What's Your Problem?

How do I stop myself from looking sycophantic?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: How do I get on without looking as if I am currying favour? I like my boss, and feel we're on the same wavelength, but I feel that the rest of the team resent our professional relationship. I am keen to take on more responsibility but not sure how to go about it.

A: You seem, if I may say so, to be just a little bit confused. Getting on, and being given greater responsibility, shouldn't be dependent on any special relationship that you might have with your boss; and certainly not on any special relationship that was apparent to others. I can't imagine what sort of behaviour you're contemplating that might be construed as currying favour but I don't believe it to be necessary.

It's good that you like your boss - and I assume he or she likes you. But liking doesn't have to be aggressively overt, does it? And you don't always have to be the first to volunteer for weekend work, or the one who laughs loudest.

Think back to school. There's usually someone who's trying to be teacher's favourite. The rest of the class know exactly what's going on - but only the weakest of teachers are fooled. Good teachers praise good work, irrespective of where it comes from. Just assume that your boss is the same.

Get on with things. Do them well. Concentrate on the quality of your work, not on the hoped-for effect of that work on your own prospects. Come to think of it, to believe that getting on and being trusted with more responsibility are at all dependent on some special relationship is a bit of an insult to your boss.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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