How to Kiss Ass Without Losing Your Soul

Have you ever promised yourself you'll never become a butt kissing brown noser like some of the people you work with? Even when I was a teenager, sweating in the dish room of a cafeteria kitchen to pay my way to Europe, I refused to kiss ass. I knew a little butt smooching to the manager could land me a cushy position bussing tables in the air-conditioned dining room. Or better yet, sitting on a stool taking money. But I swore I would never have a job where ass kissing (to be referred to forthwith as AK) was required.

Somewhere around 26, I realized this was impossible. Everyone else was doing it to get ahead and I didn't want to be left in the dust. So I figured if AK was going to be a requirement, I might as well find a job that paid me well to do it. Sales was the perfect answer -- tons of puckering, but mucho diniero.

The thing that's detrimental about pursing your lips together to plant one on someone's posterior is how you feel later. Performed in the conventional manner, it means doing something to get what you want with no regard for how you will feel after behaving in such a self-deprecating fashion. One of the other negatives to AK is the fact that you need to deny how you feel in order to continue doing it.

My friend Gretchen is the Queen of AK. I've watched her numerous times stroke clients, allowing them to make callous or inappropriate remarks, while maintaining a gritted-tooth grin. She'll smile and nod in agreement, her eyes vacant, with whatever garbage the client espouses. But I know it eats her up inside.

Then there's the opposite end of the spectrum, my friend Charlie, who wouldn't kiss ass if someone offered him a million dollars and threatened a trip to the guillotine if he didn't. Because of lack of AK skill, he works at a job he's not very fond of but is proud of his lack of the aforementioned skill.

"What do I do then?" You cry. "How can I do something I enjoy, make lots of cash while doing it and not perform the dreaded AK?" It's all in your perspective. Here are some simple guidelines that will allow you to flourish in a world where it seems AK is a necessity while still retaining possession of your soul.

1) Always try to see your boss, clients and co-workers as human beings, subject to the same insecurities, self-doubt and insanities that you are. I don't believe it's human nature to AK; it's ego nature. Adding humanity to the equation makes AK seem unnatural.

2) Communicate, communicate, communicate. And I don't mean discuss the weather. If you have an opinion that goes crossgrain to your client's or boss's, try something like "I understand your position on X. I feel Y and I was hoping we could discuss it."

It may not work all the time, but at least you won't go home at night kicking yourself in the rear for not standing up for what you believed.

3) Remember that you're entitled to your opinion, but so is your client or boss. They may have reasons for making a decision that you're not privy to. Instead of giving in and telling them how great their idea is when you don't understand why something is the way it is, ask. The worst they'll do is not answer you. But again, you haven't acquiesced without politely making your voice heard.

4) Think before you open your mouth. Why are getting ready to say that particular thing? Are you afraid your client/boss won't like you if you don't? Or do you think they'll like you more if you do? Are you saying it so you appear to be smarter or better or a more proficient AK than anyone else involved in the discussion? Motivation is key. If you have something to say that will make a significant contribution to the conversation, go for it. If not, maybe it's best left unsaid.

5) Realize that most people don't really respect an AK. They may like having their posterior kissed, but how much do they respect the person doing it? Speak your truth in a kind, thoughtful, informative manner and you'll earn a lot more respect than you will for leaving a perfect lip imprint on your client's buttocks.

6) Let it go. Sometimes the ego holds onto things when it's banged up. And for some reason, a bruised ego causes an insatiable desire to engage in more AK. I know I'm going out on a limb here, but be honest with the people you work with. If your boss or client has done something to upset you, wait for the emotional tornado to subside and then discuss it. I know it's a novel concept, truth in the workplace. But it's the only way I know not to get sucked into the vortex of resentment and anger that will eventually lead to either a prolific string of AK or a felony. Neither of which will make you feel good about you.

7) Quit gossiping. Wow -- two limbs. But I believe part of the reason we gossip is to alleviate the internal pressure that builds up from AK. My theory is that if you stop gossiping, you'll eventually start telling the truth. Either that or blow up.

8) Allow for the possibility that you may actually develop a fondness for your client or boss or anyone else whose booty you seem to be providing lip service to. If you like them, it's just conversation, not AK.

9) Tap dance. If you don't want to do something, you don't have to tell your boss that you wouldn't be caught dead or alive following through on her suggestion. You can say that you have several pressing matters that require your attention if you're to make that deadline she gave you last week and politely decline. This saves you from the dreaded conversation with the mirror in the ladies room after you've checked to make sure all the stalls are empty.

10) There are other ways to get what you want. Be informed, educated and prepared to present your thoughts so you are able to persuade your boss or client to see things from your point of view. AK is a copout. It takes work to debate your position authoritatively. But the resulting self-respect is worth it.

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