Leaders Beware: Flattery May Cost You Your Job!


Leaders Beware. Surround yourself with people who makes you feel good through flattery may ultimately cost you your job!

A 1-standard-deviation increase in the amount of flattery and ingratiating agreement that CEOs receive raises their likelihood of being fired by 64%, say Sun Hyun Park and James D. Westphal of the University of Michigan and Ithai Stern of Northwestern University. Flattery inflates leaders’ opinions of their abilities and prevents them from making changes in the face of poor corporate performance. Over a 12-month period, colleagues and close subordinates admitted making an average of 3.64 statements to CEOs complimenting them in ways that slightly exaggerated the leaders’ insight on strategic issues, the researchers say. (Source: Set Up for a Fall: The Insidious Effects of Flattery and Opinion Conformity Toward Corporate Leaders)It’s a gift for leaders to have people who will encourage them, trust them, even love them, but at the same time able to tell them the truth even when it hurts. How many times have we heard managers or staffs talking about things behind the back of leaders which they would never say in front of them? Leaders need to be aware that most things that your staffs bring to you would have already been filtered and possibly diluted in most cases. Encourage your staffs to tell you the truth through the way you response to them when they do occasionally bring you things you don’t like to hear. Do you put on a defensive front? Do you press them hard for facts to prove it? Are you belligerent and argumentative? Even if you are right, what you have done is only going to reduce the chance of your staffs bringing to you what you don’t want to hear in the future. One of the best advice i’ve heard when someone brings something we don’t like or agree with, is to just say “thank you”. Keep the our thoughts to ourselves first and take time to process it. More often than not, encouraging the feedback is more important than the authenticity of the feedback.

How do we respond when people tell us the things we don’t want to hear? Do we reward flattery more than constructive feedback through the way we respond?

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