Pick who you work with very carefully. Because you are likely to become like them. So the first thing is to know what's important to you about you — what you want to become. What you like about yourself. And then, surround yourself with people who match your aspirations for yourself.

Here are some ideas:

Choose people who are good-looking, but not better looking than you.
You become like the people you hang out with, according to Nicholas Christakis, a physician and sociologist at Harvard. He found, for example, that if the people around you are overweight, you are likely to join them. And the more overweight you are, the more trouble you have at work, for a lot of reasons, but a new reason I just found is that in stressful work situations, fat people do not think as clearly as thin people. Yep. That's right. Stonybrook University School of Medicine found that the more body fat you have, the higher your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that hampers cognitive abilities. (Hat tip: Self magazine.)

But if the people around you are models, you will look ugly. Dan Ariely, professor of behavioral economics at MIT, says that if you're going to a bar, you have the best chances of getting picked up if you go with people who are almost as good-looking as you are. It makes sense that you will feel best if you do this at work as well.

Choose women who are happy, but they shouldn’t smile too easily.
This is hard for men to do. Because men are hard-wired to be drawn to women who laugh at their jokes. Men want to be funny. But women who are slower to smile do better at work, according to communications consultant Leil Lowndes. So you should date women who smile a lot, but work with women who don't. (Hat tip: Derek Scruggs.)

But this doesn't mean that you should work with grouchy women. Christakis also found that if you are around happy people you will be happier. So, when it comes to work, find that subset of women who are very optimistic but a tough audience for your jokes.

Choose people who swear, but don't choose someone who’s trashy.
It turns out that a little off-color language is good for the workplace. For example, if you use not-too-vulgar swear words at work, you inspire more teamwork. Of course, the standards for vulgarity will vary, but it's probably like porn: You know it when you see it.

Which is why using something innocuous, like the word asshole, is okay, but not if you are talking about intercourse. People who talk about sex at work decrease morale. Well, the research actually says that it's the raunchiness of the sex talk that affects the workplace negatively. So I think factual talk about sex, without the raunch, is okay. (Hat tip: Chris Yeh)

Also, while we're on the topic: double-bonus for choosing a boss: Pick one that will send you to sex conferences.

Choose people you admire.
This seems like a no-brainer, but we rarely choose a job based on this. We usually choose a job based on the job description, or the title. The problem with choosing a job this way is that a job description is not a contract. It is a way to lure you into the job. And it's a hiring manager's best guess on who he or she is looking for. In general, we do not end up doing what we are hired for.

So choose your next job based on the people you'll be working with. You will learn the most on a job by having a great mentor looking after you, rather than a good job description preceding you. And you'll be happiest at work if you focus on having friends at work instead of looking for a boss who pays high salaries — those bosses don't understand what really matters.

The problem, of course, with choosing to work with people you admire is that you have to understand yourself enough to know, of all the traits you admire in people, what are the most important.

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  1. Steve C.
    Steve C. says:

    Marcia. Blind interviewing is definitely the correct direction to go in, given that the interview questions are appropriate.
    However, you should consider using assessments before getting to that point though, if only to save your company the time(and expense) that it invests having a panel interview candidates who may not be appropriate. Better to have the candidate invest the time and effort completing the assessment first, then review the results and determine who warrants putting the time into interviewing. This results in more pre-interview information about the candidates, better, more targeted subject material during the interview, and combined with your system, is an even more objective method for determining job-fit. The cost savings of eliminating six to eight man-hours of interviewing time that might be wasted on inappropriate candidates will more than cover the costs of the assessments.
    Of course, I am presumptuously assuming here that you are not already using some type of pre-interview assessments already, which is probably not the case since you are at least utilizing blind interviewing techniques.
    Steve C.

  2. dk
    dk says:

    This post really bothers me. If race, weight, sexual-orintation, relgion, age and any other way someone can discriminate in hiring someone, what kind of people are we? The bottom line should always be picking the person who can best do the job. If you are looking for someone to load boxes, then an overweight person may not be a good fit. But for a job which requires intellect, who cares if the person is overweight! And it’s bad if a woman smiles a lot, come on. I’d rather work with women who smile a lot than female managers who are on a power trip and the only smiling they do is at home.
    When are we going to discriminate against arrogant people who judge others like this without failing to see that everyone has negative attributes, including them. Productivity is the bottom line with businesses, but not when it overrules decency.

  3. Doug D.
    Doug D. says:

    Personally, I like a woman who smiles a lot…but not because she laughs at everything or at kids jokes, rather because she has a sharp wit to match mine. (or so I like to think) So, she is smiling because she just bested me and made me question my supposed wit. That’s the kind of gal I like.

  4. chemo
    chemo says:

    Actually what Nicholas Christakis was very true… I had a colleague of mine who was more like a parasite you know the kind we always have in our offices… The guy was lazy, incompetent yet he survived because he’d hang onto or around other people more successful than him… somehow he was “drawing their positive energy” and improving his career… his best weapon to be around those guys was? flattery… so what happened was i started picking up his bad habits like became lazy, complacent and etc… my IQ got a little shaken up because i’d have no one to intellectually challenge me so I had to do something… Luckily for me I found another job and now try to stay away from these parasites…

  5. Hobbes
    Hobbes says:

    I smile constantly. So much so that people often ask me why I’m smiling or they think I’m high or drunk. I always ask them why they aren’t smiling. It takes much more to get me angry or stressed than it does most people I work with. I usually give advice to help people who I see are stressed or unhappy at work. Some people resent my advice as condescending, they usually quit or are fired within two weeks. They also don’t smile very much. I was always happy and excelled in school skipping two grades and making straight A’s almost (except for geometry and calculus). I graduated from Cornell University with a 3.8 gpa. I am also about 40lbs overweight. I would advise everyone to read this blog and do the opposite if you want to hire effectively.

  6. alxmath
    alxmath says:

    nice article….. few things very true about women….
    fat people better not read this article, u may get offended

  7. Monster Muscle
    Monster Muscle says:

    “But if the people around you are models, you will look ugly. Dan Ariely, professor of behavioral economics at MIT, says that if you're going to a bar, you have the best chances of getting picked up if you go with people who are almost as good-looking as you are. It makes sense that you will feel best if you do this at work as well.”

    Quite vain, but still true I reckon!

    Mark

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