Should People Be Promoted according to Ability?
Flattering the Boss Gets You Everywhere
In the world of work, flattery will get you everywhere.
Employees who flatter their bosses tend to receive
evaluations and move more easily up the corporate ladder-whether they
deserve to or not--said Gerald Ferris, management professor at Texas A and
"Based on what we have found, it looks to be the
case that political skills are highly reinforced out there in the work
place. It is the politically astute that are more often promoted,"
Ferris said in an interview.
His conclusions are based on surveys of employees and
supervisors takeri as part of his research into political behaviour in the
"People tend to believe that flattery is just too
transparent to be effective, but we have found that is not necessarily
true. We have found a strong correlation between this type of behaviour
and good evaluations," Ferris said.
The reasons that flattery works are many, Ferris said,
but most apparently have to do either with the boss's ego, or insecurity,
Some supervisors enjoy having their egos boosted by
complimentary employees, while others simply need the reinforcement of
consent, he said.
"What we have found is that often bosses are new
or unsure of themselves and need a lot of social reinforcement for their
decisions. They might look at flattery as a sign that they are right,
" Ferris said.
The reasons employees flatter bosses vary, too, Ferris
said. Ambition - the desire to move up the corporate ladder --is often
behind the compiiments, he said.
Also, many workers use flattery to obscure their
laziness or incompetence.
"We did find a big gap between some of the people
doing this manipulation and those that did not. Many of these people (fla.ttering
the boss) were not the high performers. They were doing it to cover up
their shortcomings," he said.
But if flatterers are not always top workers, they
frequently are what social scientists call "high self-monitors",
"Those are people who are highly attuned to and
aware of their surroundings and know what to do to get a favourable
response," he said.
Fellow employees are not blind to what their colleagues
are doing, Ferr'ss said. But, while they may disapprove, they usually do
not tell the boss for fear of appearing jealous, he said.
Flattery works best when the employee is saying
something he or she really means, Ferris said. But sincere or not, it
should be done in moderation.
"If you overdo it or if you are not sincere and
the boss catches on, it can mean trouble, " he said. "You have
to be subtle and not take it too far. "
One way employees can avoid appearing too flattering is
to occasionally disagree with the boss on minor points, he said. In that
way, the employee avoids being viewed as a "yes-man".
Read the following passages. Underline the important
viewpoints while reading.
1. People Should Be Rewarded according to Ability,
Not according to Age and Experienc
Young men and women today are finding it more and more
necessary to protest against what is known as the
"Establishment": that is, the people who wield power in our
society. Clashes with the authorities are reported almost daily in the
press. The tension that exists between old and young could certainly be
lessened if some of the most obvious causes were removed. In particular,
the Establishment should adopt different attitudes to work and the rewards
it brings. Today's young people are ambitious.
equipped with a good education and are understandably impatient to succeed
as quickly as possible. They want to be able to have their share of the
good things in life while they are still young enough to enjoy them. The
Establishment, however, has traditionaly believed that people should be
rewarded according to iheir age and experience. Ability counts for less.
As the Establishment controls the purse-strings, its views are inevitably
imposed on society. Employers pay the smallest sum consistent with keeping
you in a job. You join the hierarchy and take your place in the queue. If
you are young, you go to the very end of the queue and stay there no
matter how brilliant you are.
know is much less important than whom you know and how old you are. If you
are able, youf abilities will be acknowledged and rewarded in due course,
that is, after twentj?or thirty years have passed. By that time you will
be considered old enough to join the Establishment and you will be
expected to adopt its ideals. God help you if you don't.
There seems to be a gigantic conspiracy against young
people. While on the one hand society provides them with better
educational facilities, on the other it does its best to exclude them from
the jobs that really matter. There are exceptions, of course. Some young
people do manage to break through the barrier despite the restrictions,
but the great majority have to wait patiently for years before they can
really give full rein to their abilities. This means that, in most fields,
the views of young people are never heard because there is no one to
represent them. All important decisions about how society is to be run are
made by people who are too old to remember what it was like to be young.
Resentment is the cause of a great deal of bitterness.
The young resent the old because they feel deprived of the good things
life has to offer. The old resent the young because they are afraid of
losing what they have. A man of fifty or so might say, "Why should a
young rascal straight out of school earn more than I do?" But if the
young rascal is more able, more determined, harder-working than his
middle-aged critic, why shoutdn't he? Employers should recognize ability
and reward it justly. This would remove one of the biggest causes of
friction between old and young and ultimatley it would lead to a better
Ancient Chinese reformers advocated selecting aiI
talented people to be officiais regardiess of their #amily backgrounds.
This practice is stiil significant, for it opposed appointing people by
But it is improper for us to think that the talented
can only become officials, otherwise they are stifled.
In the course of the current reform, China needs
talented personnel in all trades. It is justifiable that talented
personnei bring their ability into full play by becoming leaders.
But the point is who can be considered talented? Some
see the holders of senior professional titles are talented: some think of
those who have college diplomas as taltented; some say that they are those
who have made inventions or outstanding contributions to society.
There would not be enough vacancies if all of these
people were to become officials.
It is unnecessary for all the talented to elbow their
way into officialdom. They can strive to become experts in philosophy,
science, literatore, art, history and education. There is never a limit to
the number of experts in these fields.
Albert Einstein was once invited by Israei to become
its president. It was eonsidered a matter of course for Einstein to accept
the invitation. But Einstein refused it bluntly and continued his physics
I do not mean that talented people should not become
officials at aII. But what I want to specify is that different people have
different strengths, and that not everyone is capable of becoming an
official. If people without leadership capacity are chosen as officials,
they can only bungle things.
Before Hou Yuzhu and Zheng Meizhu, two aces af the
Chinese National Women's Volleyball Team, retired, they were asked by
reporters if the government would assign them jobs in a leading body, just
as it had done for some of their former teammates.
Hou and Zheng, who shared the credit for the team
becoming world champions, responded that they did not want to become
officials, and that they wanted to study the knowledge and skills needed
in society to keep abreast of its development.
Their decision may be of some help to us.
3. You Can Get Promoted Half a Grade if You Are
Willing to Say:"Yes Sir, No Sir!"
An unhappy victim of the consumer society is Mr.Batia,
a fifty-two-year-old Indian journalist working in broadcasting. For him,
however, the misery. is caused less by the nature of his work than by the
competitive atmosphere which surrounds it.
Mr. Batia: " I' m not interested in my job. I'm not being treated
properly and there are many injustices. I just do honest work, but I do as
little as I can. The atmosphere is very polluted. You can get promoted
half a grade if you're willing to say: 'Yes sir, no sir!' I've been there
twenty-three years, and I hate the whole mentality of the place. They
treat me like a colonial. Tbey think I live in the colonies, but I've done
things in jurnalism that have never been done before. I have a colleague
who is half a grade up and when the boss is away he's supposed to
officiate. I've had rows with him: I have a hot temper. I said to him: 'Lood,
don't you try to boss me or one of us will end up on the floor. I've met
good Englishmen and bad Englishmen, and you' re the worst Englishman I've
"I'm honest and outspoken and people don't like
me. Nobody likes me. If.you are a crook you can get on well."