Ask yourself: Do people like me?

You get promoted in this world because people like you, not because you get work done. There’s always more than one person who can get a job done. But everyone’s personality is different, so when you want to differentiate yourself at work, focus on your personality.

Showing the True You

In fact, a 2005 study published in the Harvard Business Review shows that people would rather work with someone they like who’s incompetent than someone who’s competent but not likable.

Keep in mind that “likable” is not as subjective as it seems. Most people in the office agree on who’s likable and who’s not. For example, most people like Bill Clinton — he just has a likable personality. Even the Bush family members, Clinton’s political polar opposites, say they like his personality.

So, if you want to get ahead at the office, you need to figure out how to make yourself likable. Usually, it’s not a matter of changing your personality, but rather making sure that your true personality shows through. Most people, if they’re true to themselves at work, are likable.

Ten Ways to Blow It

Then again, most people think they’re more likable than they really are, and therefore don’t try hard enough. There are many things that keep people from being likable — here’s a list of 10 of them:

 Using sarcasm as a defense mechanism

You probably don’t know if you’re using sarcasm as a defense mechanism, but if you use it a lot, it’s a safe bet that it’s in a defensive way.

 Being quiet because you’re insecure

People are inherently social animals. If you have nothing that you want to say, then you’re probably not likable because you have nothing to offer.

But if you do have things to say but don’t say them, then you’re not likable only because you’re so insecure that you believe you’ll sound stupid when you talk.

 Not revealing emotions at work

Keeping to yourself emotionally makes you seem one-dimensional, and it’s hard to convey likability with no depth. Most people who talk but don’t reveal emotions are out of touch with their emotions. You have to know them yourself to share them with other people.

Reaching Others by Reaching Out

 Being too smug — as in not asking for help or not revealing that you’ve had help along the way

To show no gratitude or no need for others is to alienate yourself. You might think that you make yourself look like Superman, able to do anything in a single bound. But superheroes don’t really exist, and real people need real help. So let them know you understand this by asking for help and expressing appreciation.

 Not seeing people for who they are

If you treat people who are powerful well and people who have no power poorly then you aren’t seeing the whole person. Power structures don’t define a person; they define a person’s clout. Treat everyone with respect or you won’t deserve it yourself.

 Being bored by others

If you’re not curious about other people, they won’t be interested in you. The most likable people make other people feel interesting by genuinely caring about them.

Me, Me, Me

 Being obsessed with your workload

If you think work matters more than people, then that’ll be true — for you. And people will expect you to be a workhorse but won’t want to get to know you. And they need to know you to like you.

 Not taking responsibility

If people don’t like you, it’s your own fault. Likable people are liked in all circumstances. If you blame people for your problems, people aren’t going to like you — even if they’re not among the people you blame.

 Hiding from objective feedback

You can get it from therapists, co-workers, teachers, and coaches, but you have to seek it out. And if you don’t, then you probably don’t have a good sense of your least likable qualities. So you don’t have the knowledge to make yourself likable.

 Not trying to change

All the knowledge in the world can’t overcome an inability to change. The ego is very strong and can rationalize anything. Don’t let yours do that. Take criticism to heart, and address it no matter how likable you think you are to begin with.

You’ll be more likable right away, because listening to others and trying to change are both inherently likable qualities.

25 replies
  1. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal says:

    Slow monotonous talkers. People who only talk about themselves or moan endlessly about how tough life is. These guys are boring.

    And you might be a nice guy but you’re not getting paid to listen.

    But if you show them your true feelings or give them short shrift, they won’t like you. So, it’s tough to be liked in all circumstances by everybody.

    And I haven’t even mentioned the bad tempered demons.

    When I worked in an office there were always a few people whom everyone hated and who hated everyone else. And when I say everyone I mean everyone. Even the goody-goody hated these people (though she would never admit it).

    * * * * * *

    Alas, the list of ways to be unlikable often seems infinite. But to a different person, the list of ways to be likable is infinite :)

    –Penelope

  2. junger
    junger says:

    Here’s a big one: being too needy. How can someone be expected to get anything done if they’re constantly being bugged by their needy co-workers?

  3. Phil Gerbyshak
    Phil Gerbyshak says:

    How about taking EVERYTHING personally and turning it all into a mini-drama? This is the best way I’ve found that co-workers quickly develop a hatred for each other.

    Another way is don’t be consistent with your participation in team activities. Participate in some, but not all, and don’t ever explain yourself, just show up when you feel like it.

    One other way I’ve seen used, and that as a manager can really irk me, is taking advantage of time off policies meant to improve balance. If PTO is a right, and you can call in at the last minute, doing so can turn your team on you f-a-s-t!

    Last one I’ll share is expecting that seniority is the ONLY way to distribute the goods, or acting like seniority isn’t important, until YOU get to that senior position and then becoming that person who uses seniority to your advantage.

    Very insightful article! I read it at Yahoo! and I subscribe to your blog, so it’s fun to see both halves. Well done!

  4. Ted
    Ted says:

    I read your blog today titled, “New financial data highlights generational rifts”

    As an old Gen X individual (40) I’d have to agree with your statements about money, and how the different generations view it. How do you think the millennials, those in the 16-25 age group, view work and money? This is the first group to always have internet, cell phones and cable T.V.

  5. elena williams
    elena williams says:

    It surprises me that you consider yourself fit to give advices. Your first comment makes you sound like an immature twenty-year-old. You do not sound professional; you’re the type of person that I would hang out with at work but not listen to. You did a good job explaining each point, but your article is biased and one dimensional. You expressed your views without using any research findings for support. You should have already realized that in order to gain credibility, you need to do more than just stating opinions. As a therapist, I can say with confidence that your interpretations cannot be generalized across situations. What you said can be applied to only some cases. You need to be aware of the fact that everybody is different. This means that two people may behave the same way for different reasons (other than the ones you provided).

    “You probably don’t know if you’re using sarcasm as a defense mechanism, but if you use it a lot, it’s a safe bet that it’s in a defensive way.”

    “But if you do have things to say but don’t say them, then you’re not likable only because you’re so insecure that you believe you’ll sound stupid when you talk.”

    “Most people who talk but don’t reveal emotions are out of touch with their emotions. You have to know them yourself to share them with other people.”

    “To show no gratitude or no need for others…You might think that you make yourself look like Superman, able to do anything in a single bound.”

    Right now you’re just an irresponsible writer who states whatever she likes online. Do more research so you can present a more valid article. Otherwise, I suggest that you do not assume the psychologist’s role that you’re not qualified for. As a supporter of objective feedback, you should have no problem taking
    constructive criticism.

  6. Ed F.
    Ed F. says:

    A note to the “psychologist” who posted before me Fisrt off… She DID quote a research study right at the top of the article.

    Penelope writes about corporate America and how to thrive there, she doesn’t delve into any psychological insights that I can see, just smart, common sense that people who actually WORK in a large company can use.

    I know, because I work for a large company and her sense of office politics is very saavy. Not that she has to defent herself… she has started three businesses not to mention numerous other ventures.

    And as for your “constructive criticism” dare I say it was hardly constructive at all. You don’t attack someone’s character and call them immature and childish when you are being constructive.

  7. Aaron Sys
    Aaron Sys says:

    Ed F, sure you’re not Mr. Penelope, one of her kids, or Penelope herself? You seemed a bit upset there, buddy. Like you yourself were offended or something.

    I have to agree with Elena. Penelope doesnt have enough support. The research study that you pointed out only supports her claim about what type of people one prefers to work with. It gives no support to her 10 ways or other things that she wrote.

    As for your corporate America, Penelope has reduced it to a corporate playground where middle school children fight for their popularity. If you feel offended here, you probably shouldnt go on http://finance.yahoo.com/expert/article/careerist/34834
    because it aint too pretty over there.
    And no, she doesn’t have to defend herself, her company went bankrupt.

  8. Alan
    Alan says:

    I don’t think not revealing emotions at work will make people hate you. It may be true in some situations but it probably too much to hate someone just because they failed to show their emotions.

  9. Eva
    Eva says:

    I’m kind of surprised at the negative reactions you’ve gotten here and on Yahoo, for this post. I think you’ve made a lot of good points that more people should take into consideration. To each his or her own I suppose…

  10. Fran
    Fran says:

    Responsibility is a huge factor in our work. People who don’t take responsibility shows that they are not dependable, although it doesn’t apply to everyone because there could be other reasons why they don’t want to take responsibility.

  11. Capt
    Capt says:

    Personality plays a huge part in how this new generation is perceived. I do not need a study to verify whom I enjoy and whom not. I work with a group of engineers and their perception of the world is different. Engineers, as a whole, are somewhat introverted and believe the world revolves around them. If I remember correctly, Scotty spent most of his time getting the sheilds up and making the Enterprise operate. His air time was usually via the intercom system from the belly of the ship. The decision making was left to The Capt and Spock. Find your niche that best suit your skills and be content if that does not put you on a CEO track. If you react negatively to this post, I suggest you take a hard look at how you are viewed by your peers. I enjoy this blog because it makes me think outside of my own experiences. That is what learning is all about.

  12. Andrey
    Andrey says:

    Elena Williams and Mr. Aaron,

    I’m not a psychologist, and you probably too.

    The article is good. Tell me using your own statements, experience or another support, where Penelope was wrong?

    I believe that:

    – using sarcasm is not a proper tactics, this will sooner hurt the listener than will make him love you;

    – not revealing emotions. Do you imagine a person saying yes or no in response, sitting in it’s corner quiet, without mimics all the time? It’s too suspicious, isn’t it?

    – being bored by others. Do you like people telling you are boring writing your comments?
    Or maybe you like people telling you’re irresponsible at your own blog? I don’t;

    – irresponsibles. If one blames you here that this is your fault that Penny wrote the article the way you disliked?

    – being obsessed. OK, I believe that you like people not paying attention to you!

    Penelope, pls don’t pay attention to ungrounded blames, they are obsessed by their own ME, despite other readers praises, and let them read the Objective Feedback )

  13. Mrs A
    Mrs A says:

    More things to diminish favourability with colleagues?

    Blame everything on fellow colleagues

    Take the credit for things that you did not do (or did not accomplish on our own)

    Present a co-workers genius idea as well, yours.

    Over analise everything that people say and do.

    Get time off/promotion by tantrums, flirting with boss, threatening lawsuits etc.

    Talk about every person who has just left the room.

    Come to work drunk/hungover.

    Mock every value & belief that is meaningful to anybody.

    Dont change your underwear untill it itches.

    Greet all with treky hand salut and refuse to speak anything but kling-on.

    I could go on but I think you get my drift?

    Hope this helps, but remember I can’t make any guarantees.. some daft sod might still like you!!

    ;p

  14. Destiny
    Destiny says:

    Thats all amusing,but would you help me.My inlaws are evil and i want nothing more then to make them hate me,but in a fun way

  15. Emeigh
    Emeigh says:

    I can list a way to make people at work hate you ok this one time on a saturday of the year 2010 my dad had to go to were he works because he forgot something there that he needed so he said to me Emeigh I want you to come with me and bring along your new Marilyn Manson cd the High End Of Low one coz I’m gonna need it when we get to were I work I said Why? we’re just going there to pick up something you forgot he said just bring it so I brought it along with us and when we got there my dad said ok come in with me and bring in your cd to so I said ok and I did so we get in there and my dad goes over to a cd player they have there and put my cd in cranks it up to full volume and starts dancing to number 9 which is WOW on my Marilyn Manson cd so everyone there was watching my dad and then they all turned to me and said Are you gonna do something about your dad? I said NO then I was like rock on dad keep dancing so he did but when the song was over my dad danced around so much he like cracked his back or something so he was like see everybody none of you were expecting me to do this but I did then he turned to me and said Emeigh drive me to the nearest doc I hurt my back I said Dad I’m NOT old enough to drive yet I will be in 3 years so unless ya can wait 3 years I can’t help ya sorry so he had a person who works with him drive him to a doctor and he had me stay at his work and he would pick me up later so I stayed I was only there for about a hour then he came back but while he was gone all the other workers there said to me Emeigh we HATE your dad now after that I said I know but I don’t care ha. So if you wanna make people at your work hate you just do what my dad did.

  16. Izziee
    Izziee says:

    Some ways to get people you work with HATE you are.
    1. Show them the real you what you like after work making sure your personality after work is to be FUCKIN CRAZY NOT all calm and SHIT.
    2. Take your favorite CD to work and a sterio put the CD in the player when you get to work and crank it up to full volume and dance around like a FUCKING WERIDO.
    3.If your the same age as my dad which is 52 go to work and like your my age which is 14 well I am 14 for now.
    4.Go to work in a BAD mood and start being bitchy with everyone there.

  17. Izziee
    Izziee says:

    I have one more way to get people at your work to HATE you.
    Once again if your 52 years old like my dad do what he did back in 1989 my dad for take your kid to work day he took my older sister Lauren with him because me and my brothers were NEVER born yet so it was my dad and my older sister my dad at the time was 27 and my sister Lauren was 4 years old at the time so my dad took my sister with him to work and he acted like he was the 4 year old and she was the 27 year old back in 1989 now that my dad is 52 and my sister is 25 she went back to were my dad works again in 1998 when at the time she was 13 for take your kid to work day again and everyone that works with my dad said to him hay arn’t you now 13 and your daughter is 40 just to make fun of them for the last time back in 1989 then everyone there said to my dad I hear you have 2 sons named Ty and Brandon who were 5 in 1998 and another daughter which is me and in 1998 I was 1 my dad told me about all this when I got older so the people he worked with in 1998 said how about you bring all your kids sometime and act their age so my dad did again in 2001 when my brothers were both 8 years old my sister was 16 and I was 4 years old at the time so my dad took us all to were he works and at first acted like my age at the time 4 then my brothers at the time being 8 then my sister once again who was 16 back then so for take your kids to work day act your kids age NOT yours.

    • Chrisgoodrich25
      Chrisgoodrich25 says:

      Wow…your comment is pretty much out there…did you even read what you wrote before you posted it? You didn’t use any punctuation…besides having nothing but run on sentences….this is stuff you learn in the fourth grade…not to mention you didn’t utilize you computers spell check….Izze..Please take a gun and go kill yourself…because when you sound like you do..then you may as well already be dead

      • Wrong
        Wrong says:

        Chris Goodrich,
        You could have just left the first sentence and let it go. Your next rant is a run-on. Where is the punctuation in that jumble?

        Sometimes kids need to talk about things they don’t like or don’t understand. We all need to express ourselves. Telling a child (no matter how old they think they are) that they need to kill themselves is inappropriate.

        If the number 25 in your name is any indication of how old you are, then you have no room to talk, you’re still growing up too. Adult or not, even in America, just because you have the freedom to speak doesn’t mean you should have the right to make others feel bad.

  18. Steph's
    Steph's says:

    What are you to do if the people you work for hate you???
    I mean really hate you no matter what you do?
    The only reason they hate you is that you try to work hard and not let people get away with not doing as much as you. They hate you because you stand you for yourself and do not let anyone push you around.

  19. Dave
    Dave says:

    Everyone hates me at work I can tick off very single thing on the list in this article. I can cope as long as I can can convince myself to believe I’m just there for the money. I try to change but I’m too ashamed to reveal my true emotions. But not spending time being social means getting more work done and be of more productive value than most. I know being hated five days a week is not good for my soul though, I’d leave but I am hated everywhere I go so whats the point. I’d be unemployed but I want the money for my car.

    • Iknow
      Iknow says:

      Sorry Dave I feel the same way. Just want to do my work and go. Not a cruel person at all but I think people are deep down ashamed the things they feel like they have to do to fit in and if they see someone put in no effort there’s a whole crusade started. Not right.

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