When it comes to your job, you're like a competitor on a reality TV show: You didn't come here to make friends. You came here to win. (And by “win,” you mean do your job, get your paycheque and get home to finish binge-watching your favourite television show.)
And that's okay. Maybe you don't care if your co-workers like you; however, when you make yourself dislikeable, it can actually have a negative impact on your career. After all, the less likable you are, the less likely others are to collaborate with you, volunteer their help when you need it or recommend you for a promotion.
So what makes someone unlikable and – better yet – how do you change that? We asked experts for their thoughts, and here's what they had to say.
You never share the spotlight
"If people are only concerned with boosting their own names and careers, act superior to others, or steal someone else's thunder, it's pretty tough to like them," says Josh Dziabiak, COO of a US-based car insurance company.
How to fix it: Give credit where credit is due. "Great team members deflect attention and give credit to their teammates when things go right," Dziabiak says. "When there is success, they recognise it's not theirs alone."
You don't own up to your mistakes
"Someone who makes a mistake and rather than fessing up, tries to cover it up or even blame someone else, is going to be disliked," says Sarah Schewitz, a licensed clinical psychologist.
How to fix it: Let yourself be more vulnerable in the workplace by owning up to your mistakes, apologising for them and asking for help with the solution, Schewitz advises. "Not only will this increase your likeability, but also your authenticity and integrity in the workplace."
You're constantly complaining
"We all feel unhappy with our circumstances at times, but a consistent pattern of negativity typically ruins the environment for others and pushes others away," says Donna Lubrano, adjunct faculty at Northeastern University College of Professional Studies in the U.S.
How to fix it: If you're consistently unhappy at your job, it may be time to look for a new one. In the meantime, focus on what you can do to change your situation now. In other words, look for solutions instead of simply identifying problems.
"You don't have to be joined at the hip with your co-workers, but those who don't at least make an attempt to participate in some workplace social activities can be seen as isolationist, stuck-up, stuffy or even rude," says Lubrano.
How to fix it: Make the effort to get to know your colleagues as people. Say “yes” to the occasional after-work social event or suggest lunch with a colleague. Not only will you be more likable, but research shows bonding with fellow employees can actually make you more engaged and happier at your job.
You have bad body language
"It may surprise you to learn that bad body language can make people unlikeable," says Carrie Glenn, founder of Etiquette at Hand, a professional etiquette consultancy. Yet, given that the majority of communication is non-verbal, it makes sense that certain behaviours (such as refusing to make eye contact, crossing your hands in front of your chests, slouching, etc.) can make you appear cold and unfriendly, turning others off.
How to fix it: Glenn suggests taking a yoga or ballet class to improve posture or taking a speech class to improve the way you present yourself.
You don't respect others' space and time
"Bursting into someone's office, invading someone's space and being loud in an office (especially in an open-floor plan) can all make someone 'unlikeable,'" says Chad Daniels, co-founder of buildthefire.com. These behaviours indicate a lack of consideration and respect for others who are trying to work.
How to fix it: Don't assume your colleagues can drop everything at your convenience. Give them a heads up by giving them a call or email and asking if they have a moment to talk, Daniels suggests. Also, be mindful of the volume of your voice and try to meet with others behind closed doors so as not to disturb others.
Gossiping is one of those toxic workplace behaviours that often falls into the category of bullying – and nobody likes a bully.
How to fix it: Aside from not engaging in office gossip yourself, remove yourself from temptation by changing the subject or finding a way to excuse yourself.
You may never be liked by everyone – and that's OK – but you can make it so you're not reviled by them, either. You may be surprised by how little effort it takes to make a big impact on your colleagues' opinions of you – and your satisfaction at work as a result.