You show up 20 minutes early to the office every morning and are poised and ready in your cubicle when your boss arrives. You also stay 20 minutes after quitting time and wave goodbye to said boss as they’re walking out the door for the evening. You double- and triple-check every message in your outbox to make sure you’re practicing proper grammar and email etiquette. You stay up-to-date on the hottest news in the industry by subscribing to professional newsletters — and actually reading them. If this is all familiar to you, we can pretty confidently assume that you’re going above and beyond on the job, and naturally, we’re pretty proud of you.
The line between all-star employee and office suck-up, however, can get a little blurry, and while we hate to suggest that being an overachiever on the job can make you look anything but motivated, the truth is that it can. Tim Cole, founder and CEO of The Compass Alliance and bestselling author, has spent over three decades observing “toadies” in the workplace. “Toadies circle and feed on an alpha to survive, and in many cases, to thrive,” Cole explains. “There are a lot of insecure employees who see the suck-up route as their best path to career success.” Cole’s experience tells him that playing the suck-up doesn’t actually help you climb the ranks of most companies. “The very best leaders can see through the toadies and the suck-ups,” he says. “Great companies want great contributors — individuals of high character who are able to think for themselves and not just play the part. That means finding leaders capable of questioning the status quo and providing legitimate input, not just compliance.”
Worried that your overachiever efforts around the office are putting you in toadie territory? Cole has identified nine common suck-up behaviors. Read on for all the details.
1. You nod your head involuntarily every. single. time. your boss speaks. You might not know that you’ve developed this habit, but trust us — everyone else in the room is well aware. If this post has you wondering whether or not you have suck-up tendencies, paying closer attention to your body language might be a good way to start figuring it out.
2. You have “I HEART boss” paraphernalia at your desk. Maybe that mug came as a freebie at a conference or as a gag gift from the boss themself, but if you’re choosing to let it sit around on your desk, you’re basically advertising that you’re a proud toadie.
3. Most of your conversation at company events is with your boss. Company parties and retreats are great opportunities to network and hang out with your colleagues — and while they can also give you time to get to know your boss at a more personal level, you shouldn’t do so to the exclusion of coworkers who are closer to you on the so-called workplace food chain. Clinging to your manager at a social gathering makes you look standoffish to your peers and robs them of the time they may want to network with the big cheese. Not a good look.
4. When your coworkers ask for your opinion, they add, “Or should I just ask [insert boss’s name here] and save you some time?” We hope that your colleagues don’t adopt this passive-aggressive tone, but if they do, it should serve as a clear signal to you that people expect you to run to the boss every time you’re asked to share an opinion or help make a decision.
5. Your colleagues bet on how often you agree with your boss, laugh at their jokes, or use corporate buzzwords. Even if you don’t awkwardly stumble into an office pool about your toadie behavior (because that would be a bummer), you might want to consider taking a step back and reflecting on how often you engage in these behaviors. Laughing loudly at your boss’s lame joke halfway through a meeting or peppering every team email with words like “synergy” may be a sign that you’re trying too hard — and you don’t need to.
6. You struggle to decide whether or not to disagree with your boss. If you lose sleep over whether or not you should speak up when your manager says something you disagree with, you may be verging on suck-up. As long as you conduct yourself respectfully and professionally, in a healthy office environment you should always feel empowered to communicate honestly with your boss.
7. Your coworkers roll their eyes or stare every time you speak. This should be a no-brainer. Read the room!
8. You find yourself feeling disappointed when one of your colleagues takes the spotlight in a meeting. Often, office suck-ups are so accustomed to being the center of their boss’s attention that they feel a tug of jealousy when they turn instead to another employee, especially in public. This pseudo-sibling rivalry shouldn’t be an issue in the workplace.
9. You easily warm up to every new boss. Obviously, it’s to your advantage to get to know the person you report to, but if you find that you have a pattern of cozying up to every single manager simply because they’re the manager, it could be a sign of suck-up tendencies. Keep those relationships professional and authentic.
What other suck-up behaviors drive you crazy around the office? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)