Is it important to be liked at work?Certainly, being likeable can actively help you in your career. A recent study found that job candidates who focused on ingratiation were more likely to be hired than those who focused on self-promotion. In other words, the likeable candidates did better than the ones who went for the hard sell.
These findings are repeatedly echoed by other studies. A famous Harvard Business Review study from 2005 discovered that there are four archetypes within any organisation: the loveable star, the incompetent jerk, the competent jerk and the loveable fool. Naturally, all the people who took part of the study (more than 10,000 people) wanted to work with the loveable star and nobody wanted to work with the incompetent jerk. However, given a choice between the competent jerk and the loveable fool, most managers claimed they’d hire the competent jerk – but surprisingly, the study’s data showed that the opposite was actually true and the loveable fool was more likely to get the job.
Don’t be a doormatThis all highlights just what a huge asset likeability is in the workplace – but it’s important not to take it too far.
‘Successful people are charismatic and people want to follow them, but it’s unlikely the first thing anyone would say about them is that they’re likeable,’ points out business coach Zena Everett.
It's an excellent point. Take Steve Jobs, for example. While the late Apple guru was undoubtedly a genius who created incredible products, founded one of the most successful companies in the world, and inspired millions of people, he also had a reputation for being somewhat difficult to work with. You don't need to be likeable in order to be successful - and as Zena Everett explains, it can actually be a drawback.
Zena warns that you can take likeability too far. ‘In my experience, ‘nice’ people may be passed over for promotion or even let go more readily than difficult colleagues, because the boss knows they’re not going to be given a hard time about it,’ she says. ‘If you’re desperate to be liked to the point where you’re becoming co-dependent, you may even be bullied by more narcissistic colleagues.’
‘It may be in your nature to be helpful, but make sure you set clear boundaries,’ Zena adds. ‘Do you really want to be the ‘office mummy’ who ends up stacking the dishwasher at the end of every meeting?’
So bear in mind that while it’s great to be liked, it shouldn’t be at the cost of standing up for yourself. Being well-liked isn’t enough to get you that promotion on its own – you still need to earn it. More than that, you need your boss to know that you earned it! Working on your likeability is an important part of personal development - just be careful to set boundaries, and don't let likeability come at the cost of your career.
Here are three more ways that being 'too nice' can be harming your career:
1. You're exploited
If you're the one who's always sent off on the coffee run or asked to work late - because your boss knows your equally competent colleagues will say no - then yes, you're being exploited.
What to do: A polite but firm, “I’m sorry but I already have too much on my plate,” is enough to limit the amount of favours people ask from you.
2. You're given the horrible jobs
From working unpaid overtime to stacking the dishwasher, somehow it always seems to be you who ends up doing the jobs nobody else wants to do. Worryingly, this can mean you don't end up doing the type of work that truly showcases your ability and competence.
What to do: Stay in the competition for interesting jobs - make sure you put yourself forward for those instead. And create a dishwasher rota that also includes your colleagues!
3. You're underpaid and overworked
Nice people find it hard, not just to say no, but to ask for the salary raise that's clearly long overdue. It's possible your boss is taking advantage of your good nature not to fairly remunerate you for the work you do.
What to do: Know your worth. Don't fall into the trap of working overtime for no additional money - paradoxically, doing so will make your boss value you less, not more. Be honest with him or her. If you struggle with this, then you should consider assertiveness training.
Why not try the test for yourself?
The Activia likeability test results1,666 people were surveyed anonymously.
- 84% said that friends or work colleagues regularly come to them for advice
- 54% would never tell a lie to gain an advantage
- 70% would offer to help a friend or colleague who was struggling
- 82% would lend money to a friend
- 83% would do a favour for someone they only vaguely knew – so long as they knew what the favour was first, of course!
But...we're OK with telling a little white lie! 46% of us would tell a lie if it was to our advantage!
The study identifies five core likeability traits – dependability, amiability, the ability to uplift, a caring nature, and capability. 44% of those surveyed had dependability as their core trait – showing just what a solid and reliable nation we are!
However, just 7% of Brits are ‘uplifting’ which is probably why we’ve got the reputation for being dour in the first place!