Social skills matter more than ever, so here’s how to get them

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It’s hard to underestimate the impact of good social skills on your career. In fact, across the board, in a wide variety of businesses, people would rather work with someone who is likeable and incompetent than with someone who is skilled and obnoxious, said Tiziana Casciaro, professor at Harvard Business School, whom I spoke to on the phone. “How we value competence changes depending on whether we like someone or not.” And people who lack social competence end up looking like they lack other competencies, too.

When it comes to holding down a job, social skills matter today more than ever. For people who want to break into a popular field like entertainment, for example, the only way to differentiate yourself at the bottom is to be likeable.

Many fields that used to be havens for loners, like programming, increasingly require exceptional people skills. “The jobs that are staying in the United States are those that require regular touch, face-to-face contact with clients or a manager,” says Erran Carmel, chair of the Information Technology department at American University. The people landing those jobs have great social skills because of the difficulty of “managing teams that are distributed across cultures.”

And as the need for social skills at work grows, the bar for good social skills gets higher. Until the 1970s, a smart child uninterested in playground politics was considered eccentric but okay. Since the 1980s, educators see the playground as essential training for the future, and kids who can’t navigate are often sent to experts for extra help with social skills.

“Today a variety of therapeutic approaches can teach a child social skills while their brain is still forming,” says Amy Berkman, a therapist working with New York schools. “Therapies we’re using now, like cranial sacral and sensory integration did not enter the mainstream until twenty years ago.” The result is that each year, those entering the workforce come in with a better likeability factor than the year before.

Most of us have to work at being likeable. Fortunately, Casciaro’s research shows that the biggest impediment to likeability is not caring. So if you “just decide you want to do better,” you probably will.

Take responsibility for yourself,” says executive coach Susan Hodgkinson. “Everyone needs to know that they are responsible for creating healthy, productive relationships at work.” No one is going to make you likeable. “The people who are likeable actually care about other people and care about the connections they make.”

Being good at talking to people requires that you figure out what interests them. Casciaro recommends a tactical approach: “Find the hook that makes your similarities more visible. For example I might meet a man in his 60s and I’m a woman in my 30s but we both like basketball.”

Also, figure out how to help someone else get what they need. “Recognize what you’re trying to get done and who you are trying to get it done with. Then think beyond your own stuff to what the other people want,” advises Hodgkinson. Think of this as project management synergy, or resume empathy; you need to help others reach their goals. This will make you more likeable and then more likely to reach your own.

And, don’t discount flattery. “Usually the reason we like someone is because we think they like us,” says Casciaro. It’s the rule of prom-dates: He was ugly until he asked you to prom, and now he doesn’t look so bad. Since there is no prom at the office, to make someone feel liked, Casciaro suggests, “smiling and listening to make someone feel liked.” “But it’s not a personality popularity contest,” Hodgkinson says, “you need to stay true to yourself while still expending empathy in order to connect.”

It’s hard to do, but Casciaro says that people are much more likely to notice an increase in your likeability factor than an increase in your skills. So next time you consider areas for self-improvement, choose interpersonal coaching over office skills and you’ll likely get more bang for your buck.

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  1. Benjamin Strong
    Benjamin Strong says:

    Isn’t it disturbing that people need coaching in this? I just make sure I say hello to our security guard at the door each morning and I say thank you to Ramone (I even asked his name) when he empties the trash in my office each day. It’s the simple things that our parents taught us like “Say please and thank you” that seem to make the difference.

    Maybe I should become a interpersonal relations coach!

    • jon
      jon says:

      isnt it disturbing that u could think like that, and post a comment like this! Im glad to see u that u have nailed the character trait of being a pampas jerk down, way to go!!!! u obviously never had any kind of social disorder, for those of us that aren’t perfect like yourself, social skill can be a very difficult task to conquer. And can be a very frustrating experience. And very upsetting to the person that is affected by these disorders. Oh and im glad u asked him for his name, that will get u a nice little golden halo in heaven some day. and before u become a interpersonal relations person try to get over yourself and maybe deflate your head a little.

      • Olivia
        Olivia says:

        When I started reading your post, I seriously thought that you were joking. It takes a hell of a lot more than just being couteous and polite to people to get along with other people. As a general rule of thumb I am always polite to other people, however I find some people incredibly difficult to get along with

      • Michael
        Michael says:

        I will say this much, while the gentleman may have come off as arrogant to you, you do yourself no favours by going off on a tantrum with awful spelling and grammatical errors. Yes, it can annoying when people develop a holier-than-thou appearance, on that I can agree. I’m not sure that was the OP’s intention, but we’ll leave it at that.

        As for the rule about being polite and saying please and thank-you, I do know that it makes a huge difference. I’ve worked in retail for ages and am currently the door man for a building on a really prestigious college campus where everyone is richer and better educated than I am. The ones who stand out in my mind and are thus more likeable are the ones who say hello and thank me at the end of the night. Then there are the guys who even ask me how I am and listen for five minutes, and for this batch I have gone the extra mile for when they’ve needed a special favour. The ones who try to use their wealth and prestige to bully me or perhaps through a temper tantrum are the very ones I only do the bare minimum for as is required by my job.

        This is a common experience: if you take the time to show the smallest amount of courtesy and politeness it does wonders for when you need help down the road. It not only makes you more memorable but sets you apart as someone who is worth helping out. Perhaps it’s unfair, a tad too human, but that’s the way I’ve seen it work on both sides of the table.

      • Olivia
        Olivia says:

        I would really like to see how many different work environments in different countries you have worked in. So far I have worked in 3 countries, lived in 5 countries, and I have worked in over 10 different jobs ranging from teaching to catering to engineering assistant.
        Each time I find that social skills are one of the major skills to have up my sleeve. Even though I am a great teacher, if I have poor social skills I am useless to my class and parents who speak limited English.
        All I can say is work hard at building up social skills because in the end its a whole lot more than just saying please and thank you.

    • Maya
      Maya says:

      I totally agree with the other person who responded to this. Benjamin, perhaps your social skills aren’t as great as you think. You have managed to upset total strangers with a comment.

    • Jane Donaldson
      Jane Donaldson says:

      Whoa go Benjamin =D, i’m glad you made the response to that first comment, man that person was so egotistical and arrogant it was just pathetic.

    • Blair
      Blair says:

      Thank you so much for saying this, I can’t believe how rude people can be, people like this are the reason some of us are the way we are

  2. Diana
    Diana says:

    “people would rather work with someone who is likeable and incompetent than with someone who is skilled and obnoxious”

    This is a sore topic for me. :(

    I am naturally a pretty shy person, and many people that I’ve worked with or attended school with have mistaken shy for surly. It’s only after people get to know me better that I open up and become more friendly/chatty/outgoing. I’ve tried to improve this over the years, but it’s hard for me to act like that around people that I don’t know well.

    The problem came to a head a couple years ago when I was promoted to a supervisor in my dept. The oil quickly seperated from the water and I found out that a lot of people there really disliked me, for reasons I could not pinpoint (beyond they had a bad impression of me because I’m not a gregarious person; I’d never done anything to purposely be “mean” or “unfair” to anyone!). It made it very difficult for me to do my job supervising these people because they had zero respect for me as a superviser, and less as a person. I tried very hard to do my job well and impress my boss, but other supervisors who were doing a worse job than me were better liked and respected by the other employees, and were able to accomplish tasks more easily. It was very frustrating, because I hadn’t taken the job to make friends, but I certainly hadn’t taken it to make enemies! I had to leave ASAP.

    Now, I’m fearful to attempt a manager-style position again because I’m worried that the same thing will happen again.

    Penelope, you mentioned in an earlier post about how you think you’re the kind of boss that everyone likes working for. How did you simultaneously cultivate likability and respect? How can you make your boss happy while making your subordinates happy, too? Obviously, your boss should take the cake, but if you lose your likability/respect with your subordinates, it will be more difficult to make your boss happy.

    • patty
      patty says:

      I found your post very interesting. I do believe that to work with likeable people with incompentencies can create a safe and peaceful inviornment. My personal experience as a manager in my earlier carrear help me to appreciate being liked in your job verses being incompetent.

    • Josh
      Josh says:

      @Penelope: I hope by now you have realized that just because someone is shy does not mean they are not genuinely interested in others and just because they are extroverted does not mean they are. I know plenty of extroverts who care deeply about others and many others that only care that people pay attention to them or care about what they can get from others. As for introverts, shy is very different from disinterested. Shy by its very nature suggest a wanting to connect but a fear of it. This is very different from disinterested individuals who don't interact with others because they don't want or care to be bothered by others.

      @sL: The above comment is directed at you as well. Being introverted does not equate to being self-centered. Yes, being disinterested may but that extrovert looking only for what (s)he can get from others is obviously an extremely self-centered person. If shy is considered to be self-centered it can only be considered that because self-preservation and self-protection is a form of self-centeredness but everyone has this sense of self-preservation otherwise you probably would be dead by now. And lets not forget that writing a blog and thinking you have something others would actually read it is a self-centered action – I hold that against no one, just pointing that out. The point is that humans are normally social creatures this is how we survive. Somewhere down the line a shy person has been punished enough for engaging in social activities that they now avoid the social interaction that we all seek – this is self-preservation not self-centeredness.
      SL, if what you say about your daughter is true then I would guess that you did one if not both of the following. You either created a system where the punishment for not interacting with others out weighted any consequence of interacting with others and/or you taught your daughter ways to positively interact with others and her natural need to connect did the rest. For both your and your daughter's sake I hope you did less of the former and accomplished more of the latter.

      @Diana, I realize that this message is coming nearly 5 years too late. I wish I had seen this post much sooner and I do hope you have discovered the answers to your question long before now. If so great, maybe my response will help someone else. If not may this answer help you if you ever stumble across this page again.
      I do not know what your office politics were at the time nor do I know how much power you were given as a manager but this is my best guess and best advice for you. First off, I would guess that a lot of people in your department were looking to be promoted to manager so when you were promoted they felt like they got slighted. This feeling was going to come over anyone who wanted and believed they deserved the job and didn't get it. The more the person believed that they deserved the job over the person that got it (you) the more slighted they are going to feel – regardless of if their thoughts were well founded or not. If you were friends with these people before hand they may have been more excepting of it because they valued your friendship or saw the friendship to their new boss to be an advantage (not always good for you). Seeing as how they probably didn't give you much respect before hand you must now, as manager, assert yourself and get it.
      To do this you must SHOW CONFIDENCE. People are stupid and more often than not respond to the presentation over the content (yeah, I wish it wasn't true either). Somewhere in our subconscious we assume that confident people must be successful people and therefore "competent" and we want to be attached to that.
      Here's my suggestions: First talk to your boss and find out what consequences and incentives are and aren't in your immediate authority – the things you can do without getting permission from above. Also talk to your boss about incentives and consequences that you can accomplish with his/her help. While your there you should also find out what things your boss wants you to do and how often (s)he wants to be updated on what is going on in your area. If you are going to be an effective leader you must work as a team with your boss. If the boss reverses your decisions or corrects you in front of your employees this will undermine your authority. A good boss should know this but if not use this meeting and others to establish a trusting relationship with your boss so that undermining is less likely to happen.
      Knowing your directives and that your boss is backing you up should give you some confidence in your authority as a leader. Knowing that your boss chose you for a reason should give you confidence that you have the knowledge needed to lead your department. Now you need to look and act confident – even if you're still not completely there yet. This is all about image and perception. A confident/competent person is well groomed, dresses sharply, has erect posture and speaks decisively. When you are truly confident this will come naturally if not fake the confidence in front of your staff until it actually comes. Practice posture, dress and speaking decisively alone in front of a mirror if you have to. True confidence will come with your successes.
      Now, as an authority-figure you must make sure to be fair and equal in your treatment of employees. You should acknowledge your employees' efforts on a daily basis if they are acting in a way you approve of. This can be a simple complement on their work. Remember people need to know they matter. Don't over do it though, your not trying to gain their approval you're the boss and it is their job to try to gain your approval. As for negative incentives you need to confront anyone doing something wrong every time you see it and try to see it as often as possible. At the least you need to let them know what they are doing wrong and why. If they are deliberately doing something wrong or doing something that by this time they should know better then you must issue a consequence every time – no exceptions. The consequences should fit the wrongdoing and be fair across the board to everyone. If you start to let some actions or people slide you are letting them know that they can break a standard and thus you are undermining your own authority. You gain respect as an authority-figure by being firm, fair and consistent in your actions. Your staff may fight you on this at first but if you stick to it they'll eventually give in. Once they do then you can start to warm up to them and be more forthcoming with affirmations. As for rewards they can be given out individually or as a team – the later may help you build team unity – but only if they are actually doing a good job and they have earned it (remember a "good job" is always relative). Just remember to always keep a lookout for bad behavior that may start to pop up in the good times and be ready to correct it. By doing this you should be able to be friendly and respectful of your employees but still keep their respect for you. You must also realize that you are now in a position of authority so there is always going to be some separation between them and you at least in the work place. If you forget this and became best buds you may loose that distinction and therefore lose the ability to act as an authority-figure.
      Now, if you are being firm, fair and respectful and the staff still does not come around after a long time something is probably happening out of your sight. This is a bigger issue that requires you to be more vigilant to catch whatever is happening out of your sight and it may require you to go talk to your supervisor to come up with plan to tame this.
      I learned these lessons when I was forced to be in charge of a team leading teens in the Juvenile Justice System through a year round wilderness therapy course. In brief these are some of the lessons I learned there and they have since help me in many other positions including work in Law enforcement, Fire/EMS, international guiding and yes even the dreaded corporate sales and customer service jobs. Diana, Penelope is right there are jobs that don't require management but the ones that pay a decent wage are hard to find. If you have found one I wish you well. If not just remember studies show that of all the 1st world democratic countries the USA is most lacking in firm, fair and approachable leadership especially in the work place. I maybe reflecting too much of myself on to you but if I read you right you seem like you genuinely care for others and if that is true we as a people would do well to have you in a management position wherever that may be. Best of luck wherever you find yourself.

      P.S. If you are going to be a leader you will have bad times. During those times it really helps to have friends and family outside of work as a support system if you don't have those I suggest you work to get them. They will be needed and they are a tremendous advantage to those that have them over those that don't. Despite what people like to say nobody ever makes it on their own.

    • Jackie
      Jackie says:

      I had a similar experience to yours…when I had a role that was outside the main management hierarchy, it was fine, people seemed ok with me(to me!). Then I took over managing the project and the staff and it was awful…I struggled to see the whole picture all the time, and I discovered how many people were polite to me but didn’t respect or like me. Chastening.

    • Robin
      Robin says:

      Diana, what happened to you was not your fault. You can’t control how other people are going to respond to you personally. And you really can’t make people like you, it either comes off as manipulative or desperate; you either like people or not, they like you or not. And if the “playground” truely determined future success, than I shouldn’t be pulling over 70k while all the former playground
      queens burn out in dead end jobs.
      The school play ground does NOT determine future success. Proof? Try Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or everyone’s favorite misanthrope, Gregory House.

  3. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Diana, thank you for sharing your story. Your post is a good lesson for everyone about how important it is to be likeable if you are going to manage other people.

    Great managers connect in an authentic way with each person they manage and with their boss. In this way, a manager can help each person get what they need. It is very hard to make that connection if you are shy.

    Shy people should ask themselves if they are genuinely interested in other people on many different levels. Some people are not that interested, and that’s okay. But in order to connect with peole you manage you have to truly be interested in them — enough to want to help them figure out what they want and how to get it.

    Diana, if you really, really want to manage people, and you really want to learn to connect, then I think you can. It’ll take a lot of work, though.

    Read some books about making friends (Dale Carnegie, Sonia Hamlin) and about managing yourself around other people (Roger Ailes – You are the Message)

    But also, not everyone needs to be a manager. There are ways to have thriving, interesting careers without managing other people. Don’t rule that out.

    • sL
      sL says:

      Comment better late than never:
      My toddler daughter seemed to be developing extreme tendencies of shyness so I read the book “The Shy Child,” by Philip Zimbardo. His idea that struck me most was that shyness is a form of self-centeredness.

      The shy person is unable to take focus off herself: always feeling insecure, wondering how others perceive her, worried about not knowing what to say…me, me, me.

      To combat this, the shy person should turn her focus to others. Her thoughts should be: What can I do to make my coworker feel better? What is interesting about my coworker that I should get know? How can I go out of my way to show my coworker I respect her?

      The shy person needs to recognize she isn’t the only one that feels insecure…we all do at times. And we all need stroking. She needs to think of others and reach out to them.

      I read that book for my daughter almost 30 years ago. Today she is outgoing, successful, and very much not shy.

      • M. Holmes
        M. Holmes says:

        I found this to be very true, having been a very shy child myself. I was always worried about what people might think to the point that I became very withdrawn. My son, on the other hand, is to the exreme opposite, in that he tries so hard to get others to play with him, or to like him until he runs other kids off and I wonder if this can be a problem for others in their adult life also?

  4. CT
    CT says:

    Thank you for your article. I read it with interest. The importance of social skills do play an important role in the workplace, but I must say that competence is far more important.

    With respect to your comment ” When it comes to holding down a job, social skills matter today more than ever.”

    Well this is true but it results in a not so healthy attitude. This is the kind of attitude that has turned American schools into a popularity pageants and Americans into uncompetitive dolts in the world economy. While in graduate school, I met many foreign students who could barely speak English. This limited their opportunities for social interactions in the school with more “socially adept” Americans. However, their performance, even in a foreign environment using a non-native tongue, far surpassed their native-speaking counterparts. Quite frankly, I would rather have my children be more competent than they are popular. While I am not disparaging fitting in with the group, but often popularity becomes a trap, feeding one’s ego and vanity until one becomes so afraid or beholden to “fitting in” that s/he trades off the pursuit of truth and knowledge in order to fit in with the group.

    Being liked is one thing, but not nearly as important as competence. often it’s a “one or the other” tradeoff. Americans naturally do not like someone who is more competent than they are, and groups maintain a dynamic that discourages individual performance above the rest.
    This is jealousy, a human reaction and extremely prevalent in groups. It is like a virus, feeding and spreading throughout a group and becoming a barrier to high performance. However, my foreign friends have come from a culture that has a spirit of cooperation that pushes their group to cooperate and excel rather than those Americans who undermine and stifle each other’s performance.

    So the answer is simple. When it comes to the worklife, competence is more important than popularity, and is a must in order to maintain our competitive stance.

  5. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I think the crux of your post is when you write, “Well this is true, it results in a not so healthy attitude.”

    Your email is sort of a social criticism — what you wish for our society. And I’m sure you’re not alone in wishing for a world where social skills were not so highly valued.

    But in our reality social skills are highly valued. So if you want to succeed today, you need social skills.

    I think a lot of people justify their bad social skills by saying that society shouldn’t value them so much. But even a social critic will do better in work and life if he or she has good social skills.

    • Robin
      Robin says:

      Social skills might be more important than competance where women are concerned. I’ve witnessed countless men with zero interest in anything besides their research subject rake in both bucks and respect, my advice to women (like me) with less than polished people skills – work for a male boss or in an office of men. The social expectations didn’t approch the Inquisition, and that made for a far more relaxed work environment. Most women have very rigid social expectations and still think it’s their responsibility to make everyone “like them”, the very definition of codependency. You cannot make people like you. It is manipulation, control, whathaveyou. Anf telling people they have to be “genuine” is like ordering love on demand: it’s not real.

      Penelope, I suspect most of these women (including this last one you replied to) has good enough social skills. We’re paid to do a job, not win popularity contests. Most things are more important than whether or not somebody likes me. It’s far more important to learn how to work well and skillfully with people you don’t like, irregardless of whether or not they like you.

  6. Josh
    Josh says:

    I think you can get by if your social skills are not the best as long as you work in a place with people you gel with. In my case I have terrible social skills. I do not get along with most people that I work with, but there are several people that I have always gotten along with very well. At times I wish that I only worked with those people that I get along with. I understand I could work on my social skills to get along with a wider variety of personalities, but to me I would feel fake. At this point in my life it is more important to me that I be myself.

    • Ileen
      Ileen says:

      Some of what you are saying I can relate to. There is an individual I know who lacks the knowledge and skills of the job, but they know how to be a "social butterfly", so quess what? They enlist the assistance of those around them to do the job for them. I think that goes to the saying, you do not have to know how to do the job, but how to get it done.

      • Nibbler
        Nibbler says:

        Socially competent, well liked by others, but professionally incompetent – no thank you. I have had two colleagues who fit this description, and I was the one who worked until 9 or 10 PM and weekends to get the job done. They left at 4 or 5 PM, and asked me why I worked so hard.
        Why must it be one or the other; shouldn’t it be both?

  7. paul
    paul says:

    “people would rather work with someone who is likeable and incompetent than with someone who is skilled and obnoxious” This has been me most of my life. Only now am I seeing myself from the outside in and learning. You are becoming a good source for these lessons. Thank you.

    * * * * * * *

    This is such an important comment. It should remind us all how incredibly difficult it is to see ourselves from the outside, but also how important it is. The real changes come in this way, I think. But I have found, for myself, that this is the hardest stuff to face.


  8. Dave
    Dave says:

    Penelope, I’ve been reading your blog for sometime now, and I felt the need to reply that you left Dale Carnegie out of this post. Then I saw that you had posted it one of your comments here. :)

    I have read many books on self-help and psychiatry, and I think that book is the best one of all. I can say, without exaggeration, that “How to Win Friends and Influence People” changed my life. It’s probably had more positive effects on my life than any other book I’ve ever read. And I’ve read the book a lot, at least 20 times or more.

    I will certainly check out the other books you’ve mentioned in that same vein. I have not seen you mention Dale Carnegie specifically in any of your posts, but I’ve only probably read half of the ones you’ve made total, so I may not have seen if if you have.

    Since I’m already replying, I also wanted to say it’s awesome that you respond to blog replies. I think this puts your way ahead of the curve in blogging and very few other bloggers I read do so. It makes it obvious that this blog is not just an exercise in narcissm (as some blogs are), but a reflection of your earnest ability to listen and understand others.

    And remember, Dale Carnegie says it’s not flattery if you mean it! (I saw you mentioned flattery in your post.)

    * * * * * *

    Hi, Dave. Thank you for saying that you like that I respond to comments, because for every comment I respond to I feel like I let a really good one slip by.That said, I am not letting you slip :)

     The Dale Carnegie book is great, (though I’m partial to Keith Ferrazzi for the same topic). But I just want to clarify that neither author is useful to someone with autism. Carnegie and Ferrazzi teach you to use the skills you were born with. People with autism don’t have those skills.


  9. Sara
    Sara says:

    Penelope, I just happened to read your blog. I was let go from my company for the issue you just mentioned. I didn't realize until now, how important is to be liked at work and, how competence unfortunately falls in to a second category.

    At my last job as you mentioned before, I had worked like a horse leaving me with not much time to socialize perhaps, I put myself in that position because, I am a very shy person who finds very hard to make conversation.

    Been fired over social issues is very traumatic, and I have changed myself one hundred degrees to the idea, that at my next position what would matter to me the most, will be my social circle than the pile of papers at my desk.

    • Dina
      Dina says:

      Hi Sara, I happened to read your post as well. In fact, I am going through the same issue as you are. I worked at a diagnostic center and the technician who performed the MRIs hated me. The worst part of it all is that I did not know why. I never did anything to him that could possibly cause him to hate me that much, but he did. I realized that being liked is important to success, and will help keep your job. This is painful, but true. I wanted to share this with you because it brought me, and maybe to you too, some closer. God Bless.

  10. sammy davis
    sammy davis says:

    I Do Realize That People In The Workplace Would Rather Have Co-workers That They Get Along With Than To Have Someone On The Team Who Is “Unfriendly” or Shy. But To Go As Far As To Say That “People Would Rather Work With Someone Who Is Likeable and Incompetent Rather Than With Someone Who Is Skilled And Obnoxious” Is Beyond My Comprehension. Most People In The Workplace Do Not Really Care For Their Jobs. So To Expect Alacrity From Employees Is A Stretch. But If Someone Is Shy And Does What Is Required Of Them At Their Job, Then Just Let Them Be Shy. If Co-workers Aren’t Getting Their Egos Stroked By A Certain Member Of The “Team”, And The Team Seeks To Have The “Non-friendly” Member Removed. That Just Shows The Insecurity Of The “Team”. Not The Shy Loner.

  11. working nerd
    working nerd says:

    CT’s comments are spot the mark, IF we want to have a better std of living in the future.

    Unfortunately, PT’s response is also on the mark. (“… in our reality social skills are highly valued. So if you want to succeed today, you need social skills.”) As testimony I know I have been let go because I was not social enough, (ie, socializing in the ofc, and/or drinking or partying after work), prefering to get things done and having accomplished more than those that remained.

    I find incompetence in the workplace repulsive, regardless if the colleague is warm, friendly and empathetic. Apparently I wrongly assumed that we are paid to get a job done. This is no longer the case. Social ties are the “ties that bind”.

    So how does CT’s comments fit in? Re-read the conditional clause. Our society no longer feels it is important to achieve higher stds of living. We have achieved Nirvana; unfortunately, we have been there and are now headed backwards. Today’s thirty-somethings have a lower std of living than their fathers. (See recent WSJ article). And this trend will continue until society changes its values.

    It is very sad commentary that as a society we find it more important to have good social skills, than to be competent. This will only continue to diminish our std of living. We will complain about our failed policies, about the high cost of healthcare, gasoline, … and fail to see that it is of our own (un)doing. But we will enjoy it, because we are likable.

    As I look back, it now makes sense. Our educational stds have plummented. HS is no longer a place for education, but rather for socialization (ie. learning how to socialize). Witness how poorly our HS students do in international comparisons. We require 12, and soon 14 yrs of education once pre-K is mandatory, to be at the bottom of the top 30 industialized countries; and they achieve this in 10 yrs. A few yrs back I saw a HS principal on a “news show” brag that imparting knowledge in the classroom was no longer important. He was proud however of the social skills that his students have learned in the student commons. If that’s all these students know (social skills), is it a surprise that this is what they value? People like people who think like themselves (see referenced HBR article).

    My objective in life is to maximize the talents/abilities that have been bestowed upon me in order to make a better place for my kids and grandkids. (That must sound really trite to those 30-somethings.) And that takes effort, which is seen as unsocial. However this drive to achieve, learned in school, is what yields accomplishments, increased productivity and in turn a higher std of living. (ECON 101 … Oops I forgot. Nobody studies this anymore; it’s too difficult and offers no redeeming social skills.)

    We will continue to see our std of living erode, and more quickly as the dollar continues its slide, until society changes its values. At least we can take comfort in the fact that we will be likable, as we huddle in the dark under the no longer used freeway overpass. (Guilty as charged of sarcasm.)

  12. jess
    jess says:

    Hi Penelope, I’ve just started a new job and I have to say within a week I’ve become your biggest fan! Thank you so much for providing real wisdom and clarity to the 21st century workplace. With your advice I’ve smoothly transitioned into my job. I know you must have a busy schedule, but would you ever be able to answer/give advice over email? If so, I’d love to be able to chat w/ you and get advice! I think everyone who reads your blog will have much more success in their jobs/careers! Thanks:)

    * * * * *

    Hi, Jess. I can answer quick, specific questions via email. I also do coaching on the phone based on an hourly fee.


  13. Sifi M
    Sifi M says:

    I enjoy your blog very much. I am a manager in a state organization. As far as social skills go, I am pretty high on the scale, as far as I can tell from feedback. But the jist of it truly is caring. If you care about others you will usually care about how well you are performing in your own job as well. There are people here who appear to have good social skills but aren’t good on follow-through. I privately (at home!)refer to them as mere schmoozers.

  14. Dan Geiger
    Dan Geiger says:

    I like this article very much. I work in Silicon Valley and I continue to marvel at the observation that the people who are creating new technological paradigms for communication are actually the least able to communicate in person-to-person interactions!

    BTW, I read your articles with great interest even though I have been in job market for 25 years. Many of your articles have an X or a Y bent (Gen X, Gen Y that is), but they still are quite relevant to me because your topics focus more on skills for a new workplace than on skills for a particular type of person in that workplace. Thanks, Dan

  15. Beth
    Beth says:

    The assumption that people aren’t likeable because they don’t really care about other people is inaccurate. I care about people but I’m not likeable. I was a runt of a child and teased mercilessly and beat up by bullies. I learned to be quiet to avoid being noticed. I feared people and on some level still do. I fear not fitting in and I fear making social blunders like forgetting names. I take criticism about my personality very hard. Some people think I’m a snob because I’m quiet, some say I’m too goofy, others think I’m too serious, but they all have an opinion and it’s almost never complimentary. My latest criticism is the daily comments by my boss that I don’t smile enough or show enthusiasm. The fact is I’m a good person and I care very very much about other people. I’d like to have friends and feel like someone cares about me. But more than that, I’d like people to stop criticizing me.

  16. jrandom42
    jrandom42 says:

    Personal example from my own career: I’ve been the quiet type, going about doing my job with little notice and only occasional interaction with other people. I got replaced as a senior network engineer at a major company, by a very likeable, but totally technically incompetent idiot. He had no clue at all what to do when the company lost its data in a fire (caused by his shutting down the air conditioning in the server room), mainly because he never had to deal with anything remotely like it, because everyone else was covering for him.
    By this time, I had another job with a company I really liked, and my former employer called me to oversee their data restoration and bring their business back on line. As tempting as it was to tell them to stuff their problem back into my replacement’s in basket, I outlined a plan and set my rates accordingly. I offered them the choice of letting my successor do the job from my broad outline or letting me do it my way at my rates. They chose to pay me to come in as a consultant and do the job, and even paid a 20% bonus when I finished the job 2 weeks early.

    I may not have been likeable, but guess who got the house, car and vacation in Hawaii paid for by their former employer?

    Likeability only extends as far as when it comes into conflict of getting things done right.

  17. klein
    klein says:

    I disagree that most of us have to work at being likeable. Unless we are horrible human beings to begin with, that is.

    I find that the majority of people have to stop caring whether people like them. It is then that they suddenly become the most popular person in the office.

  18. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Maybe yall can help me. I have recently taken the job of activities in a nursing home. And I replaced a girl that wasnt doing her job to benifit the residents. The nurses and the CNAS are hateful to me and actually have belittled me infront of residents. I have tried to make friends with these people. They just are so hateful that I dont understand how they can be around these people and be like that.
    any suggestions are welcomed. Thanks a milllion

    • Nibbler
      Nibbler says:

      Hi Amanda,

      Have you asked the worst crtic to lunch? for a cup of coffee? Try chatting with the person, and then ask, “What are your expecations of me, how do you see my work as fitting in here?” Do they think you are making more work for them? In a nursing setting, where there are not enough hands to help, that would be an irritant.


  19. Christian_R
    Christian_R says:

    I too disagree with the association of likeability and care for others. I find that more and more, in order to be liked you only have to conform to others’ expectations and be just what they want you to be, which 99% of the time means “to be like them”.

    I care very much about others, to the point that I deeply respect their peculiarities and differences. As I expect the same from them, I get the cold shoulder in return, because I refuse to stifle my personality.

    This ever-growing trend towards conformity and superficiality is a big social problem, and the type of advice being given here and at most career counselling services does not help.

    • Chaimirija
      Chaimirija says:

      “I’m actually distrustful of very social people. ”
      Now see, I am going into a technical profession and I face prejudice from people like you…and you know what? I had to learn my social skills, as I was born Ms. Analytical…and, even though I am a very nice person, I have to put up with attitude from people like you…why don’t you look at your attitude? When you assume I am stupid/incompetent because I “appear” outgoing, you are guilty of what you charge.

      BTW, I am the parent to a child with autism, so don’t think I am not sympathetic/empathetic to the challenges faced by those who lack social skills even though they desperately want them.

    • fluffytail
      fluffytail says:

      To Chaimirija, I apologize if my post offended you. I wish you the best with your son. After reading my post, I do see how I could come across as a bit of a jerk. I only meant to share part of my life which was actually quite painful. I don’t think that came across as well I intended here.

      I said that I was “distrustful” of very social people because, FOR ME, it’s hard to tell when they’re being sincere. Charm can hide a great deal of a person’s true intentions.

      I should add that I probably feel this distrust because growing up I was abused, teased and tormented by social people. My shyness was no match for the quick witted socially adept bullies. Believe me, I don’t want to make anyone feel bad in any way. That was not my intention.

      • Chaimirija
        Chaimirija says:

        Actually, I think I owe you an apology for jumping on you. I just feel bad the way I am treated sometimes, even though I know why. I even said on an interview that I accept everyone for the way they are—unless they are mean. Some of the ways I have found you can tell the good from the bad are: 1) see if they are nosy, and 2) see if they trash anyone else. Oh, and see if they are users, as in they are super nice if they think you’ll do their work for ’em. Act stupid and then see how friendly they are. The most popular boy in my son’s class not only singles him out, he gets his little followers to jump in on it. Well, they got suspended for a little prank on Friday. But, he doesn’t know who to trust now, so he doesn’t trust anyone his own age. Only adults.

        One way I got over the pain of being teased (and quite frankly tormented) is I always call offenders out on their behavior. I think it is safe to say, a bully is usually weak, and 90% of the time they will back down. The other 10%, well, you can find yourself in a confrontation. This happened to me twice as a kid, and both times I won. With words. I absolutely DESPISE bullies. That is why I don’t like it when someone assumes I am one. And, you don’t have to get into an arguemnt with a bully to get your point across. You just have to be super confident around them. And super friendly. Stand tall, always, and look ’em in the eye. I swear, they are like demons and live off of fear. If they happen to be nuts, and keep at it to gain control, soon enough they’ll hang themselves. Workplaces are getting fed up because bullies sap productivity.

        Don’t let those what happened when you were younger crush your trust. Then they win. It makes me sad that you feel badly still, but, boy, do I understand. Just be open-minded with everyone you meet. Some of us are now super empathetic due to our experiences.

  20. fluffy tail
    fluffy tail says:

    I was the kid in the playground who had a hard time socializing.

    At 4 years old, I spent more time analyzing other people than anything else.I didn’t know how to socialize with other children.I couldn’t approach them. they all seemed to be entertained and fascinated by things that I thought were boring and mundane. I used to think,how is it that that toy can keep that kid entertained? Or why do kids who draw outside of the lines get praised for creating such a big mess? I couldn’t understand how they were oblivious to so many things.I spent most of my thinking, not socializing.

    So you’re right in saying that being social is a skill. It’s NOT easy for people. Some of us just aren’t born with it.

    In my case,I probably couldn’t connect with the kids because I was too busy having deep thoughts to be pushing a plastic shape through a box. I didn’t think that others thougt about the same stuff, since they were fascinated with everything,so I isolated myself.

    I cared about people and wanted friends,I just didn’t know how to approach them.needless to say,I was unpopular with everyone-teachers and students.I suffered a lot for this.

    I think it’s sad that the world punishes people like me. People are more impressed by the wrapper than what’s inside.little do people know that the that social person will give a you a compliment but I would give you ALL of my self, if you needed it.

    I will say this though. I have a manager who hires people based on how much she likes them and not much else. She’s been there 5 years and she’s slowly been replacing old competent staff with “song and dance” people (that’s what I call them).Basically she’s trusting and giving responsibility and praise to the wrong people. The result, those people have been underperforming and she hasn’t met her goals lately.she may be looking for a new job soon.

    I should also note that people like me aren’t impressed by “song and dance.” I want to see results. I’m actually distrustful of very social people. I’m not fooled by flattery or manners.I’m sure I’m not alone on this.there are managers, like me, who are impervious to flashing personalities.So it kind of negates some of this. I find it hard to believe thay only socially adept people are given raises and put in charge,regardless of ability.

    • Figaro's Folly
      Figaro's Folly says:

      Bless you fluffy tail. i am right there with you about being shy, analytical and competent. sometimes the “e” people (extroverts) forget that the whole world isn’t an “e.”

      i just think the more homogenizing we do to our culture the more we loose as a whole. different is what causes creativity. not being the same.

      so shy people…ROCK ON!

    • Jackie
      Jackie says:

      Well I also spent my childhood on the outside, analysing eveeryone else. But I am seen as loud, confident, and extrovert. Btw, that is one definition of extrovert, that you recharge your batteries by being with others. So for me, wanting and needing to be with others whilst they found me obnoxious, difficult and unpalatable, was quite a trauma.
      I’m still working on being less annoying to others, and making connections with them…

  21. trainbaler
    trainbaler says:

    Came to this a bit late in the day, but here’s my tuppence worth;
    Diana, your post being the first on the shyness subject, I address this to you, but may be useful to everyone.
    You describe your own situation pretty much the same as I would describe mine.
    I too am mistaken often for the surly non gregarious person I am not, but I am working on that after finding an article about Introvert Personalities; it isn’t something bad or wrong, it’s just different. I found it enlightening

  22. MJ
    MJ says:

    Penelope, while this is a really interesting and encouraging to know, I see people with so-called social skills but are mostly fake. And I see these people get ahead in the company for this fakeness.

    I like to believe that I am honest, kind and fair although I am not the most sociable person around. But it seems that the old adage “good girls finish last” is true, much to my frustration. In fact, I was told more than once that I am “too friendly” for a job (read: you are too nice and kind and you need balls of steel to work in this company).

  23. Mike Mirzamani
    Mike Mirzamani says:

    There is a good book on this subject:

    How To Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less.


  24. i'm with you
    i'm with you says:

    this subject hits real close to home. my experience has been that todays society will openly discriminate against those are not social butterflys.

    many quiet people i have met are very intelligent but are relegated to either jobs that bear the responsibility without the benefits, (thats ok, they don’t like to be in the lime light anyway…..right?) or are given tedious jobs UNTIL the make or break assignment comes up and NO ONE wants to take the heat if it fails. so who do they call? the quiet bright guy but the boss gets the credit when it succeeds. seen that before.

    also because many quiet people are intelligent, the bosses who got their positions by politics (it just shows they know how to use…i’m sorry manage their assets) are nervous around bright people who could make them look bad and or see right through them.

    one thing about leaders who are social butterflys is they have a tremendous fear that someone will see through them and figure out there is no substance.

    this article is sad in that it tries to justify a discriminatory policy set up by those whose only asset is to placate weak peoples egos. one poster is correct…we are supposed to be at work to produce…you know why america became the strongest nation in the world? just like we’re supposed to be in school to learn….oh, sorry.

    sorry about getting keyed up, but this shallow argument about likability is more important to competency is like saying i would rather have a friendly doctor who made me feel good about myself but didn’t know diddly to a grumpy old doctor who never missed a diagnosis. jesus, its not like i’m gonna spend weekends with the doc drinking. why do i care if he is a grump?

    • casey
      casey says:

      but but… isn’t one of the rules of the game of war “keep your friends close but your enemies closer”?

      I believe it was that very quote that helped Nations win wars…a proven war strategy. In war, and politics, even in day to day relationships, we all want to know what other people think about us. We want to be able to prepare ourselves for the worst, and arm for the best. We all want to know, be ready, and take charge. This phrase, keep your friends close and your enemies closer is true because our enemies may know more about us and our faults and our achievements more than we can know from our friends.

      Having the social tenacity is the key to keeping our jobs and our saving our arse? JMHO

    • Ana del Valle
      Ana del Valle says:

      I agree with your comment that good attitude in life makes a great difference. At the end of the day what counts is how you handle the consequences. The attitude you have with people and certain instances that arise during the day should never affect your social skills. In fact, it should improve them.

  25. Mariane
    Mariane says:

    I think this is a great article as it pinpoints the fact that what makes life and work enjoyable and fun and interesting is the social interactions we have in them. And that if we feel down and blue and bored it can be cause we get too wired up in gaining technical knowledge to do all by ourselves and thinking we have to be perfect to be loveable… and then getting bitter and bitchy from the feeling of loneliness and marginality and the overwhelming magnitude of mastering IT ALL… instead of getting to know our true strengths and abilities and look around for someone to work with that we can create real-time real-life synergy effects with.

    it is not about fake. it is funk.

  26. jimbo
    jimbo says:

    Humans are social animals, we only survived because of our ablity to work with each other and in order to do that is to be liked.

    The same thing a shy person looses out on in life, is the same thing that the company looses out on by having a shy person around.

    Being outgoing and social is the most valuable skill a person can have in life, work, love…. everything. In fact for most of the time humans were on this earth (perhaps including now) if you couldn’t fit in you were killed, or starved..

    so now we have invented these private spaces were someone can live cut off from everyone, not happy, but they can survive, its not normal, its sad.

    I am both people here, people loved me when i was young, i have a endless imagination, funny, smart…, but i was small so people picked on me, i am not serious about school so the good kids looked down on me.

    Now that i am old, people are mad if they see me meeting new people,having fun, dancing crazy, still considering myself any artist even though i kind of suck, stuff like that.

    Basicly i figure people should be nice to everyone that hasn’t did anything really bad and forgive them for there faults, the only people i hate is people with this high moral compass of there own can be a hippy or a upper class yuppie, that judge others for just going with life and being themselves.

    Someone was pointing out standards of living of americans now and before and people from around the world being “bettery”, well i am Canadian first off, i will tell you what propelled the Americans (and Canuks) is our abilty to not only work hard but to play and to make jokes, and to make music, and to attempt big things,and to be Social !

    If you want to see how screwed up a overworked, boring, antisocial, unfriendly enviroment is , just go sample the middle east, or parts of asia, or even France !

    If the standard of life is going down, its because it was too high, to wasteful and we live on a limited planet with only so much resources to waste (and thats shameful to me to waste) and its going down because people are snobby, uptight, scared, in fear and have never grown up to face themself and get over themself,

    If a company wants to do good in this day in age, it has to have people that say hello, if a city wants to stay save it has to be fun and social, if the human race wants to survive we have to get along, be nice to each other, don’t judge people buy there outside, and most of all, give it a shot, accept that friend are more important than all the riches in the world.

    You can come to where i live and you can buy a property for 1/2 a million, or you could come here and make friends and be offered a rental at less then the property taxes, by a property and get everyone distances, you life will suck, be social and giving, you will have endless parties, boat trips, people will bring you smoked salmon and fresh pot they grew in the yard… its big difference.

    Anyone with any smarts will see how important it is to be social and liked.

    • Robin
      Robin says:

      I fail to see how introverts have negatively impacted your life. You seem quite judgemental that some people aren’t outgoing and social just like you.

      There’s an old joke that if you spot any two people at a party, the one talking is the extrovert, the one listening is the introvert. Extroverts demand everyone be social, but don’t listen to what anyone actually says, if anyone else is allowed to talk at all.

      Not everybody is the same. You can’t make people like you. Just let people be themselves and do what they do best. A mixture of competancy and social skill is best but it’s far more preferable too have someone who actually knows how to do his job. As for everything else? Well, maybe that’s why we invented email.

  27. jimbo
    jimbo says:

    ps, i am not that well liked, i am very critical, i have a big mouth, a chip on shoulder, i am lazy, i get lucky in my finances and spoiled in many ways, things i don’t really even think i deserve. But i am very nice, i will listen and help anyone, i will give my shirt of my back, i want to help everyone, i will stroke you ego if thats what you need at that time..

    But many people seem to hate me at 1st meeting, i make a bad 1st impression, people will say, “when i meet you i thought you had no substance, now your my faviourte person” (someone said this to me and it was crushing.

    “sorry about getting keyed up, but this shallow argument about likability is more important to competency is like saying i would rather have a friendly doctor who made me feel good about myself but didn’t know diddly to a grumpy old doctor who never missed a diagnosis”

    I guess for a surgery you wouldn’t care, but for a family doctor you need to communicate, my family doctor i grew up with was such a nice guy, funny nice, the kind of guy you could tell at 13 you were smoking and he could tell you whats wrong with it, no problem, never scared of needles with him stuff like that, then we got this old fart that scared the heck out of our whole family, my sister refused to see him so we switced doctors.

    the bottom line is in life the best most useful people, the ones that have created a high standard of living, are able to do what needs to be done, and if it works or not, they smile and the work with others well,

    So both things are important, if someone is not able to work in a social setting there are useless regardless of their skill set. If someone is social they will learn to do what needs to be done, people will be happy to help, and to “fit in” they will learn to get the job done right. they are a better person to have on your team.

    The worst type is smartass that ignores everyone and can’t get along, they need to be canned.

  28. memememe
    memememe says:

    zoinks I had a dreary remark and it didn’t post for my incompetance:-]
    I’m just saying, most socially incompetent are plain normal people made who they are by our society. up until the 60’s at least, Social skills were always seen as something frivolous people worked on, and serious decent people just made sure they “did” the right thing and were confident on being judged by their actions not social skills. (i’m from working stock of you didn’t notice) Now in Jerry Springer USA the socially appealing are ascendant. This won’t last but the damage which we are already seeing will.
    As for the application of social skills to work environments it makes some sense to be socially skilled, but as an unskilled person I have always encountered social skills in the form of manipulation and abuse of those the skilled one looked down on or feared because they sensed their own inferiority.

    Many like me lack social skills because of how or where we grew up. There are things done to children that affect them for their whole lives, effects that cannot be changed or avoided by positive thinking or knowledge. Perfectly normal people who would be like anyone else sans the harmful event.
    Yet we can be taught as adults if we find a teacher, how to function with others and even how to have the power to get from others what we want just like those who get things from us do.
    but where oh where is this teacher for me? :-] seriously where?

  29. johnny12
    johnny12 says:

    This is a very accurate article. People with social skills go much further in their careers.

    As a person with horrendous people skills, I appreciate the advice. My personality is lethal combination of shyness, arrogance, and self-centerness. I’ve never had more than a few friends because I’m not interested in anyone other than myself and I feel that others judge me as much as I judge them. I never smile or initiate conversation and would much rather avoid people altogether. I’ve been this way as long as I can remember so I assume that I had some traumatizing experiences when I was younger.

    My family moved 4 times before I turned 13, with the final move being from Switzerland to Philadelphia. It took me roughly 4 years to get over culture shock, but by that time I was 17 and didn’t have enough social experience to fit in at college.

    I’m now 29 and still haven’t been able to fit in anywhere. Social situations are still painful for me because I don’t know how to interact with others. I resent my parents because it’s clear I had social disorders when I was 5 years old yet they never attempted to get me help. I’ve been working in finance for 5 years and it’s clear I will never advance unless I get long overdue therapy. I’m finally taking steps to cure my disorders but have now realized it’s way too late to change my life in any meaningful way.

    • Luis Peguero
      Luis Peguero says:

      I do not think you are too old to change, you are only 29. I believe your first step should be accepting that you are going to change, and be positive about it. Maybe you do not get where you wants to be or others want you to be, but an improvement is always good.

  30. Lams63
    Lams63 says:

    One need not necessarily exclude one position for the other in his debate.
    I think it’s important to maintain a balance between social skills and competence. The problems arise when one of them tends to grow at the expense of the other.
    Most people manage to fit in somewhere near the center of the balance and tend to do reasonably well in both life and career. However, there are some of us (a minority) who feature in the extremeties, and are very good in one skill and very poor in the other. The result is a life skewed towards either career success or interpersonal relationship success, with the attendant consequences.

  31. Observer
    Observer says:

    A character in a fairly recent movie, 2007’s “Entry Level”, put it aptly: every company is a suicide cult, you have to drink their Kool-Aid to make it there.

    I am polite and nice to all, but some folks click and others do not. I am not going to devote a lot of time to a work relationship, or pretend I click with someone when our priorities appear to be on opposite sides of the spectrum. I am at work to get things done, to feel like I accomplished a lot on a daily basis.

    I never lose sight of the exit door should the climate suddenly change, and always keep an updated resume online.

  32. treehorn
    treehorn says:

    Thank goodness I found this article!!

    I completely agree with the article’s comments FAR more than the article itself. Finally, I’ve found others who understand ME instead of all the “shiny, happy people” (as I call them) that I have to deal with.

    Years ago I read an article that discussed chemistry v. credentials during the hiring process. Naturally, it’s best to find someone with both. But, I firmly believe that extroverts are the more “desirable” types, while we introverts (although I think of myself as introspective) are less desirable.

    You’d think I would have learned my lesson years ago when I was waiting on tables. I always prided myself on being one of the BEST waitresses you’d ever have. I made sure your order was correct, your food was hot, you always had refills and your table was cleared of unwanted plates and excessive items. But it was my counterparts who were horrible food servers but always got the BIG TIPS. yeah yeah, i know. I wasn’t “friendly” or flirty enough. Sorry, that’s just not my schtik. Since then, I’ve asked people this question: would you rather have your food the way you ordered it, and quick and hot on your table, but a less on the “entertainment” side, or would you want someone that makes you laugh or be phoney nice (just to get a big tip from you) and get your order be messed up and the food cold or never get refills?? I think I know the answer. People want to be entertained. sucks.

    Even recently, I work as an admin assist (with mad skills), while the person (who I trained because she knew NOTHING about computers) was always the more likeable one. Granted, she IS a very sweet person, in her own dumb kind of way. Even though I knew that office inside and out, I was treated like dirt by my boss. I truly believe it’s because she knew I saw through her crap and that didn’t sit well with her.

    This IS, in a sense, about principle and not lowering yourself to certain individuals’ levels. But here’s a little secret about me, I’m not very gregarious at first, unless I’m around people who “get” me…. and then you can’t get me to shut up, then I’m fun to be around. So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s their loss for being the creeps that they are.

    I KNOW what i’m capable of and if you aren’t a nice person, then I don’t WANT to know you. And the day I walk out that door, it’ll be with my head held HIGH.

  33. Social Natural
    Social Natural says:

    Social skills is without a doubt, the most important you can have. Knowing how to interact with people is now the basic key to getting ahead and becoming successful. The world is getting smaller and smaller as people from different culture, background, are living next to each every day.

  34. Agno Agno
    Agno Agno says:

    That’s funny. In 25 years in corporate America, I’ve always noticed the a-holes getting the positions of power. I think it must be important to be friendly to (brownnose) the *right* people, not everyone.

  35. Harold Major
    Harold Major says:

    I do agree with your statement , if someone is social they will learn to do what needs to be done, people will be happy, and to "fit in" they will learn to get the job done right. They are a better person to have on your team. I have been in sales most of my professional career both as a salesman and as a manager of sales. I have found this to be very true in my hiring practices.

    • mc
      mc says:

      But then surely a huge part of making sales is about having potential buyers trust and like you? In sales, being likable is pre-requisite to getting results. This is not the case in many fields.

      • Harold Major
        Harold Major says:

        Yes this is very true. No one wants to spend money with somebody they dislike. In sales you must find some sort of common ground. This will lead up to estabishing a rapport; which is a must, to breakdown those invisible barriers, we all seem to have when we first meet someone. “You never get a second chance to make that First Impression.” Would you Agree with me?

  36. casey
    casey says:

    In all my years as part of the management team, I found that to be true of working with someone who is likable. The reason being, is because they are easier to train. They “listen”, follow instructions, are not stubborn, and don’t act like a know it all. If in a position for a duration, the Company will take the time and make the investment to train / groom them for a Management position.

  37. Jose M. Blanco
    Jose M. Blanco says:

    Ms. Trunk:

    I teach English composition at Barry University, and my students were asked to read this essay (blog entry) as part of an assignment. The class is comparing the style and content of your essay with the style and content of “Ubuntu” by Kevin Hurt in his blog, The class has a question. Your essay has 11 paragraphs and is packed with information. Might the use of headings have made your essay easier to read?

  38. John Evans
    John Evans says:

    Frightening, how true it seems. My problem with this is that the so called social aspect of work demands that an employee, quite often, break the rules set by his employer; rules they agreed to when they started the job. It makes no sense to me. I have been highly criticized for not being social enough at a job where there should be no way TO socialize on the job. I was a customer service rep. My job was to stay on the phones unless on my 7 minute bathroom break or my lunch break. As lunch breaks were not scheduled together, the only way I could have socialized would have been to be goofing off while my employer’s customers were cooling their heels waiting for help…help I was getting paid to provide. I was once advised that I was too “by the book”. This was by my manager, who refused to answer me when I asked him directly what would happen to me if HE caught me socializing when I was supposed to be on the phone. It seems to me that employers WANT people who are going to refuse to really do the jobs they are paying them to do. I just wish someday a Manager/Supervisor would have the courage of their convictions and give me a straight answer. I would welcome the same from anyone here who is a manager or executive. How do I provide my employer with an honest workday, without goofing off, working at 100% each day every day as I agreed to when hired, and not cutting corners or doing second rate work (To me a total violation of workplace ethics), and still find the time to pursue the social aspects of workplace relationships beyond the normal ‘please, thank you, how are you today’ levels? I fail to understand why “popular people” who blatantly do not do their jobs and screw around are not only valued, but get promoted?

  39. naturescout
    naturescout says:

    Okay, the prom date analogy is a pretty bad example. If it’s high school and she thinks your ugly before you talk to her she’ll still think your ugly after you talk to her and will only except the prom date if she’s got no other choice. If she’s pretty enough (and knows it) she wont let you talk to her. Now when she grows up a little your “ugliness” will be less of an issue but–unless she became a saint in the mean time–money and status will most likely take its place.

    • mc
      mc says:

      The prom date analogy depends on the level of perceived ugliness, and the desirability of the attributes evidenced by the request. It can work like that, but as you say, it can also not work like that.

  40. george
    george says:

    thanks for sharing date if she’s got no other choice. If she’s pretty enough (and knows it) she wont let you talk to her. Now when she grows up a little your “ugliness” will be less of an issue but – €“unless she became a saint in the mean time – €“money and status will most likely take its place.
    Pass4sure E20-001

  41. Tony Blass
    Tony Blass says:

    “people would rather work with someone who is likeable and incompetent than with someone who is skilled and obnoxious” … was a sad comment on our society and most likely a harbinger of a continually deteriorating US economy as it will promote only mediocrity and cronyism.

    Why would someone prefer to work with an incompetent? Because they are threatened by skilled people? Maybe they secretly fear that they have been “Peter Principled” into a job that is beyond their own skill set and feel that they can manipulate someone who is “sweet” and “likable.”
    Maybe they just want someone to blame for their own incompetence?

    And what about cronyism? You know, the “git along” gang. You watch my back, I’ll watch yours and together we will freeze out anyone who would challenge us whether it has merit or not. This attitude also tends to breed mediocrity, as well as stifle creativity and healthy dissent. It also usually results in a lack of diversity in the work place. People who rate “likability” as their top concern, also probably find comfort around people who think and perhaps even look like themselves. Oddness, unattractiveness, difference in style and appearance, are probably more likely to make this crowd feel less comfortable. It was like that in high school, why would it be different now? Cheerleaders and Football players (the top of my high school’s social food chain and the arbiters of social norms and dictates) also didn’t care much about academic skill, for example, or any talent other than running a ball up and down the field or jumping around in mini skirts.

    Look, I’m plenty likable to people who can appreciate my skills and talents and whose skills and talents I respect and admire. I’m frankly not terribly interested in mediocre people or those whose primary skill is vapid conversation about sports and the weather. Maybe I’m still ticked off about high school but sucking up to a bunch of airheads just to get or keep a job is not my idea of a life. That’s why I’m self employed. I only have to work with people I like and who like me. Everyone else can piss off.

    • Maree Langburne
      Maree Langburne says:

      Tony, Tony, Tony, get to a therapist ASAP! The truth is nobody likes you, because you don’t like yourself. Obviously traumatised by your unhappy school days, you will continue to internalise this crap until you seek help.

      If not for yourself, do it for the rest of us.

  42. Albert G
    Albert G says:

    It was so sad reading this article and some of the comments… I find this whole subject disgusting and totally absurd. How come incompetent people can be more valued at work than competent people (whatever their level of social skills might be)? That is beyond me. Modern society is heading for sheer mediocrity. Thanks god Albert Einstein was born more than a century ago!

  43. bobby singh
    bobby singh says:

    – the comment suggesting smile and listen really works because a girl asked me once while she was talking to me, “are you even listening to me and I was like yes of course”. Then when I responded she looked at me like I just offended her.

  44. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    Just like to say one quick fact in all this, in my line of work incompetance kills people, so I’ll work along side a fellow leetest jerk, ones abilty to focus and learn the job at hand should be first and foremost priority for everyone at work,I take pride in self improvement, when you’ve stopped learning you’ve stopped living.
    If you fail to grasp your tasks at work move onto something you can grasp onto. Very simple!
    I am not liked at work due to my approach, But my boss sure loves me and my future is secure. My friendships get a more laxed me. Pick your battles carefully.

  45. Kane
    Kane says:

    I’ve also had a bunch of things happen to me during childhood/school years which derailed me towards anti-social path (including bad teaching by parents which they would deny and bullshit me as usual).
    I take time to get to know people and when I do and if I like them, I have little problem communicating with them, but I definetely can’t just communicate right off the bat with new people, especially if I see in 5 minutes they’re not interesting to me at all – I show basic respect to others, but I sure as hell won’t fake being interested to hang out with those people.

    Just learned today that I didn’t show much motivation to work. –> (during interviews – no shit sherlock, who likes to work in the first place?? I definetely would of picked sitting on my ass instead of working for whole life if there was such possibility)
    Also apparently wasn’t communicating enough, instead of just answering questions as much as neccessary I was supposed to do a whole thesis about everything.
    Trick questions didn’t help either considering I wouldn’t find myself in that position anyway and there is no real way of answering those that I got. (basically try imagining stopping a feud between workers if you were their underboss – which you wouldn’t be and good luck knowing imaginary people)
    Was always more competent at school than others (except university where I practically didn’t give a shit about learning anymore – but I’m glad I at least found that out by going there) but social skills prevail once again.

    I guess self employment with a few on side projects is the most logical idea, problem is, what kind of self employment?

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