Empty thoughts and mutterings

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Likeability Factor

When B brought this up, it got me thinking. The likeability factor at work is a hugely underplayed commodity and in my opinion the most important piece to one's stability at work right after the tangible effects like effectiveness and company's financial position etc. Often times, we do not attempt to understand the importance of how well we get along with our peers and even if we do understand it, we forget to practice it at every mundane instance that comes along. Lucky are those people who are non confrontational by birth and need little or no effort to be liked among peers. It is indeed a difficult exercise to understand the exact importance of the likeability factor in one's survival, functioning and excellence in today's corporate world. Even more difficult is to predict, what one should do in order to fetch himself that "likeable" tag in his company. Each situation is completely different and each person is completely unique which makes generating the recipe for "how do you make yourself likeable" impossible. And I don't claim to propose a solution here. But I want to share an observation here that defies logic a little and will probably be disputed by some of you folks :). I have observed that a little vulnerability at times helps in people starting to like you. When I say vulnerability, I mean a little imperfection here and there, a little "I need your help on this one" attitude. For eg, admitting to your colleague sheepishly, that you lost your way while driving to work that morning and that you couldn't get back for 45 minutes or saying "I locked myself out in my car today, not once, but twice, can you believe how stupid I've been ?". It brings a quick smile to their lips and maybe the next time around, they would admit to some of their own stupidities. But I am not saying you have to admit to every single stupid act you manage to pull off. You get another tag for that that starts with an L and ends with an R with an OSE in between ! :).

I have known some people that want to command power in every single relationship they have and always want to have the last word in any conversation. While this attitude may help in some other facets of life, these people are often easily hated. They are always the last to get the benefit of doubt in any situation. I am a big believer in the " The most powerful men are never liked and the most liked men are never powerful" school of thought. Even in social circles, I have observed the hatred growing in some people towards the "centers of attraction" for no reason other than the fact that they cornered a lot of the attention. As far as I am concerned, when I have been popular I've liked it. When I have been the center of attraction, I've liked it. But all that's nothing compared to the knowledge that I am liked by my friends or peers whichever may apply. In a work atmosphere, it helps to have a slightly casual approach towards things. It also helps to allow peers to take a trip at your expense once in a while. Ofcourse that provides you with the license of returning the favor when the opportunity shows up, and promotes more camaraderie in general. I have wondered how this can have an actual impact on one's survival or improvement. When I thought about it, I could recollect atleast 3-4 instances, where good will, the likeability factor and other intangible factors have made tangible contributions to some of my friends' work lives. While one friend was asked to leave from one department because the department was cutting down, another department picked him up because a manager there had previously had a few conversations with him and he had happened to like him. In another case, another friend mentioned to me that he was promoted to a senior position and was picked over a far smarter, more effective guy, owing solely to his "team man" image. So people, the next time a peer asks you to with him for lunch for the 5 th time that week, instead of giving him the same old no with the smile, think about saving the thayir saadham with lemon pickle for later and going down to lunch with him and who knows how it might help you ?


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