By Mary Clare Jalonick, USATODAY.com
No one likes a co-worker who fawns over the boss, kisses up to superiors and goes into hysterics every time the CEO tells a joke. Obvious brown-nosing can kill your reputation in the office. Looking good in the boss' eyes without losing your co-workers' respect requires a mix of quality work, communication and a smidgen of subtle kissing-up. Begin by doing your job to the best of your ability.
Jay Bower, CEO of a Connecticut marketing company, says he favors employees who do what they're paid to do. "Do your work consistently," he says. "Boring but true."
Even better, go above and beyond your basic job description. "Figure out what your boss wants and do it," says Rachelle Disbennett-Lee, a Colorado-based workplace coach.
Make your boss look good.
Never forget that your boss also has to do a bit of brown-nosing to his or her supervisors.
"The bottom line in any employer/employee relationship is that the manager wants to look good," says Linda Pophal, author of Human Resource Essentials. "If you can make your manager look good, you'll look good. That can be done in subtle ways so you don't look like an obvious 'brown-noser.'"
"Never criticize your manager to others, no matter how incompetent he or she may be. The consequences could be more negative to you than your boss," she says.
And never show up or correct your boss when others are around. Do not strive to look good at the expense of your supervisor.
Be a resource.
Make yourself indispensable by collecting pertinent knowledge. Research more than you need to so you will have information when it is needed. Keep him or her updated on industry events and other news.
Figure out what projects are making your boss' life more difficult and volunteer to help, says Tricia Nickel, an executive recruiter in Chicago. "Pay attention to time-consuming projects that aggravate your boss, and come up with creative solutions to those projects," she says.
When extra projects come around, volunteer if you have the time. "Be useful," Pophal says. "Volunteer to take on projects to lessen your boss's load." Your boss will appreciate your efforts.
Ask intelligent questions.
If you are interested in your work, your supervisor probably will catch on to your enthusiasm.
"Ask questions following meetings — let them know you are interested and, more importantly, that you were listening," says Mary Wong, president of a Houston-based human resources strategy firm.
But before you start firing at random, make sure your questions add something to the discussion.
"Ask questions, but only those that have meaning for you, or you risk seeming inauthentic," says Janice Calnan, a workplace coach in Canada.
Seek advice and feedback.
Make sure your boss knows you're willing to improve and are interested in the intricacies of your job. Key questions for your boss: How can I improve? How can I get ahead? What can I do to make your job easier?
Ask for advice on your daily duties or the long-term projects you're tackling. Your boss can be a good resource; he or she probably has encountered a similar situation. If you listen to your boss, you might learn something from his or her experiences.
"The ultimate compliment is to ask for your boss' advice," says Terri Levine, author ofWork Yourself Happy.
Be nice to everyone in the office.
Less experienced brown-nosers may be nice to the VIPs and ignore the little people, but that's the worst way to go about ingratiating yourself within the office.
Always give credit where credit is due. If you're contributing to the company's goodwill, you're going beyond just brown-nosing. Everyone wants to feel as if the job he is doing is important. Keeping up morale around the office by getting to know everyone in the office will help you in the long run.
"Never put others down, because you never know who your next boss will be," Disbennett-Lee says.
Keep in touch.
Communication is one of the most important factors in establishing a good relationship with your supervisor.
"Let your boss know what you are doing," Pophal says. "Many people make the false assumption that they know what you are doing. Copy them on e-mails, and make sure they get copies of your work."
Writing a brief weekly summary of the projects you're working on and what you've accomplished can be a great way to showcase your successes.
If you stay on your boss' radar, you'll be difficult to forget.
"Leave brief and insightful messages on their voice mail early in the morning or after the day is over," Wong says. "You will be the first person on their mind each day that you do."
Hold on to your integrity.
When it comes to lauding your boss, keep it specific and sincere, says Patti Hathaway, who wrote Managing Upward: Strategies for Succeeding With Your Boss.
"You don't want to tell your boss: 'You are the best boss a person could ever have.' It makes everyone want to gag because it's not believable," she says.
"Doing something with the sole purpose of inflating the boss's ego will backfire; most people see through those who are insincere," Disbennett-Lee says.
Though there's nothing wrong with a healthy dose of seeking favor with your boss, how you curry that favor can determine whether you move ahead in the company — and whether you've earned the respect of your boss and co-workers.