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7 Examples of Sycophancy

Sycophancy is insincere behavior designed to win favor with someone who has social status or authority. The following are illustrative examples.

Teacher's Pet

Teacher's pet is old slang for a student who goes out of their way to meet a teacher's expectations. For example, sitting in the front row and answering every question.


Mediocrity is a pathetic state whereby an individual clings to the safety of a group but adds no value to that group. For example, a university professor who always gives students high marks and positive comments for fear of complaints or poor ratings.


Flattery is insincere praise. For example, an individual who often posts pictures of their lunch on social media who aggressively posts positive comments on other people's posts in the hopes of receiving reciprocal positive comments. This can create the odd situation where everyone posts photos of their lunch and receives enthusiastic comments based on mutual sycophancy.

Yes Man

A traditional term for an employee who always agrees with their boss or superior. For example, a copilot who doesn't question a pilot even if they do something unintentionally dangerous.

Kiss Up, Kick Down

A common pattern in organizations whereby individuals act in a sycophantic way towards superiors and an antagonistic way towards anyone below them in a hierarchy. For example, a low level employee who is constantly kind to everyone in the office but is really mean to the delivery guy who brings lunch to meetings.

Narcissistic Supply

Individuals commonly find sycophancy annoying and are likely to shut it down by not rewarding the sycophant. The exception are narcissists who are likely to surround themselves with sycophants and reward their behavior because they help to maintain the narcissist's inflated self-image. This relationship between narcissists and sycophants is known as narcissistic supply.

Virtue Signalling

Virtue signalling is the process of aggressively promoting your admirable qualities without any real commitment to improving the world. This can involve criticising the faults and failings of others to show off your moral superiority. This often resembles narcissistic supply whereby a virtue signalling individual has a following of sycophants who congratulate them on every self-promotion they post.
Overview: Sycophancy
Insincere behavior designed to win favor.
Related Concepts


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Cruel To Be Kind
Cruel Wit
Human Nature
Inferiority Complex
Passive Aggressive
Polite Fiction
Risk Taking
Saving Face
Social Behavior
Social Comparison
Social Loafing
Social Pressure
Social Strengths
Social Thinking
Sour Grapes
Tetris Effect
Tit For Tat
Trust Issues
Victim Mentality
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