Back in 2010 Ithai Stern from Kellogg Business School conducted some research into the role schmoozing has in workplace success. He found that there are various strategies that proved very successful in climbing the career ladder.
“Past research has demonstrated the effects of corporate leaders taking part in ingratiation and persuasion tactics, however, our study is the first to look at the effectiveness of specific tactics in increasing the likelihood of garnering board appointments at other firms, as well as which types of executives are most likely to effectively engage these tactics.”
Stern and his team identified seven strategies for schmoozing your way to the top.
- The Flattery as Advice Schmooze: Occurs when a person poses a question seeking advice as a way to flatter the subject (i.e. “How were you able to close that deal so successfully?”).
- The False Argument Schmooze: Instead of agreeing immediately, a person will yield before accepting his/her manager’s opinion (i.e. “At first, I didn’t see your point but it makes total sense now. You’ve convinced me.”).
- The Social Schmooze: Praising manager to his/her friends or social network with hopes that word gets back to manager.
- The Bashful Schmooze: Positioning a remark as likely to be embarrassing (i.e. “I don’t want to embarrass you but your presentation was really top-notch. Better than most I’ve seen.”).
- The Conformity Schmooze: Expressing values or morals which are held by one’s manager (i.e. “I’m the same way. I believe we should increase minimum wage.”).
- The Social Conformity Schmooze: Covertly learning of manager’s opinion(s) from his/her contacts, and then conforming with opinion(s) in conversations with manager.
- The Similarity Schmooze: Mentioning an affiliation, such as a religious organization or political party, shared by both individuals. (i.e. “I watched the Republican National Convention last night. The keynote presented some great points.”).
So how does this relate to performance management? Well, most performance reviews tend to be conducted by a solitary manager. As the sole gatekeeper for the review process, it inevitably raises questions about their impartiality, and therefore encourages the kind of brown nosing behaviours that Stern uncovered. Ingratiating yourself with your manager can literally make or break your career.
All of which is a pretty big reason to open up the performance review process to as wide an audience as possible, so that your performance and impact at a company is not judged by a sole person, but rather everyone that comes into contact with you. This way, those that stand out are more likely to be the true top performers than those that merely reside in the bosses good books.