The Silicon Valley Voice

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Like It or Not

Tell the truth — does anyone at work like you?

I don’t mean someone who “likes-likes” you. That’s the kind of burning passion we only feel for a spouse, or a partner, or an Entenmann’s Cinnamon Crunch Loaf Cake.

I’m talking about just plain old vanilla “like.”

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Do your co-workers like it when they see you sneaking out the back door in the middle of the afternoon? Or, when you bombard them with spitballs, and fill their desk drawers with apple sauce, do they like you so much they think it’s cute?

I didn’t think so. Which might make you think there is no reason to read Tom Popomaronis’ recent article in Inc., “5 Seemingly Innocent Things You May Be Doing That Make You Less Likeable.”

But read it, you should. As unlikable as you already are, it is possible that your co-workers could dislike you more. In the words of Popomaronis, “You may be doing things that can make people dislike you. Once or twice doesn’t matter, but if it’s a habit, it could cost you valuable opportunities.”

No. 1 of the five innocent things that could lead to being even less likable is “being too intense.”

As our author explains, “Intensity and passion are important in business, but being passionate doesn’t mean being hyper-focused to the point of being un-fun. When you’re too serious you can bring the room down.”

Bummer, right? Nobody likes a buzzkill who brings down the room. Especially, if the room holds your CFO, who is moving into the third hour of her PowerPoint on “Statistical Inconsistencies in Currency Exchange Fluctuations in the Norwegian Lutefisk Market.”

This is riveting stuff, and no one would like you if you were to interrupt the CFO’s flow, even with a seemingly innocent action, like setting off the office’s fire sprinkler system. But scrumptiously passing out cans of silly string and New Year’s Eve noise makers would definitely bring up the room, and few cherry bombs wouldn’t hurt, either. Now that’s the way to turn around your reputation for being no fun.

“Constantly humble-bragging” is another likeability no-no. This is where “people self-depreciate but are actually showing off or bragging. “For example, you could call yourself weak after going to the gym, but you’re actually trying to call attention to your fitness.”

Of course, no one would ever believe you actually went to a gym, but it may be time to stop humble-bragging about what a failure you are because you only played Pokemon Go for two hours yesterday, instead of working, and you only found Zubat, Pidgey and Rattata, hiding behind a tuna sandwich in the break room refrigerator.

No one would believe you, anyway. They all know you played Pokemon Go for eight hours at work yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. As for catching Zubat — forget it. He’s like your boss, a monster who is looking to catch you.

“Using your phone during a conversation” is something that no one likes. Popomaronis suggests you can alleviate the utter offensiveness of this rude behavior by explaining, in advance, why you’re constantly checking. “Stress its importance,” he recommends. Good idea! What senior manager, discussing a critical company issue, wouldn’t mind being rudely ignored if he understood you’re following every Twitter twist and turn from Kim and Kanye in their apocalyptic battle with Taylor Swift?

I totally agree with unlikeable thing No. 4. This concerns the concept that no one will like you if you are “being close-minded.”

“Productive conversations require an open mind,” our writer writes, and you should “try viewing things from other people’s perspectives.”

Absolutely true. If you really want to be liked, you should agree with everything anyone says to you. If two people say things that don’t at all agree, agree with the person you talked to last. Agree, and hold that position until death — or until you talk to someone else. Then agree with them.

Remember — having your own ideas and the courage to stick to them never made anyone likeable. What you want to achieve is a state in which no one at work knows your position about anything. All they know is that you agree with them, 110 percent.

The final unlikable habit to shed is “dropping names left and right.” I totally agree that this kind of pretentious self-aggrandizement is extremely unlikable. I would never like anyone who dropped names, and, I assure you, so would my dear, dear friends Jack Nicholson, LeBron James and Katy Perry.

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 bob@bgplanning.com.

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