Toeing Boss’ Line Won’t Guarantee Success

In today’s times, when many organizations boast of having a flat organizational structure (where almost all employees are on the same level, with few to no middle management) as opposed to the hierarchy system , most of us are still reporting to someone at the end of the day. In general, our managers, bosses, leaders or reporting officers seem to know what they’re doing. But sometimes it may so happen that they end up making bad decisions. Managers are humans too and sometimes they might resort to a less than practical corporate strategy or fail to notice an impending disaster. In such a situation, what must the subordinates do when they recognize the potential risks involved? In a bid to enhance their professional development, certain employees choose to stick with their boss’ decisions, even encouraging him/her with words of flattery. It may seem obvious to them that challenging the boss is a bad idea, but is it really?

Toeing the boss’ line approach might even work for some but it will certainly reach the limit sooner or later. After all, you conform to the boss’ standards without challenging them and your manager gets validation that acts as an ego balm, and you get into your manager’s good books. So what could go wrong? A lot of things!

When dedicated employees who normally provide invaluable counsel and perspective to their manager are reluctant to go against him or her, it poses a huge risk to their own performance. Research suggests employees who keep brown-nosing or flattering their manager with insincere praise and conforming to the opinions of the boss, often get resentful of them pretty soon after. All the ingratiating can have serious depleting effects on the employees causing them to lose self control and eventually it shows up on their personal performance in the company.

You might also be interested to read: Managing A Naysayer Without Ruining The Harmony Of The Team

Moreover, co-workers start to notice your actions and start avoiding you figuring that you aren’t a reliable employee. This is another side effect of being too obsequious of your seniors. Flattery will get you nowhere when it comes to working in a team.

Qualities of a good employee include being honest in one’s right. When an employee keeps on encouraging his or her manager’s corporate strategy even when it is failing to yield positive results, it can be very dangerous to everyone and the manager’s professional development. The boss may continue with his or her plans that the employees showed confidence in, hoping to see the successful outcome that may never arrive. On the flip side, their higher authorities might perceive the manager to be less equipped at handling the project and providing results, and hence might decide to replace him.

Fortunately, managers these days realize that employees who provide them with counsel and praise might be reluctant of challenging the boss and this could prove to be risky for them too. As a precautionary measure, leaders need to be paying special attention to their subordinates to avoid opinion conformity coming in the way of reaching the team’s goals. Below are some important measures that managers can take to avoid the risk posed by employees toeing the boss’ line.

  • In every team meeting, invite your subordinates to challenge your opinion and suggest a better corporate strategy. Notice who end up giving their honest opinions and reward them duly. Also take their suggestions if you do believe it will work towards meeting your team’s goals. The least it will do is motivate other employees to be honest and work harder.
  • Refrain from justifying the team’s poor performance. It’s true that a good boss sticks up for his or her team members and believes in them, but don’t let it go too far. When the team is about to miss a deadline or when a big goof-up has been identified, there might be several employees playing the blame game. As a manager, only believe the data and make your team members own up for the faux pas.
  • Finally, it’s also a good idea to seek counsel from other managers outside your team and try to figure out the root cause of any matter. Steer clear of employees who gratify you solely for self-promotion. Remember falling prey to flattery will get you nowhere near guaranteed success.


  • “Flattery will get you fired.” Michael Boyette, 23rd January 2019
  • “Are you flattering your boss? It could have a bad side effect at your workplace, finds study.” India Today, 26th July 2018

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