Friday, February 7, 2014

Sycophancy:the Forerunner of Corruption in Any Society !

Some time ago I wrote a blog in my native language Malayalam wherein I tried to bring out the inherent dangers associated with a special characteristics of some working class humans in various kinds of organizations.

In my native state, Kerala, those familiar with our native language Malayalam, this special characteristic that some people use for achieving quick success in their lives, especially in their career, is identified by many terms. These terms more or less convey the meaning of the English language word, sycophancy. Maniyadi [മണിയടി], soppideel[സോപ്പിടീല്‍], kilukku[കിലുക്ക്], etc are those which I have often heard when people talk in private about the various phenomena that they keep witnessing in and around them involving sycophancy. 

The phenomena of sycophancy is not unique to any one country or region. It is universal throughout our earth. However, this phenomena is widespread in those nations where the corporate culture has established some firm grounds in the society. In other words, this is now deep rooted where the means of earning a living has shifted from the conventional self contained agrarian systems of self employment to the so called modern corporate employment culture.

Sycophancy is also known by other chaste English words such as obsequiousness, servility, subservience, etc. English speaking people also use words such as grovelling, servility, cringing, fawning, kowtowing, bootlicking, toadyism, slavishness and perhaps even other vulgar colloquial words . In common Indian English the practice of sycophancy is known in other words such as oiling, buttering, thelmalishing, etc., etc. 

Sycophancy is perpetuated by a class of people called sycophants who use flattery as their tool which they consider as too dependable and unfailing. But in reality their successes are short-lived and they often face pathetic tragedies in life at some later days. 

The people who resort to sycophancy are essentially people who are not honest to their inner consciousness and they are necessarily evil mongers of a particular kind, perhaps the worst kind who adopt a subtle method to subvert the good in the society. Even in a progressive society like the USA, this evil is spreading and making irreparable damages. I remember reading an article by an eminent stress management and personal transformation coach, Mr Rick Carter, recently wherein he has pinpointed correctly that the 'problem with corporate America and bureaucratic government is that promotions are based on sycophancy and not competency'. I fully agree with what Mr Carter has written in the portal named

In India too, sycophancy has become a slow killing corporate cancer. Both governmental and non-governmental organizations are affected by it. Public and private organizations are affected equally. Even religious organizations are no exceptions. So also is the case with political organizations. It is happening even in the smallest private organizational unit, the family.

Sycophants apparently make some success because of incompetent bosses who lack something of  the 4-C's essential for a good a leader.   When some of the subordinates of such bosses use flattery and other such methods to please the boss who lacks these essential leadership qualities, the boss develops a relative liking towards the sycophants which causes the sycophants to get undue advantages from the boss. This would in turn cause some of the sycophants to get preferential treatments in getting promotions within the organization and in another few years many of the incompetent sycophants bypass their competent colleagues and occupy higher positions of authority within the organization. By this the sycophants have got some personal benefits at the cost of the organization. The latter tends to become weaker and weaker as its leadership positions keep occupied by incompetent men and women who lacks the essential 4-Cs I mentioned above. In some years, the one time successful and dynamic organization becomes weak and sick.

Watch the business, governmental, political, private, public and religious organizations around you and try to study them closely concerning their origin, their growth and such other matters of their history. If the organization is sinking due to organizational incompetency, sycophancy had played a very important role!

What are the flattering techniques the sycophants use to trap their bosses? The following are some of the common techniques:

1. The sycophants openly support the views of the bosses always in public and in official meetings and they will never put forward their own views or ideas. For them the boss is right always in public. It is another thing that they might criticize or mock the boss in some of their private assemblies! I am not saying that subordinates should always oppose the boss. If the boss tells things right, it should be supported. But the boss is also a human being. There are chances and occasions when he or she could make mistakes or give wrong opinions leading to wrong decisions. When that happens, simply supporting the boss in order to avoid his momentary displeasure amounts to sycophancy.

2. The flatterers might use such words and acts to praise the boss and his acts always even when those things are not very praiseworthy. Listening to good words are always liked by most humans. Rather than hearing criticisms or opposing ideas, it is pleasing for humans to hear and see supportive or appreciative words and acts from others. When blind support and hollow appreciation come from the subordinates, the ordinary boss with lower leadership qualities would naturally fell in the trap. The incompetent boss would prefer such a subordinate than a subordinate who is competent and mature. Their combined acts and decisions harm the organization. 

3. Some bosses are keen to know about what is happening outside their offices. Some sycophants use this opportunity to meet the boss in private either in his home or in his office and fill the boss with misinformation about others. The incompetent and flattered boss fell in this trap and develops erroneous ideas about his organization and the people.

4. Some flatterers go further ahead in their acts. They try to please the boss with those material pleasures for which humans have a general weakness. Once the boss gets in this trap, the flatterer becomes bold enough to blackmail the boss and the boss would soon become a puppet in the hands of such clever subordinates.

It is not only the promotions that the sycophants seek. It could be any thing for which they are not normally eligible in the normal course. Perpetuating any kind of favor out of way is opportunism and a kind of corruption. Sycophant employees seek out-of-way recommendations for getting awards, getting out-of-way perquisites, getting challenging assignments for which they are not competent depriving those who could do it well, side tracking good people, sidelining competent and excellent employees who could do wonders for the organization, etc. This in turn brings out an overall demoralizing effect on the employees of the organization who are otherwise competent to undertake any tasks in the most appropriate manner. The organization weakens and fail in many instances.

The borderline between genuine pleasing behavior and flattery is not very distinguishable always. But it is not also very difficult to discern it if the bosses are a bit concerned and careful. Again, bosses who lack the 4-Cs would not feel the concern because they too are selfish and concerned about themselves rather than to the overall well being of the organization.

Sycophancy brings an atmosphere that is favorable for all kinds of corruption. Because, it is essentially an evil and perhaps a forerunner of the commonly known evil, corruption.

Just as the bribe giver and the bribe taker are equally guilty, the flatterer and the flattered are both guilty. They are guilty of bringing down an organization. They cause the organization to under-perform.

As corruption causes genuine people to be side tracked, sycophancy also results in the same. That way it too is corruption.

Societies and nations who collectively desire to be progressive should identify this menace and do well thought plans to eradicate this menace. Awareness programs and training programs in schools, colleges, training institutes of corporate organizations and government departments could be some solution.

Could this menace be handled effectively by our media and the management gurus?

Any solution to this problem ?   

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