever you do, though, don’t just talk about ‘The Suck Up’ behind her back. As far as coworkers from hell go, that would make you a greater problem than she is!

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