Tow researchers (Ithai Stern at Northwestern University and James Westphal at the University of Michigan) recently published a study in Administrative Science Quarterly titled "Stealthy Footsteps to the Boardroom: Executives’ Backgrounds, Sophisticated Interpersonal Infl uence
Behavior, and Board Appointments (here's an ungated copy). They lay out several effective ways of "kissing up" to the boss:
- Go with discomfort: Preface compliments to the boss with something like "I don't want to embarrass you, but..."
- Frame it in question form: Ask for advice - it's just as flattering as a compliment. goes down a lot easier
- Bait and switch: Start out by disagreeing with the boss and then gradually warm to their opinion. Instead of being a "Yes Man", be a "'No,' then 'Yes'" man).
- Go around the corner: Find a third-party (best if it's a close confidant of the boss), and talk admiringly about the boss. Odds are, it will get passed on.
- Look for common ground: Pick a topic (anything from parenting to religion to politics) and make unsolicited statements and opinions about the matter that you think are also held by your target. Positive impressions will lower the red-flags on future praise.
- Look for common groups: Bring up social affiliations that you may have in common.