Why Flattery Is Offensive To An Intelligent Person

I’m not your “hun”. We’re not best friends. I don’t know you. So don’t ply me with your cheap trickery.

Taryn Watson
Jan 17 · 7 min read
Strong, beautiful, conservatively dressed woman, staring at the camera
Strong, beautiful, conservatively dressed woman, staring at the camera
Image by Fezbot2000 on Unsplash

Most of us have probably had this type of Manager at some point in our careers: The Manager that doesn’t know how to be a Manager, so they resort to unwarranted and overly familiar flattery in an attempt to get what they want.

The Beginning of the End

“Hello, my favourite *insert role here*. Can I please get you to do me a favour?” I sit, waiting, expecting to be asked to do something outside of the compounds of my role, like fetching coffee, or stationary.

The question that follows is a basic requirement of my role. I frown, wondering why said Manager considers this a personal favor, and why they feel the need to ply me with flattery in order for me to agree to do my job.

Then it occurs to me — they’re scared to get offside with me because then we won’t be “friends”, and then they won’t know how to get me to do what they want.

They don’t know how to own the authority of being a Manager. And they don’t know how to separate business from personal. Despite the fact that there isn’t a personal relationship established. They don’t want to burn bridges they haven’t thought about crossing yet. And, they haven’t figured out how to work with me, in a respectful manner, to ensure that the task will be completed, without being overly assertive and domineering.

I don’t respond back in my usual, chirpy manner. This behaviour is not ok and, while I understand the struggle of being a new Manager, this is an imperative lesson for a new Manager to learn. I’m not going to graciously overlook the behaviour just because I understand it in turn making the Manager believe that it is ok and that this tactic has worked.

“I can do my job, yes. I have X, Y, and Z on my priority list first, which means that I can get your task done by X timeframe. Is that ok?” Said Manager agrees. They’re visibly relieved that I have agreed to do the task with minimal pushback, but evidently realising that I’m not easily manipulated, and not going to merrily do as I’m told without question.

The behaviour continues, as does my insistence on reminding said Manager that the tasks being requested of me fall within my job description. My agitation is slowly building with each new encounter due to the fact that said Manager has overlooked my gracious attempt to highlight the unnecessary behaviour, instead of putting them on blast in the middle of the office, and continues to act a fool.

But my grace is running thin.

The next time said Manager sits down beside me with their usual “Hello, my favourite *insert role*” BS, I politely remind them of my name. They stare back, perplexed, unsure what to make of the situation, and uncomfortably continue, “Anyway, I need you to do X.”

“Sure,” I agree. In the same usual manner, I relay the position of the task on my priority list and suggest a timeframe for completion. Said Manager agrees and leaves my desk — no overly familiar chit chat this time.

They don’t know how to process what has happened, and they interpret it as me being difficult and unapproachable. Their defense mechanism kicks in, and they retract into their shell, no longer the overly friendly, chatty, manipulation-by-flattery Manager.

Instead, concluding that the flattery tactic hasn’t worked for them, they engage the overly assertive and domineering Manager that’s about to piss some people off.

My behaviour remains consistent throughout our engagements. Said Manager, however, appears to be becoming more frustrated, shorter, and flighty — visibly appearing to want to leave my desk as quickly as possible at any given moment. And, less able to accept my priority list and suggested timeframes.

There is no impact on the position of said Manager’s task on my priority list as a result of my disregard for their management skills. I don’t care to be that petty. And I’m a professional.

The task that is being requested is important, but it still has a place in the hierarchy of the priority list, as does every other task on the list. But, the ignorance of said Manager in understanding what it is I actually do leads them to believe that the position of their task is intentional.

And so the frustration and resentment of the Manager builds, they becoming ruder and ruder with their “disobedient staff", resorting to tantrums of frustration. They have lost control of, and the respect of, their staff. They begin to dread any interaction with that person.

How I Contributed To The End

My Manager wasn’t the only one to blame in this situation. I should have been direct and clear about my expectations from the start, politely stating: “My name is Taryn. I’m not your favourite *insert role here*, and you don’t need to compliment me to get me to do my job. Here’s what I can do for you, and when.”

Establishing the situation clearly and directly in this manner would have left no room for uncertainty, and would have made clear that I have boundaries, and that I expect to be treated in a respectful and professional manner.

Some find such a directness difficult to digest as it can be viewed as rudeness or arrogance, however, directness saves a lot of time and confusion overall, and encourages directness and openness in return.

A direct person is direct because they know that this is the most effective form of communication, not because they feel like hurting your feelings or being an asshole.

Management is the most typical example of empty flattery, but it’s also rampant in retail stores and casual hospo outfits, such as cafes.

I’m not your “hun". We’re not best friends. I don’t know you. So don’t ply me with your cheap trickery.

If you want to be a Manager, here are some things worth keeping in mind:

  • You’re working with humans. They’re not stupid. They’re not inferior to you because they are below you on the corporate ladder. People want to be treated with dignity and respect. And they can tell, from how you speak to them, whether you respect them, or whether you are talking smack about them in your “management meetings”.
  • Referring to your staff, particularly when they are older than you, as “honey”, or other similar pet names intended as empty flattery, and talking down to them because you are “above them on the corporate ladder" is extremely disrespectful to someone who is perfectly intelligent, and your senior in age. It makes you look stupid and ignorant.
  • You can’t manage everything yourself, meaning that delegation to your staff is essential.
  • Work allocations are just that — work. It’s not personal, so don’t muddy the waters by making it personal.
  • Be clear and direct about what you need completed, and by when. But, this needs to be directly followed with regard for your staff. What are their thoughts about the timeframe? What’s going on with their workload and priority list? What timeframe do they think is reasonable? Do they have any suggestions about what’s working and not working? Is there anything that can be done differently? And, lastly, is it possible to reallocate the task to another staff member, if necessary?
  • Don’t ask your team to do something that you’re not willing to do yourself.
  • Consider your management style and behaviour: If roles were reversed, would you be ok with being treated the way that you treat your staff?

A Good Manager Thinks About

  • What they can achieve as a team.
  • How to empower each other to be their best selves so that they can be the most effective, efficient team.
  • How to use an individual's strengths to achieve greatness. But, also, when to allocate an individual to a task that draws on their weaknesses, to facilitate growth.
  • And, daily, where they can roll up their sleeves and get stuck in and help their team out — shoulder to shoulder. Solidarity. An ‘Us’ mindset instead of a ‘Me and Them’ mindset.

A Bad Manager Thinks About

  • What they can have their team achieve for them, how it will make them look in the eyes of their boss, and how it will impact future promotion opportunities.
  • What Specialist tasks they need to complete, that only they can complete because they are the chosen one. (Pro tip: They’ll probably be very verbal about this task to their team, making sure that everyone is clear about the pecking order.) They feel special. Superior.
  • What tasks they can delegate to their team because they’d rather not do themselves.
  • What tasks they can delegate to their team because they don’t know how to do them and aren’t willing to learn.

Why Flattery Is Offensive To An Intelligent Person

Flattery is offensive to an intelligent person because it’s unnecessary.

Because the person delivering the unnecessary flattery is trying to gain an advantage through cheap tactics, rather than treating the recipient with dignity and respect — as a human.

It’s a lazy attempt at management because you don’t know how to be a Manager.

It’s ensuring you make a sale, by pretending to be friends with your customer, despite the fact that you’re not even remotely familiar with them, and that they’re already in your store with the intention of purchasing something.

It’s unnecessary.

Until next time,

-T

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to follow me for more raw and insightful observations about people and life.

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Taryn Watson

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NZ based Freelance Writer and Content Creator. I help businesses to succeed through effective comms management. Publication Owner & Writer — www.writemeup.co.nz

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