7 ways to schmooze your way to the top

In an ideal world I'm sure we'd all like to think that the leaders of our companies got where they are because they're the very best and smartest in the company.  Alas I'm equally sure that in reality many of us look at our bosses and wonder how on earth they got where they are.  New research by the Kellogg Management School might well have found the answer - they schmooze their way to the top.

Researcher Ithai Stern has revealed that employing flattery wisely is a widely used strategy for achieving boardroom success.  

"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 there you have it.  Seven easy ways to flatter your way into the boardroom.
Do you employ any of these?



A great blog and one I can really relate to. I've worked in several organisations where I'm amazed at the people who have made it to the top by employing these techniques. They're not necessarily the people who deliver results but they are always politically astute.

I wish I was comfortable employing these techniques (and maybe if I did I might advance a bit quicker) but the falseness and insincerity of them really conflicts with my values. Why tell someone they are doing a great job when they're not? Why pander to your bosses narcissistic tendancies?

Does anyone else feel the same? How would you overcome this?

This blog really makes me laugh, as this type of technique seems to be used on a daily basis in my orginisation. I do agree with Peter Hughes in that if I used these techniques I would probably come across as patronising.

However, I do have to admit that the majority of managers that I work with do appreciate the fact that I can be straight to the point with them. If it's bad I will tell them that it's bad & obviously vice versa. The "yes men" always get noticed by the lower ranks & this typically leads to a negative environment.

Ha, superb.  Be honest though guys, who here hasn't used some of those just a little bit?  I mean I bet no one will admit to being a schmoozer, yet many obviously are.

I agree Michael. "Yes men" do seem to do well in many organisations but so often the people working for them can see that they are only agreeing with their boss for an easy life. The problem is made worse when they then turn around and tell their team that this is the reason they are agreeing.

This is one quick way to demotivate your team and loose your credibility as a manager. But does it really matter as ultimatley the fate of your career lies with those above you?

Very true Peter, I suppose at the end of the day it just depends on one's self standards.

Let's not forget though, if you agree & it just so happens to be the wrong decision.......... who do you think will suffer the consequences?

Personally I would rather be great at my job, great with my staff & have a great atmosphere around me. When you can turn round & ask staff to work outwith normal hours & get a positive reaction when your boss can't; it speaks volumes.

Ooh I hate it when this happens, you try your best and then some brown nose comes along and gets a promotion instead of you.  Now this has been proven do you think it'll make any difference though?

Probably not.

I think that the people that are being "schmoozed" are so removed from what's really happening in their organisation because of the false positivity that surronds them that they believe everythings good.

If you thinks everything's going well why would you change?

Does an apple on the "teacher's" desk not cut it any more then?

I have to say that I think managers or leaders who are succeptable to "shmoozing" are also culprits in all of this.  If they weren't, there'd be no point in "shmoozing".

Goes back to personal standards and whether you can be bought with some flattery or whether you will make decisions with integrity.

Funny blog with a serious side.

I suppose the nack is to use these shmoozes as add-ons when you are being authentic to yourself and your views. Everyone is more disposed to liking people that they think like them - but a lot of confident people don't like creeps and band-waggon jumpers - so its a balance depending on your workplace culture and the individuals involved. I'd like to think that we had got beyond the playground and, in the (adult) workplace, moved from friendship cliques to something based on merit and performance.....

But we are all human and if those above you are a teeny bit self-doubting or downsizing is in the air then it can make all the difference to the survival of you, your team and their families (try and think of them Peter - it might sugar the pill).

I'm pretty hopeless at shmoozing too so its acting classes for me at my next PDR - just got to find a good business case........



BNet have taken up the mantle on the art of schmoozing.


Schmoozing -- an art form that lies at the nexus of networking and social engineering -- is a vital skill for any ambitious business leader, writes Steve Tobak. As long as you're authentic, engaging and respectful of people's boundaries, schmoozing will help get you almost anywhere in life. "Anyone who says that schmoozing isn't critical to business success is just being disingenuous," Tobak writes.