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Here’s What Coworkers Think When You Kiss Up to your Boss

Few employees would deny that ingratiation is ubiquitous in the workplace.

This behavior goes by many names – kissing up, sucking up, brown-nosing and ass-kissing. Indeed, the fact that there are so many names that describe this behavior suggests that it’s something that goes on all the time at work.

Ingratiation is defined as the use of certain positive behaviors such as flattery, doing favors or conforming to another’s opinions to get someone else to like you. This behavior is especially common when employees interact with a supervisor because of the latter’s status and control over important work resources, including job assignments, responsibilities, pay and promotions.

So we all know that this goes on all the time, but what do we really understand about how these behaviors operate at work?

While social influence behaviors like ingratiation are typically thought of as a dyadic phenomenon (that is, involving two people – the ingratiator and the ingratiated), these behaviors are actually embedded in a much more complex and dynamic work environment, which includes many other people.

To get a clearer picture of how these behaviors operate, my colleague and I examined how they work from a third party’s point of...

Managing Your Workforce When Employees Are All Over the Map

In many government organizations, jobs are distributed across large geographic areas, where employees are accountable to different bosses and responsive to different regulations and rules. Managing such an enterprise from a central office can be akin to navigating an ocean with many islands, each surrounded by unique currents and shoals.

Managers must be able to measure results across the enterprise and ensure that employees are well trained and knowledgeable about institutional requirements. So, is it logistically possible to roll out an effective, engaging training program where employees retain what they learn? How can managers create a program that brings tangible results to potentially thousands of workers in such distributed government positions? Using a centralized learning management system to administer a blended learning program is one way.

Government agencies are moving to technology-based learning as a cost-effective strategy for training and professional development. A learning management system provides a hub where universal design for learning allows instructional designers and trainers to create and collect content and to distribute standardized and branded education. An LMS is a central place for learners to show up, receive instruction, and to be in community with the whole of the learning organization, with on-demand anytime, anywhere...

No, You Probably Shouldn’t Follow Every Order From Your Boss

To protect the reputation of your agency and its leaders you need to know when and how to disobey. You read that correctly. There is a high level competency called intelligent disobedience. It is rarely taught in leadership development programs. It should be. Here’s why.

No leader is going to give correct orders all the time. Sooner or later they will issue or approve a poorly thought out initiative. Why? There are many possible reasons. They have been given skewed data, the analysis is faulty, they are under pressure from powerful constituencies, they are tired. It happens. The question is what do the people who receive the order do?

I was teaching a course for the Office of Personnel Management on Leader-Follower dynamics based on my earlier book The Courageous Follower: Standing Up To and For Our Leaders. I asserted that most of the time it makes sense to comply with orders, but sometimes it is wrong or dangerous to do so. A mid-level careerist said she had an example of that under the table. Huh? That got my attention.

There was a dog under the table, she explained, that was being trained to be a guide dog for...

When Performance Measures are Counter-Productive

One reason to measure performance is to evaluate the effectiveness of organizations and of people. But this is not the only purpose. In fact, I think that there are multiple answers to the question: “Why measure performance?” And one of these purposes is to motivate organizations and people.

It might not seem that these two purposes are in conflict. After all, we want to motivate people to accomplish what we want to evaluate. Still, any effort to measure performance ought to come with a big, flashing warning sign: A measure that works well for one purpose, might not work so well for other purposes.

Consider the challenge of both motivating and evaluating the performance of school districts, schools, and even individual teachers: If we create a measure for evaluative purposes, will this simultaneously accomplish our motivational purposes? Maybe. Maybe not.

To evaluate students’ learning (and thus to evaluate teachers’ teaching), we usually create a test that covers what we want students to learn.

We cannot, however, require students to spend too much time taking tests. Thus, no test can cover everything we want students to learn. So we have to focus a test on the most important ideas, concepts, and...

The Secret to Repairing a Broken Conversation

We’ve all been there. In the midst of a productive conversation with a colleague, something unexpected happens. It might be an awkward phrase or an unintended tone of voice, or maybe someone simply says something we don’t want to hear. Suddenly the conversation has veered off course and one or both of us now feels disregarded, disrespected, or just plain angry.

It’s common in these situations for one or both people to shut down and begin to avoid the conversation or, perhaps, each other entirely. It’s as if the conversational road disappears and we’re suddenly in off-road conditions that are full of nerve-wracking pitfalls and uncomfortable dust-ups as we make clumsy attempts to salvage the dialogue. We blame the other person, we lick our wounds, and we retreat inward. The problem is that these reactions are ineffective and destabilizing in business settings where team and one-on-one conversations are crucial for planning and productivity.

Navigating these situations requires an ability to lead and communicate in the moment—to steer the conversation back on course and keep it, and the relationship, on a productive trajectory.

In my work as an organizational leadership consultant and executive coach, I...

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