A year or so ago, I remember having coffee with a friend who was unhappy at work. She was clashing horns with a tough client and wanted more support from her team. She described meetings when she felt her team just didn’t have her back.
I asked about how her team got on in general, beyond the actual work. Does she know much about them? Who they are, what they like to do at the weekends? She said looked a little confused and said “No, not really.”
When I asked her why, her response was this: “I was told years ago not to be too friendly with people at the office. It’s not professional, I just want to get my head down and work.”
This came up again more recently with Jess* a coaching client. She came to me for help coming to terms with a recent redundancy. Jess felt angry and confused about losing her job and believed she had performed well in her role. She couldn’t understand why she hadn’t been valued more by her boss.
We dug deeper.
I asked how positive her work relationships were. And it started to make sense to Jess. She discovered that at work she came across as closed, disinterested in her colleagues as people and didn’t really interact. This lack of connection seemed to link directly to her co-workers not understanding her; how well she did her job, who she was. And even when they did understand - it was all one sided, she wasn’t well liked by her colleagues so…no one fought to save her. Ouch.
Invest in your likeability
In both instances, Jess and my friend shared a belief that may have been their undoing. They believed that making a conscious effort to raise their likeability at work would lower their perceived competency and professionalism.
But hang on, study after study proves that we’d rather work with someone nice and slightly incompetent, versus someone we don’t really know/like who is very good at their job.
Ideally, you already have that magical combination of being incredibly well liked and brilliant at your job! But if there’s room for improvement, here are a couple of interesting articles that suggest likeability should become part of your career success strategy.
Google spent years researching hundreds of their teams to identify and understand what it takes to create a successful, happy and productive workforce. The conclusion… being nice.
But what is it that makes us like someone at work?
Amy Cuddy, Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist says trust and respect are key. People see these in two ways, through your warmth and competence. In her research she also found most people, especially at work, believe that competence is the more important factor. After all, it proves that they are talented and skilled enough to do the work. But in fact, warmth, or trustworthiness, is the most important factor in how people evaluate your likeability and value as a colleague.
Some great reasons here why we are happier and do better work when we have some work pals.
So ask yourself, are you likeable? Are you friendly? Are you making an effort to get to know people?
Most important: Do you think people understand what you do and why it’s important to your company?
If not, maybe its time to make a brew for your team and have a good ‘ol chin wag.
*not her real name.