Let me say this at the onset — I like you. I really like you.
Unfortunately, your co-workers may feel differently.
I know it’s difficult to imagine that anyone would not instantly gravitate to your winning personality, your amazing good looks, your willingness to offer advice to everyone in the company — whether they want it or not — and of course, your knack for borrowing money from everyone in the company — whether they can afford it or not. Clearly, anyone who doesn’t want you as his or her BFF has to be bitter or jealous or nuts.
Given your overall wonderfulness, the fact that anyone could dislike you is definitely a mystery. Fortunately, the solution to this mystery may just have been published in The Wall Street Journal. I refer to an article by Ruth Mantell, titled “Why Co-Workers Don’t Like You.”
According to the eminently likeable Mantell, “your co-workers are judging you. Beneath a veneer of professional collegiality, they’re taking note of the mess on your desk, how loudly you chew, even your word choices.”
This may be perfectly true — especially, if your co-workers are the judgmental idiots that you judge them to be. (You would think your co-workers would observe you so they can learn how you minimize the time you spend working and maximize the time you spend playing Angry Birds.)
So, what sets off the riffraff?
Bad behavior No. 1 for Mantell is “Sucking up to the boss.” She backs up this judgment with a quote from Meredith Haberfeld, an executive and career coach. According to Haberfeld, “the boss’s pet who ingratiates himself at the expense of his co-workers incites negative judgments.” While this may seem true in the myopic little minds of your co-workers, it completely misses the point. Who’s to say that you’re sucking up simply because you use your lunch hour to detail the boss’s Jaguar or bring shoe polish to meetings so you can apply a nice shine to the boss’s Ferragamos? You’re just being helpful.
Taking too much credit for the work of your team can also result in resentment. To solve this problem, don’t decrease the amount of credit you take. Cut back on the amount of work you do. If you do 25 percent of the work and take 100 percent of the credit, your co-workers will be miffed. If you take 100 percent of the credit and do 0 percent of the work, your co-workers will be impressed. And if they tell management — they’ll be impressed, too. Taking credit for all the work you didn’t do is what being the boss is all about.
Being overly negative is another piece of workplace behavior that can result in resentment. As Paul Purdy from Monster.com says, “sometimes it’s fun to talk about the boss, but the person who is always complaining is disliked as well.” Perhaps this is true in Purdy’s world, but I think having a good complainer on the team can be good. If there’s a co-worker who complains 100 percent of the time, you’ll feel better about yourself only complaining 95 percent of the time. Of course, to limit your complaining, you’ll have to find things to be positive about. Remember how wonderful work was when you came down with Legionnaires’ disease and had to spend a month in critical care ward? Ah! Those were good times.
Being messy can also be a turn-off to co-workers who do not share your belief that a messy desk is a busy desk. This is unfortunate, since making your desk look messy can be quite a lot of work. And Mantell says to avoid “microwaving last night’s fish dinner for lunch in your cubical today.” I agree. Microwave it for your breakfast. That way your co-workers will have all day to enjoy the aroma of your gourmet repast.
Talking too loudly can be highly annoying, adds Margaret Fisher, a human resource specialist. “If you need to concentrate and someone is yapping, it can affect your work.” Again, I agree. That’s why you should turn workplace conversations into rap-songs, preferably accompanied with drums made of over-turned waste paper baskets. You might get boos from your co-workers, but they’ll love you on “America’s Got Talent.”
In the final analysis, different folks have different definitions for what makes an unlikeable co-worker. In your case, I suggest you look around the office and see who is the one person everyone dislikes. If you don’t see anyone, then you’ll know — the person everyone hates is you.
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 offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com.