Compliments of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr

Compliments of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr

On a recent episode of “Shark Tank” the phrase “he’s not slick” was uttered about a presenter. Exactly what does it mean to be slick, and how does it connote a pejorative?

According to, “slick” refers to deftly executed and having surface appeal on inspection, but shallow or glib in content; polished but superficial.” Like an oil spill that glints color depending on reflected angle, slick implies a smooth surface presentation, a level of duplicity that curries appeal to the respective target – seemingly amiable on the surface (but only as part of a hidden agenda).

The smooth operator shows his “yes face” to each person in turn in a disingenuous fashion, creating a thin layer of collusion between him or herself and unsuspecting parties. The slick are high self-monitors – behavioral chameleons who have the ability to make every person they connect with feel good. The goal is to have the majority of public opinion in their favor so they can advance their agendas. These individuals engage in the car salesperson technique of “mirroring,” in which signature phrases are repeated, subsequent body language is copied to create a subconscious sense of rapport.

In the scheme of things, they are behind the scenes self-promoters who shamelessly want the spotlight for themselves. Dis-ordinate pleasing is a tip-off that you’re in fact dealing with a smooth maneuver-er. The slick prey upon the fact that many people are gullible enough to believe what they want to hear, thus approving of their initial attempts, tacitly giving a green light to larger spans of control. This person did in fact make them feel good in the first place, so why not give them a free pass? To do otherwise would exact dissonance. This is how the slick surreptitiously gain access to opportunities, to resources, and to organizational positions.

Coworkers don’t see the hidden message because they are so pleased with the immediate result. The slick are most often the “yes boys” and “yes girls” within a company, appearing agreeable in an attempt to make themselves indispensable, in a pinch knowing the right thing to say based on how the corporate wind is blowing. They make it a habit to spout the company line. Tell-tale signs include several of the following:

  • Polished presentation both in appearance and in speech, combined with
  • Seeming inability to appear flustered
  • Hovercraft appearance around organizational power players
  • Ubiquitous presence at all high visibility events
  • A tendency to go along with the majority regardless of personal opinion
  • Disloyalty to those who helped them once they get what they want
  • “Kissing up” to the boss and resultant “pet” status
  • Lack of substance which is heavily varnished by a “team player” response

People who tell you what you want to hear drop superficial niceties when they are no longer necessary, strategically focusing their efforts where they will garner the most bang for their buck – creating disposable individuals who have been flattened and forgotten in the process. Remember that if something looks too good to be true, then it typically is.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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