Now the bad way may work with your boss but the words brown nosier and suck up come to mind. I think of it as being the bad way because it is obvious to most people what you are doing. It can be seen a being demeaning to yourself and your boss. Often it comes across as being phoney, leaves a bad taste in people mouths and causes people not to trust or respect you. It can actually be more harmful in the long run. I am talking about people who are the yes man, always bringing coffee in for the boss, always complementing them on their appearance, showing interest in their family and home life. Always finding what their bosses opinion is on something before forming their own, which is just the bosses. Always willing to go that extra mile for the boss, but only in front of the boss. Some people even start dressing like their boss, join the same groups out side of work, or start doing the same hobbies as their boss. Yes doing this would give you some common ground and things to talk about but come on don’t we all know people can see right through this tactic?
There is a good way to butter up your boss and the good news is it also works on people who are not your boss. There are ways to make your boss feel positive about them selves and you at the same time. Ask for advice, or for their opinion showing that you value what they have to say, even on things not work related. Do not do it all the time otherwise it looks like you cannot do your job or make decisions on your own. Or it becomes obvious what you are doing. Listen, pay attention to them at meetings, and show that you understand what they are saying. Show them support when it is appropriate, when you actually agree with them, not just because they are your boss. Show them respect. If you see potential problems be discrete and let them know about it so they can resolve it. This makes them look good and most bosses will remember that you helped them look good. Being nice and helpful works very well but you have to be careful because it can be a fine line between being helpful and being a suck up. There is a big difference between giving your boss a Christmas card and making a point of wishing them happy birthday then buying them a $100.00 gift.
What works to butter up your boss is going to depend on your boss and your work environment. No one likes a suck up, but that does not mean you cannot be complimentary and respectful to your boss and others around you. A sincere complement or observation can go a long way, and is much better then one said just to butter up the boss.