During our lifetime, we inevitably run into some rather unsavory characters who will wrong, cheat or defraud us. Maybe even worse are people who survive not because they are industrious, but because they are intuitively political. They are commonly referred to as “Suck-Ups,” “Brown Nosers,” “Ass Kissers,” “Yes Men,” and these are some of the kinder descriptors. We’ve seen such people in school, on the playing fields, at work, our places of worship, in our neighborhoods, as well as the volunteer nonprofit organizations we participate in. They’re everywhere and instead of earning their way through life like the rest of us, they’ve learned to develop alliances with those in a position to assist them in their career.

To illustrate, when I was in college years ago I took a class in English Composition. Each week we had to produce articles which would be reviewed by the instructor and the class. The professor was a nice guy who enjoyed a cigar and would smoke one at the head of the class as we reviewed our papers, and in the process it became his icon. You have to remember this was at a time when smoking was allowed indoors, including college campuses. It was a tough class as the professor demanded more and more from us and became sharper in his criticisms of our work which, in hindsight, improved the quality of our compositions. However, we had one classmate who was experiencing difficulties keeping up with the pace and output of the class. One autumn day, as the class began, the instructor lit up his cigar as had become his custom. Suddenly, our struggling classmate produced a cigar and lit it shortly after the instructor began smoking his own. This caught everyone by surprise, including the professor. It was all rather obvious he was trying to develop a connection with the instructor. As the semester went on, he went out of his way to help the professor anyway he could, including laughing at his jokes, and lighting his cigars. He thought he had developed quite a rapport with the professor, but his bubble was burst when the instructor surprised everyone by allowing the class to grade each other for the semester. Most of the class received fair grades, either “A’s” or “B’s” which everyone accepted. The “Suck Up” got an “F.”

Not all “Suck-Ups” receive such poetic justice. Many graduate through the ranks simply by hanging on the coattails of their superiors and live by the mantra, “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know.” Such people have a tendency of creating problems with morale, particularly if they are rewarded for something they did not deserve.

In reality, you cannot blame the “Suck-Up” for his/her actions as the fault truly lies at the feet of the superior who allows or even encourages such conduct. In my college example, my professor gave the “Suck-Up” just enough rope to hang himself. Had he not taken the tactic he did, the professor would have lost the respect of the class and would surely have been reported to the ombudsman. Unfortunately, this story is now the exception as opposed to the rule in a lot of organizations where “Suck-Ups” graduate through the ranks faster than more industrious people, probably because a political machine of “Suck-Ups” has been established and only promote from within their own party. There is only three things you can do under such a frustrating scenario, either learn to become a “Suck-Up” yourself, stand and fight the establishment, which you will inevitably lose, or pick up your marbles and find a new game.

I do not have the time or tolerance for “Suck-Ups” or their superiors. They are detrimental to any organization, for profit or otherwise. By promoting only the same like-minded incompetent nincompoops, they accomplish nothing more than perpetuating their madness. As for me, I’ll take my marbles elsewhere.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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