I’ve seen lots of complaints about the co-worker who is the ‘incompetent’ brown-noser. My dilemma is about the ‘very competent’ brown-noser. What do you do about him?
Yes, he’s competent, but not quite as competent as he makes himself out to be. He’s no more competent than the rest of his co-workers, depending on who you ask. Ask him and he’ll be happy to tell you he’s the only one who REALLY knows what he’s doing, cleverly using every opportunity to make his co-workers look bad and make himself out to be the hero.
Teamwork means nothing to him. The rest of us have been letting him get away with it, because to do otherwise sounds like sour grapes. A common phrase heard is “what goes around comes around”. But it’s been a while and we’ve yet to see it happen.
How can we bring it to this person’s attention (and failing that, to the attention of others with influence) that he could be a benefit to the entire team, but instead he uses very specific techniques to elevate himself while the rest of us more humble individuals are left in his shadow? How do you do it while still maintaining the higher ground?
Trumped by a Brown-noser
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY JENNIFER GLUECK BEZOZA
Dear Trumped by a Brown-noser,
I understand your frustration that the brown-noser’s behavior has seemed to go unnoticed by leadership. It shouldn’t be that the humble, team players, such as yourself, get trumped by the individual who puts others down and raises himself up at every opportunity.
In addition to self-promoting, your colleague sounds insecure and immature. If he were “wiser” in the ways of work, he would realize that success need not be a scarce resource. In other words, his or your success need not come at the expense of the other, especially if you operate as teammates.
Let me offer a couple of options for dealing with this individual in the immediate future, based on the facts you have provided.
1.) Work with your fellow colleagues to promote and support one another. The good news is that the number of humble, competent individuals far outnumbers the self-promoting individual on your team. You may look to leverage this alignment by promoting one another’s’ contributions with the next level of management. Perhaps you request a regular meeting or phone call where team members have the opportunity to report and discuss their individual contributions with the appropriate level of management. With all team members in the room (or on the phone), the brown noser won’t be able to manipulate the perceptions in his favor.
2.) Accept this individual’s immaturity and turn your focus elsewhere. Reading between the lines, it sounds like you are an idealistic individual, and want to see “justice” come to pass with this individual who is only out for himself and hasn’t yet gotten “caught.” Likelier than not, management has noticed his self-congratulatory ways. From the way you describe him, it likely shows up every day in both subtle and not so subtle ways. As you have experienced, this is a tiresome persona to be around. My prediction is that eventually the “karma” will catch up with him. Even if he hypothetically got promoted, he would have a difficult time garnering the respect, loyalty and commitment that he would need to lead a team. You serve yourself much better to focus on your own performance, building relationships and making a difference for the organization. If you focus on this colleague at all, maybe it’s to learn how you might be less humble when it’s appropriate to speak of your contributions and value to the team.
If I had more information on your seniority on the team and the relationship you have with this colleague, I might advise that it’s possible you could have a productive one-on-one conversation with the brown noser. From what details you have shared, however, I don’t know that this individual would be open to your feedback. A formal method, such as a 360-degree feedback survey, would probably be the safest and most effective way for this individual to take in and “hear” how his behavior impacts others.
You ask about how you might bring these issues to the attention of others without influence. Without understanding your relationship with your supervisor and/or other leaders, it’s hard to evaluate how this might benefit or backfire on you. I think your intuition might be right; it might be construed as “sour grapes.”
I hope some of these other thoughts prove useful. My prediction is that he will sink his own boat. Thank you for writing to Office Politics.
Jennifer Glueck Bezoza, MA
Jennifer Glueck Bezoza has an MA in organizational psychology from Columbia University and a BA in psychology and humanities from Stanford University. She currently works in Organizational Development for the largest not-for-profit home health organization in the country where she focuses on succession planning, leadership development and coaching. Previously, she worked for GE Commercial Finance and HR consultant, Towers Perrin.