Jun
08

Does Being Liked at Work Matter?

by  Mary C. Schaefer  |  Self Leadership

[Pssssssst, did she just use the L-word?]

One of my close friends is in the last phase of a selection process for a new assignment. Her first meeting and her final meeting is with the executive she would be reporting to.

We’re pretty sure she’s a shoe-in because we already know he likes her. Her reflection was, “I like working for people who like me.”

Who wouldn’t? And that includes those who report to you.

With human beings, likeability can’t be ignored

Several years ago I conducted a workshop where one of the roundtable discussions with managers included the question: is it more important to be respected or to be liked?

I’m sure I don’t have to go through with you all the pros and cons of either perspective, but the upshot for me, having coached hundreds of managers, is this:

  1. Don’t make a decision just because it would be the popular one and
  2. Don’t implement a decision in an unthoughtful way just because “I don’t need to be liked

“I’m not doing this job to be liked”

I know so many managers who are stuck in this fierce standpoint. Everything in moderation, people. Many times a few simple tweaks in implementation or approach could at least prevent organization members from actively disliking you.

Trust me. You don’t want that. You can say you don’t need to be liked, but to be actively disliked sucks the life (read as “productivity” if you need to) out of your human resources.

I’m reminded of the book by Tim Sanders called, “The LikeAbility Factor: How to Boost Your L-Factor & Achieve Your Life’s Dreams.” In short, here’s what Tim says about this.

What it takes to be likeable

  • Friendliness
  • Relevance
  • Empathy
  • Realness

Check out Tim’s book, and what each of these mean for you, in a sincere and well-intentioned way. And before you toss this off as mushball stuff, know this…

Likeability works

You don’t have to compromise yourself. You don’t have to be fake. And, let me point out, there is something in it for them and you, like…

  • Likeable people bring out the best in others
  • Likeable people get recognized
  • Likeable people outperform
  • Likeable people overcome life’s challenges
  • Likeable people enjoy better health

So again, instead of working against human nature (like you’ve never heard that from me before), what if you looked at your own likeability? Is it working in your favor as a leader?

Originally posted at Mary’s blog: www.reimaginework.com

Photo credit: flickr user albany_tim / CC 2.0

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By mary-schaefer
Speaker, coach and trainer Mary Schaefer’s expertise is in creating work cultures where organizations and human beings can both thrive. She is a former HR manager. Find out more about how Mary helps managers empower themselves to make the most of their human resources with this special collection of articles selected for LCG readers: http://www.reimaginework.com/LCG/  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Dana Theus  |  08 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Hi, Mary. I like your perspective here. I would add that to me, when you realize your decisions/ actions will lead to” unliking” you, its a signal that you may be missing an opportunity to use “tough love” or other approaches where people may not like what you DO but they will respect and/or like you more for doing it. This demonstrates the tension between what you do and how/why you do it. If you are conscious of these differences and manage them independently, you can also manage your likeability, which I agree is important.

Mary C Schaefer  |  09 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Dana, that is a great additional insight to bring out: “when you realize your decisions/ actions will lead to” unliking” you, its a signal that you may be missing an opportunity to use “tough love” or other approaches where people may not like what you DO but they will respect and/or like you more for doing it.” – Absolutely agree.

Leigh Steere  |  09 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Mary, this post is a great discussion starter. I think all managers can benefit from thinking about this topic.

Some managers (and employees) have a strong need to be liked. They make their decisions out of that need, sometimes erring toward the popular solution instead of the right solution. It’s much easier and more fun to work with people we like and who like us. It’s important, though, to think long-term. Sometimes, a “tough love” talk or an unpopular decision is the best course of action and the kindest thing to do–even if it results temporary relational discomfort.

That said, managers can take a tough stance too far — by dictating instead of listening, by thinking results are more important than relationships. Deep down, I think these “tough” managers want to be liked, too, and may not recognize they are losing the benefit of their employees’ ideas and motivation.

I agree with you: “everything in moderation.”

Being likeable at work doesn’t mean being “pals” with everyone. It comes from being fair…being seen as a good listener who takes a variety of viewpoints into consideration…being viewed as someone who cares about the “whole” employee (respects work/life balance, wants to see employees grow professionally, etc.). If these things are in place, a manager can make tough calls, confront performance problems, produce great business results and still remain likeable.

Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

Mary C Schaefer  |  09 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Thanks Leigh!

“Sometimes, a “tough love” talk or an unpopular decision is the best course of action and the kindest thing to do–even if it results temporary relational discomfort.” – Perfect. I have said this to manager I coach so many times. They are afraid of hurting someone or making them uncomfortable, but I remind them it’s not kind to keep a hard truth from someone either.

Also: “Being likeable at work doesn’t mean being “pals” with everyone.” – People, employees and managers both can think being friendly means the same as being friends. Good to pay close attention to all aspects of your intentions and how you are being perceived.

Thanks for continuing the discussion.

Jon M  |  09 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Being likeable matters if it means being respectful. As you point out, making decisions just to be “liked” is not a solid approach. Challenging and tough decisions have to be made, but being respectful in how they are made and carried out is essential. Maybe this goes to the “realness” attribute.

Thanks!

Mary C Schaefer  |  09 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Thanks Jon. Respect connected to realness. I like the thought and will think about it more.

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