“You’re likeable enough,” candidate Barack Obama famously told candidate Hillary Clinton in a 2008 debate.
To many people, this was considered a real insult. But to many of us, being called “likeable enough” would be a real compliment. For many of us, the real question is “Are you likeable at all?”
Now, I’m not talking about being liked by that gang of hooligans and miscreants you hang out with at the mall. I’m talking about that gang of hooligans and miscreants you call your co-workers.
Sure, they act like they like you. They don’t lob water balloons over the walls of your cubical — at least not when the boss is strolling the floor. But the question still haunts you, “do they really like me, or are they just pretending?”
It’s not an easy question to answer — or ask. (Remember the reaction you got from that IT nerd when you asked if he liked you, really liked you, or totally like-liked you? You lost your internet connection for a year!)
This is where Business Insider’s Careers Editor Jacquelyn Smith comes writing to the rescue with “17 signs your coworkers secretly hate you.”
As “national workplace expert” Lynn Taylor tells Smith, “Most coworkers won’t overtly show their disdain for you so as not to cause trouble or jeopardize their own careers. They may make life difficult for you, but they’ll probably try to stay under the radar.”
Feeling like the area below your radar is swarming with enemy drones? You’re on the right track. If your co-workers have not made it sufficiently clear that they don’t like you, they’re stifling their disdain and you need to know about it.
That’s where the 17 signs come in.
Like sign No. 1, “Your gut tells you they don’t like you.” I know. It’s difficult to get a reading from your gut, since it is usually totally occupied processing the hot wings, pizza and beer with which you regularly stuff it. Still, the point remains. If you have an inkling that people at work consider you to be a lazy, obnoxious bully, you should kick over their workstation, right after you come back from your three-hour lunch.
“They can’t maintain eye contact with you” is sign No. 3. “They’re afraid that you may be able to detect hostility,” Lynn Taylor explains, “so the path of least resistance is to look away or avoid being around you whenever possible.”
Of course, there may be a less sinister reason why people don’t make eye contact with you. They probably tried it many times before, but because of your demanding daytime nap schedule, they’ve always found your eyes to be shut. The solution? Well, you’re not giving up your naps, but why not get a pair of those cool novelty glasses with eyeballs painted on the lenses. That way, you’ll be available for an iris scan, even when you are in dreamland.
“They don’t acknowledge your presence” is sign No. 5. This can be frustrating. Lynn Taylor focuses on colleagues who don’t say “good morning” when you arrive or “have a great night” on their way out. But these lapses are nothing for someone who like you, who is treated as totally invisible, 24/7.
It’s bad enough when people talk about you behind your back; it’s even worse when people talk about you in front of your front. If you find yourself saying things like, “Hey, I’m right here, people,” you can be pretty sure you’re not going to win the award for Mr. or Ms. Popularity. (Of course, if everyone says “Good Riddance” when you leave, that could be a positive. At least, they know you exist.)
Jumping ahead to sign No. 12, “they constantly disagree with you,” we learn from another workplace guru, Michael Kerr, that “if it feels like someone shoots down every thought before you’ve even finished a sentence, then it’s often because their dislike is so strong that they are biased against anything you suggest, even when it’s a great idea.”
This is reassuring. How wonderful to know that the reason everyone always reacts negatively to your ideas is not because they think your ideas are terrible. It’s because they think you are terrible. Remember, in the right environment, terrible people can succeed. If you doubt me, look at your management team.
Author Smith ends her article on the “17 signs your coworkers secretly hate you” with a link to “21 signs your boss secretly hates you.” But that article, you don’t have read. That’s no secret.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org