Toxic Suck Up Boss: Straight Talk for Law Enforcement

The egregious suck-up represents a classic dichotomy in the workplace. Simply put, the toxic ass-kisser is loved by the boss, yet despised by everyone else. The likeability and accompanying success of a suck-up is a mystery to the average worker. Clearly, many toxic executives enjoy having the clever phony in their inner circle. Too many administrators ensure that they are associated exclusively with people who praise, agree with, and support their every thought and deed.

Emotional manipulation; if done well, helps the practitioner obtain perks and get promoted to influential positions. Many law enforcement executives feel a sense of comfort when they surround themselves with people who profess a belief system that is closely aligned with their own. Some bureaucrats seek unchallenged compliance because in their mind, it validates that all is well under their extraordinary guidance. Constant stroking of the bosses ego frequently nourishes a management blind spot that leads to a false sense of favorableness for the pretender.

15 Ways to Recognize the Toxic Suck-Up Boss  

Sweet, flattering talk to those in authority

Sickeningly agreeable with superior officers

Intently in tune with “what THEY want done”

“Which way is the wind blowing” decision-maker


Follows orders regardless of their veracity

Insincere both up and down the chain of command

Speaks differently to those who could offer benefits

Eager to do favors for the boss

Over relies on politics

Applauds anything and everything by management

Warped perception of the definition of a team player

Focus is on agency politics


Management edicts are gospel


How the Toxic Suck-Up Boss Is Impacting the Workplace

3-Bags Full Work Environment: The toxic suck-up spends most of their time repeatedly professing admiration for the manager and praising everything that the boss puts into play. Brownnosers incessantly read the tea leaves before making any commitment. “If the boss likes it, I like it” is the rallying cry of this type of puppet supervisor. If you look carefully, you can see the gears turning in their mind as they repeat some version of mirror, mirror, on the wall, my bosses are the greatest of them all.

The phony nature of the suck-up makes many law enforcement officers feel physically ill. Cops detect excrement for a living. Every time a boss feeds them another line of manure, trust is stripped away. Hiney smooching destroys tangible influence because direct reports do not respect a boss that is intellectually and emotionally dishonest. Mistrust, disrespect, and resentment are noxious byproducts of the flatterers unwholesome personal agenda.

Conformist Management: Sheep like supervision destroys authenticity and usurps genuine authority. Two-faced bosses tend to manage their group by what they feel upper management desires. Political expediency becomes standard operating procedure. Alignment with leadership is important, but, rigid alliance with the bosses every whim, or betting the farm that the manager is always right, are strategies that promotes mediocrity and disillusionment.

Numerous agency executives ensure that yes men and women occupy positions within their private clique. There are at least three significant reasons why weak managers like to surround themselves with yes men and women. First, supporters who appear to applaud, admire, and back every exploit, confirm the self-evaluation of egocentric bosses. Secondly, yes men and women do not ask hard questions. Thirdly, three bags full bosses profess that every aspect of everything is always going great. The executive is fed a steady diet of distortion that in due course manipulates their perceptions of the real world.

Preferentialism – The toxic suck-up is using psychological trickery to bamboozle those in the chain of command. Glorification and excessive flattery triggers an unconscious fondness toward the suck up that too often stimulates advantage. Continuous affirmation of the decisions and actions of the boss may fool higher-ranking officers into thinking that the suck-up is loyal, safe, and trustworthy. These erroneous perceptions can create commanders who are isolated, out of touch with reality, and likely even unaware of their own partisan bias.

Mental hocus-pocus fosters agency imbalance and blatant one-sidedness. When butt canoodling leads the practitioner to his or her goal, it is highly likely that the wrong person has been put in a powerful position for all the wrong reasons. The agency itself is contaminated when favoritism becomes systemic.

Where Do We Go From Here

One thing is certain, everyday employees understand that bootlicking co-workers care little about their peers. The brownnosers’ focus is solely on what is good for them and their career. Constant insincere behavior, while obvious to most, is a blatant attempt to gain favor with those who hold power. What matters most to the toxic suck-up is that they obtain the influence and rewards that go with cozying up to the person(s) in charge.

Impending disaster waits right around the corner for leaders who surround themselves with people that deliver only good news and conceal unappealing information. Insincerity by those in positions of power models bad behavior and makes it appear to followers that deception, hypocrisy, and politics are the cornerstones of success in the organization. It is the solemn duty of each of us to ensure that honesty and realism reign supreme in our workplace. No law enforcement officer should be harmed by the artificiality of the toxic suck-up boss.


Captain Steve Neal (Ret.) served as a law enforcement officer in Virginia for 29 years. During his tenure he was fortunate to experience a wide range of assignments which included Uniform Operations, Criminal Investigations, Covert Operations, Director of the Emergency Communications Center, Director of Training, Support Services Commander, and Inspector for the Office of Professional Standards. Co-founder and partner of the Leatherman & Neal public safety consulting team, Steve enjoys providing leadership training for peace officers. In addition to his consultancy, he currently works as a media contributor; furnishing analysis, consultation, and crime commentary for television broadcasters. Steve Neal is the author of a great new book Toxic Boss Blues.  


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1 Comment

  1. Bryce Mibeck

    You forgot another reason. The manager who is wrong doesn’t hear about it until it is too late. As George Patton once said, “If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking”.

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