Popularity And Competence: Is Being Well-Liked More Important Than Being Competent?

Carl Mueller

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I was watching the news last week and heard one of the news anchors quoting a recent study that said that people perceive that being well-liked in the workplace is more important than being competent.

I hope that this feeling isn’t actually reality when it comes to important careers such as the medical profession.

Certainly, I’d rather have an unpopular but competent surgeon working on me than the alternative!

Taking the phrase “it’s more important to be well-liked than competent” literally would be a mistake in this case. In reality, we need to read between the lines a bit to fully understand what this phrase actually says and why it’s true.

I suspect what the respondents were really suggesting is that given a guaranteed level of competence (ie. the person isn’t completely incompetent) being someone who is likeable and pleasant to be around is something that people value in the workplace.

Being completely incompetent is most likely not going to be tolerated just because people like you.

Conversely, even if you are the most talented person in the company, many if not most people will probably not want to work with you if you are a jerk.

In my experience, people hire people that they like. Again, a certain level of competence has to be in place but at the end of the day, we humans tend to gravitate towards people that we like.

In the workplace, you can improve your likeability by doing a number of little things:

    1. Consider how your words and actions will be interpreted by others. Talking about others behind their backs tends to make people believe you’ll do the same to them when you have the chance.

    2. Ensure that you are someone that can be counted on. Not pulling your own weight is a quick way to get others to turn against you. “Being a team player” is a cliché for sure, but it’s true. People like to work with people they can count on.

    3. Don’t be a complainer. Complainers and whiners are not fun to be around.

    4. Take other people seriously. It may not be important to you but it might be critical to someone else. Take the problems and concerns of your co-workers seriously especially if you expect take them to take you seriously when the time comes.

    5. Offer your help and input. Remaining quiet during meetings and team projects can be misconstrued by others as a sign that you don’t care. Don’t talk just for the sake of hearing your own voice but remember the importance of offering your input and being seen as someone who tries.

Carl Mueller is an Internet entrepreneur and professional recruiter who wants to help you find your dream career.

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