How to Identify and Deal with a Sycophant at Work

Posted in Job Market

Like it? Share it!

How to Identify and Deal with a Sycophant at Work

A sycophant is someone who flatters a higher authority in a rather insincere and fake manner and uses them to get his own work done. This Workspirited article will tell you how to identify and deal with a sycophant at work.

Quick Info
The word ‘sycophant’ apparently has its roots in Ancient Greece, the meaning of the word, back then, could be loosely construed as something like an informer. As of today, in English, a sycophant is a person who uses excess flattery for personal gains.

They are the so-called brown-nosers, who will try every possible way to get their job done without any concern or courtesy as to who is affected in the process or without bothering about the consequences of their actions. There are many kinds of employees that you may come across at the workplace, and sycophants are one of them. They will insincerely flatter a person of higher authority, nag them to no end, bully juniors, and do whatever they can, for personal gain.

This attitude can be venomous and can pollute the work environment. You need to deal with sycophants in a diplomatic way, whether they are your juniors or your co-workers. The paragraphs below enlist the characteristics of a sycophant so that you can identify one if you come across him/her at the workplace, and also provides some tips on how to deal with brown-nosers at work.

Characteristics of a Sycophant

Excessively Sweet

  • This is one of the classic traits of a sycophant. He talks very sweetly, to the point of spreading diabetes (literally).
  • Of course, they are least interested in knowing or caring about you. All they want is authority since they don’t have any.
  • They probably presume that by displaying this attitude, you are left with a feeling of obligation.
  • This extra sweet behavior gives them an edge that they are better than everyone else, and that their demands must be fulfilled first.

Unnecessarily Talkative

  • We all love to talk, of course, and it is rather important to be communicate and let your voice be heard at the workplace so that you are not considered a wallflower.
  • But this kind of talking comprises sensible, intellectual stuff. If you’ve come across as a person who unnecessarily blabbers just to grab attention, it is a sure indication of a sycophant.
  • They may be loud enough for the entire department to hear them. The objective of all this is to make their presence felt, to indicate that they are one of the outgoing, cool personalities who deserves attention.
  • Perhaps this never occurs to them that they might as well concentrate on their work to gain brownie points. All they do is talk―no, blabber. Incessantly.

Spreads Rumors

  • Another classic trait of these butt-kissers is gossip. Oh .. they so love to gossip and spread rumors.
  • You would immediately identify a sycophant if you find out that unnecessary rumors have been spreading at work.
  • They are possessed with the dirty habit of digging out the most personal information, twisting facts, and spreading them across like wildfire.
  • There is no limit to how low they will sink, these people will do anything to work their way to their benefit.

The Loyalty Factor

  • Oh no, they are not loyal. Not in the least.
  • But yes, they will put on a loyal face when they want their job to be done. If you are useful to them in any way, you’ll find them shielding you at every point, jumping in for you, protecting you.
  • Once their job is done, it’s goodbye. Worse still, if they find out that you are not useful to them, they will dump you like a hot potato.
  • If you are their boss/employer, be sure that they will continue licking your boots until you are in-charge. If not, it’s an arrivederci.

The Abusive Tone

  • If you encounter someone who is irritatingly abusive, you have a goddamn maniac sycophant in your hands.
  • This especially occurs in the mid-level management department of the corporate scenario, where managers actually have near-to-zero capabilities to run the organization.
  • Yet, they will try to control the department, abuse juniors, and create a poisonous environment to establish their authority.
  • Their pompous attitude towards subordinates and buttering up the seniors is nerve-wracking.

Wreaking Damage

  • These ass-kissers are known for sabotaging their colleagues.
  • That is to say, they will create circumstances wherein the office cannot function without them, and thus, they establish their position of control.
  • They may not convey important messages, destroy important papers/documents, or do whatever it takes to wreak havoc on their colleagues to get themselves in a better position.

How to Deal with Sycophants?

Evoke Reactions

  • Whether you are a co-worker or an employer, try to create situations that evoke reactions in them.
  • Let’s say, for instance, at an office meeting, suggest some lame ideas and check for their reaction.
  • A sincere/timid employee may agree to what you say, for fear of rejecting the boss/co-worker’s opinion.
  • A self-assured employee will put forth his honest views.
  • As for the sycophant, he will agree with whatever you say. What’s more, he will appreciate you to no end.
  • When you begin to identify this, speak up. Specify that you need honest opinions, not flattery.
  • Make it clear that you despise the ‘Yes Sir’ attitude.

Stay Alert

  • Tread very cautiously with the employees whom you suspect to be sycophants.
  • Don’t fall victim to their gossip or flattery. These douchebags will do anything to take advantage of you.
  • Be very careful while talking to them. If they annoy you, do not flare up, because it is not going to solve anything.
  • Keep calm, take deep breaths, and quietly go about your work.

Periodic Assessment

  • Conduct periodic assessment and review tests to examine your employees.
  • Your employees reactions and answers will give you a good idea as to what the sycophant among them is up to.
  • Next, give him certain projects or tasks that require him to genuinely use his skills without any flattery or help from others.
  • Eventually, he will begin to understand that his agenda is not going to work.

Establish Rules

  • As an employer, you have an edge over your employees.
  • Lay down firm ground rules regarding employee behavior, appearance, speech, communication, etc.
  • Mention that flattering seniors or exhibiting any kind of selfish attitude will be dealt with sternly and might lead to loss of reputation.

Be Straightforward

  • Sometimes, it is necessary to be upfront. If you find someone buttering up to you for their benefit, be forthright and direct.
  • Communicate clearly that you will not tolerate this kind of behavior.


  • Suppose that you have joined as a new manager and you have no idea if the employee is obsequious, investigate.
  • Sometimes, it may so happen that the employee is not a sycophant, but is merely trying to impress you to feel better about himself.
  • Speak to your seniors and your peers and ascertain if the employee is a sycophant.
  • If he irritates you excessively or flatters you in a honeyed voice, complain to your seniors or deal with the employee in a diplomatic manner.

While trying to avoid sycophants, it is important that you don’t get embroiled in the situation such that you do not begin to think the same way. Such an attitude is cheap and disgusting, not just for you, but also the organization. Keep calm and plan a strategy to get such people realize that their attitude is intolerable.

Get Updates Right to Your Inbox

Sign up to receive the latest and greatest articles from our site automatically each week (give or take)...right to your inbox.
Blog Updates