Well folks, you know that the vocabulary of workplace bullying and incivility has gone mainstream when certain commonly associated phrases are the subject of Wikipedia articles. In this case, the other night I took note of the fact that one of my favorites, “kiss up, kick down,” has crossed into Wiki-land:
Kiss up kick down (or kiss up, kick down) is a neologism used to describe the situation where middle level employees in an organization are polite and flattering to superiors but abusive to subordinates. It is believed to have originated in the US, with the first documented use having occurred in 1993.
Kiss up, kick down is discussed specifically in the context of workplace bullying:
The workplace bully is often expert at knowing how to work the system. They can spout all the current management buzzwords about supportive management but basically use it as a cover. By keeping their abusive behavior hidden, any charges made by individuals about his or her bullying will always come down to your word against the bully’s. They may have a kiss up kick down personality, wherein they are always highly cooperative, respectful, and caring when talking to upper management but the opposite when it comes to their relationship with those whom they supervise. Bullies tend to ingratiate themselves to their bosses while intimidating subordinates. The bully may be socially popular with others in management, including those who will determine the bully’s fate. Often, a workplace bully will have mastered kiss up kick down tactics that hide their abusive side from superiors who review their performance.
Wikipedia, as you probably know, is a public, anonymously written and edited encyclopedia, so I don’t know who contributed to this entry. But I’d say the authors did a fine job of describing the dynamic.
I omitted citations in quoting from the Wikipedia entry. However, I was flattered to see one of my articles, David C. Yamada, “Workplace Bullying and Ethical Leadership,” Journal of Values-Based Leadership (2008), cited as one of the sources.