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Penelope Trunk The Brazen Careerist

Penelope Trunk, The Brazen Careerist

Making Yourself More Likable at Work

by Penelope Trunk

Posted on Wednesday, May 30, 2007, 12:00AM

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.

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644 Comments

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  • julcion@sbcglobal.net - Saturday, July 7, 2007, 11:43PM ET

    • Overall: 3/5

    It's not possible to be liked by everyone. Ofcourse it's important to be "personable", but trying to win a popularity contest at work is futile. Being responsible, communicating effectively, pulling your own weight and being a team player are all necessary to get the job done.

  • John M - Friday, July 6, 2007, 12:40AM ET

    • Overall: 4/5

    I read the article and some of the reviews. What I notice is the amount of anger expressed by people that I think are resentful because Ms. Trunk's advice is practical, real, and unfortunately out of reach for people who are selfish, socially inept, or lack initiative. Hey, no one who studied nine years as I did likes to hear it, but the fact is that 80% of the senior people I ever met are there because they can schmooze. It's not a matter of calling it superficial drivel or insulting the author - the ideas she presented might not be deep, new or unique; they just work. And if the sceptical people employed these simple, perhaps disingenuous techniques, they would recognize how effective they are. Personal values aside, one has to acknowledge that advice like this given since Dale Carnegie has been effective, and that was the point of the article, I think, not how to build a better world or live in a moral way.

  • bob d - Sunday, June 24, 2007, 9:12PM ET

    • Overall: 1/5

    Mindless dribble. Lots of good postings on the reviews though. And as for focusing on grammer rather than the message, c'mon! I dink dis artical sux...

  • bobteriw@pacbell.net - Thursday, June 21, 2007, 3:47PM ET

    • Overall: 1/5

    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. WHAT?

  • ladyv_39 - Sunday, June 17, 2007, 12:53PM ET

    • Overall: 1/5

    After reading several of Ms. Trunk's articles, I have concluded that she is nothing but a talentless, brainless twit. There is some truth to this article, but there are also many untruths and misconceptions as well. I happen to be introverted. According to Ms. Trunk, I am useless, worthless and unlikeable. However, I have been promoted several times, not because I brownosed and schmoozed with upper management, nor because I went to happy hour with co-workers. No, I've gotten promotions because I did excellant work. I get along with the people in my office, but unlike some people, I don't go to the office to socialize. I go to the office to actually WORK and do my socializing elsewhere. I really could care less if I am likeable or not, because in the end, I am responsible for paying my own bills, not the people in my office. and . Unproductive offices are that way mainly because they emphasize schmoozing, not professionalism. I wonder if Ms. Trunk has ever actually worked in a corporate office, because much of her so-called advice is laugable.

Showing comments 1-5 of 644Next >>

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