How To Schmooze Effectively

I'm sure we've all encountered schmoozing in the workplace, with potent brown-nosers seeming to flatter their way to the top. Back in 2010 a study from Kellogg Business School examined the various types of schmooze.

It identified seven core methods used to schmooze our 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.").

For those of us who aren't keen on sucking up the whole affair can appear massively fake and disingenuous, but a recent study in the Academy of Management Journal suggests that schmoozers may actually kid themselves in order to go about their work.

Authenticity is key

The study suggests that the best schoomzers aren't actually faking it at all, because they put an awful lot of effort into actually believing the things they're about to say, hence they come across more convincingly.

The researchers tracked directors in a number of large American companies. Each of the participants had a meeting scheduled with another director who had something they needed. What's more, each of the meetings took place before an impending board nomination process so there was also the prospect of a promotion to the board.

On the basis that acting is kinda hard (and easier to spot), the researchers hypothesized that people would try to make things as natural as possible.

One way of doing this, for instance, might be for participants to emphasize just how much in common them and their 'target' have. The belief here is that when we see things in common, we're more likely to ascribe their successes to internal rather than external factors.

Schmoozing in practice

To test their hypothesis, the researchers surveyed directors several times prior to the crucial meeting. They were looking for things such as the perceived similarities and differences between the two people. They also quizzed the directors on their ingratiation tactics in the meeting itself, whether that was explicit behaviors such as paying compliments, or implicit such as laughing and smiling.

The analysis revealed that when people employed the tactic of looking for similarities between themselves and their fellow director, their ingratiation efforts paid off as the number of board invites increased.

What's more, this tactic of looking for similarities was most commonly deployed when their counterpart was most unlike them. In other words, when using such a tactic was most likely to yield a positive outcome.

The benefits of doing this were quite evident, with those fully deploying the strategy found to be three times as likely to be recommended for a board position than their peers.

Was it conscious or unconscious?

Whilst the tactic was undoubtedly effective, the researchers were less sure on whether people deliberately engaged in the tactic or it was more of an subconscious behavior.

Regardless of the intent of the expert schmoozers, the results are strong enough to highlight the value inherent in shifting our perspectives on those we are trying to impress. It may well be something to consider in your own workplace.

Originally posted at The Horizon Tracker.