March 2, 2015

23 Scientific Ways to Be Popular at Work

Read more about Career Advice

Never eat alone in the lunchroom again. We present the 23 ways to be popular with your office mates.

Your struggle to climb the social hierarchy didn’t end with high school, sorry to say. Desk eaters and those who try to slink into the office without saying hello to anyone will remain at the bottom of the rung in the office, both personally and professionally. Those who make an effort will be rewarded with popularity.

In fact, popularity in the workplace is linked to greater productivity, better treatment by your colleagues, higher visibility, and thus, a higher likelihood of being promoted or rewarded. Not sure how to raise your profile? We have 23 tips for becoming more popular in the workplace.

© Marcelo Alves (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

Dos:

1. Make a good first impression
It’s your first day at a new company, and between the nervousness of starting a new job and the stress of adapting to new responsibilities, you don’t have time to worry about what other people think about you, right? Wrong. It takes only a fraction of a second for someone to form an opinion about you, and that first impression endures much longer than your first-day jitters. When it comes to first impressions, there are no do-overs, and a study conducted by psychologist Nicholas Rule suggests that not even facts can override someone’s first impressions about another person. Start building relationships with coworkers from Day 1. Exude friendliness, confidence, and competence, and you’ll lay the foundation for productive friendships in your new workplace.

2. Always try to understand your coworkers’ point of view
You hear the phrase all the time, but "putting yourself in someone else’s shoes" isn’t just a way to end arguments or help you see another perspective. Empathy is a necessary social skill that helps you build relationships with other people. Psychologists Candida C. Peterson and Michael Siegal researched popularity among preschoolers and found that the most popular ones were skilled in understanding their peers, which also gave them more influence. If you want to gain the respect and admiration of your coworkers, you should first try to get inside their heads to learn what motivates them and makes them tick.

3. Shed the business barrier and get personal
You spend around 8 hours a day with your coworkers, but do you really know them? Do they even know you? It’s hard to have a genuine friendship with someone when conversation is always centered on to-do lists or IT problems. Psychologist Arthur Aron found that strangers can form close friendships in just 45 minutes by discussing deep topics and practicing self-disclosure. Telling your coworkers your deepest, darkest secrets may not be a good idea, but sharing anecdotes from your life or non-controversial opinions with your colleagues can help build more intimate friendships.

4. Ask people about their lives
Talking about your life can help build closer friendships with your colleagues, but learning about them will also help you enter their inner circle. Your coworkers have a life outside of work, too, and they’re probably more than willing to talk about it. Ask your coworkers questions about their life outside of work, and you’ll be creating a bond that goes beyond the petty niceties of your daily work interactions. Listen to your coworkers and pay attention to the little things, like their daughter’s birthday or their grandparent’s surgery. A survey out of the University of South Alabama revealed that managers believe that listening and conversation skills are among the most useful skills in the workplace. By engaging your coworkers in conversation, you’ll not only be more likeable, but also showcase your communication skills that make you a valuable asset to your workplace.

5. Socialize with your coworkers outside of the office
You can’t form relationships with your colleagues if you constantly decline their invitations to social functions and eat lunch at your desk. You don’t have to join them every day for their afternoon coffee run, but the least you could do is go out for an after-work cocktail once in a while. According to a survey by the staffing firm OfficeTeam, 42% of respondents spend their lunch hour socializing with coworkers. Socializing at work has also been proven to decrease mortality rates and improve productivity, which benefits your company’s bottom line. If you want to become a popular person among your work peers, get out of your cubicle and spend time with them outside of work.

6. Be friendly, but not too friendly
In order to be well liked in the office, you have to partake in a fair share of socializing and water-cooler gossip, but remember to keep your chattiness in check. Spending too much time chatting up your coworkers can affect how your colleagues view your work ethic. A study out of Oregon State University of MBA students showed that introverts underrated their extroverted colleagues in performance evaluations and didn’t give them credit when credit was due. For extroverts who work in companies that allow peer evaluations to determine promotions or bonuses, they may find themselves skipped over simply because of their social nature. They key is to socialize just enough so that you are well liked, but not too much that you seem like a slacker.

7. Pay attention to gossip, but don’t participate
Workplace gossip is unavoidable, and just like in high school, it’s an effective way to form cliques and ostracize others. However, a 2012 study out of UC Berkeley suggests that gossip is actually pro-social behavior and is useful in policing bad behavior and maintaining social norms. You might be tempted to engage in gossip so that you can be part of the "in-crowd," but our advice is to stay above the fray. Gossiping decreases productivity and morale in the workplace, which isn’t good for you or your coworkers. In a 2010 survey conducted by Randstad USA, 60% of respondents cited workplace gossip as their biggest pet peeve. Showing that you’re a neutral party to all your coworkers can help you earn their respect and trust — which matters more than hearing about an unsubstantiated rumor.

8. Be approachable
You might think you’ve pulled all the tricks in the book to make yourself more likeable, but your body language and habits might be betraying you. Do you make eye contact with coworkers? Do you engage them in conversation? Do you smile? A study conducted by researcher Darren W. Campbell found that people view faces with positive emotional expressions as more approachable than those with neutral expressions. They even saw neutral expressions as slightly negative. You might think that you’re displaying neutral emotions, but your coworkers could see a disgruntled coworker instead. Make yourself more approachable by controlling your facial expressions and body language. Eye contact, a smile, and a simple greeting can go a long way in winning friends.

9. Appeal to your coworker’s appetites
When all else fails, appeal to your coworkers through their stomachs. Sharing food has been correlated to feelings of intimacy and attachment, which is why experts always suggest breaking bread with friends and family to strengthen relationships. The journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B published a study revealing that chimpanzees who share food with each other produce more oxytocin, which is referred to as the "love hormone." Researchers hypothesize that food sharing may help them form long-term cooperative relationships. Take a cue from the chimps - keep a bowl of candy on your desk or share some homemade brownies with your officemates. Food gives them an excuse to stop by your desk and chat, and the act of sharing could be the start of a valuable friendship.

10. Be a team player
Have you ever tried to reach a consensus on a project, and one of your team members won’t agree with anything? While it’s admirable to stand by your opinions, you don’t want to be the person who always disagrees with coworkers and causes meetings to drag on past everyone’s lunch hour. Cooperating with your colleagues doesn’t mean agreeing with everything all the time; it just means being flexible, communicative, and able to acquiesce to the majority. Researchers from Texas A&M University found that cooperation and trust are highly correlated and has implications for how people work in organizations. And a survey of 300 companies conducted by TINYpulse revealed that collaboration and team play are the top traits that employees value in their coworkers. Showing your coworkers that you can be a team player will make you easier to work with and more likeable as a result.

11. Help others out
Did you know that performing random acts of kindness makes other people like you more and makes you feel happier, too? Researchers at the University of British Columbia researched whether performing random acts of kindness helped grade-school children become well-liked by their peers. They found that not only did they become more popular, but helping other people made them feel more positive emotions, which had a domino effect on their relationships. The next time your coworker has a problem with the copy machine, give a helping hand. It can boost your mood and earn you brownie points with your coworkers.

12. Get things done
Even if you’re the most charming person in your office, you won’t be very popular if you don’t do your job. First and foremost, you’re there to work. If you can’t complete your own work, your coworkers will have to pick up the slack for you, a situation that’s bound to end in resentment. According to a survey by learning institute Hyper Island, a person’s personality, and specifically their drive to get things done, is one of the most valuable traits in a new employee. Your coworkers will be more likely to give you the respect you deserve if they know that they’re sitting next to a person who can stand and deliver.

13. Be dependable
Aside from being able to perform your job well, you should also be someone that your colleagues can depend on. A 2014 CareerBuilder survey of 2,138 hiring managers and HR professionals shows that 73% seek out employees who are dependable. Your boss and coworkers alike depend on you to meet deadlines, follow instructions, show up on time, and finish work to completion. If you can show your coworkers that you’re someone they can count on, your coworkers will be more likely to see you as someone they can trust.

14. Be proactive
Whether it’s organizing an office celebration or trying to improve your department’s workflow, every office needs a hero. If you become a catalyst for positive changes in your workplace and strive to improve your coworker’s well-being, people in your office will see you as a leader. Even something as small as rallying your coworkers to go to happy hour after work will position you as an influential person among your peers. It can also earn you the respect of your supervisors as well. A study published in the journal Personnel Psychology showed that proactive employees are rated higher in their job performance than others. Being a champion for your coworkers will earn you popularity, and it can benefit your career trajectory.

Don’ts:

15. Don’t take yourself (or work) too seriously
Ever have one of those days at work when everything seems to go wrong and you’re counting down the hours until you can veg on the couch at home? Of course you have, and so have your coworkers. That’s why you should remember that laughter can snap you out of the doldrums during work hours and boost your productivity and creativity. A study out of Penn State University revealed that humor can create group cohesion and facilitate a better performance. 60% of respondents to a survey from Wirthlin Worldwide, a business consulting firm, claimed that they would be more productive if their coworkers used humor, and 90% said it would help relieve stress. Work isn’t always fun and sometimes stress can get the better of us, but if you can be the coworker who can lighten the mood with humor, your colleagues will be grateful.

16. Don’t be too self-effacing
It may seem counterintuitive, but being too humble and nice can make you less likeable to your coworkers. According to a study from social psychologist Craig Parks, people who give too much and refuse rewards are frequently rejected by the majority. These people are viewed as making everybody else look bad by raising the bar, and it also raises suspicions that the do-gooders have ulterior motives. If you ever feel pressured to take on a higher workload against your better judgment, consider if it will make you seem like a goody-two-shoes to your coworkers. Research shows that it’s ok to stand up for yourself and take what you deserve, especially in the eyes of your colleagues.

17. Don’t show off
Nobody likes a show-off, not even your superiors. Bragging about your achievements, whether in life or at work, can isolate you from your coworkers and your boss. A study about managers’ perceptions of employee behavior published in the journal Personnel Psychology shows that not even your boss likes blatant self-promotion. Be aware that showing off isn’t just about bragging. Purposely using big words, exaggerating your workload, or even humblebragging (pretending to be self-deprecating while patting yourself on the back), can make people think you’re arrogant or self-important. Letting your actions speak for themselves will keep you on your coworkers’ good side.

18. Don’t suck up
If your end game is a big promotion and a corner office, you’ll have to walk the fine line between pleasing your boss and staying off your coworkers’ brownnosing radar. Flattery might help you butter up your boss before your annual review, but it could make your coworkers see you as conniving and manipulative. Psychologist Eliot R. Smith wrote in the textbook Social Psychology that when someone witnesses another person complimenting another, they’re likely to feel suspicious about the flatterer. A UK survey of people’s biggest workplace grievances, conducted by the animal welfare organization The Brooke, listed "sucking up to the boss" as one of the top 20 traits of an annoying colleague. If you want to impress your boss, try to do it on the down low without attracting negative attention from coworkers.

19. Don’t complain
Work is hard enough as it is, but having to deal with a Debbie Downer every day can affect workplace morale. Adecco USA, the human resource consulting company, conducted a survey of 507 working Americans and found that 37% find it annoying when their coworkers complain about their workload. At the end of the day, you’re all in the same boat and are working as a team to get things done. While whistling while you work isn’t necessary, putting on a brave face and powering through the stressful times at the office will make working with you a breeze.

20. Don’t tell your coworkers your salary
Discussing your salary with anybody is considered taboo, but talking about it with colleagues can undermine your efforts to be popular in the workplace. A survey conducted by Glassdoor.com showed that 15% of people wouldn’t bat an eye at sharing their salary information with their colleagues, with Millennials and people from the western U.S. the most transparent. Unfortunately for them, experts advise against sharing those details with your coworkers. Discrepancies in salaries can lead to feelings of resentment and a loss of job satisfaction. If either you or your coworker makes more, the losing party may label the other as undeserving and may even try to undermine the other’s work to show that they’re better. To stave off feelings of resentment and competitiveness between you and your coworkers, keep your salary information private.

21. Don’t go to work sick
There’s nothing worse than going to work and hearing your coworker coughing up a lung in the cubicle next to you. If you work in an office, you already know how fast germs can spread in such close quarters. Going to work while sick is inconsiderate to your colleagues and communicates to them that you don’t care about their time, health, or money (because all three will be compromised should they catch whatever bug you have). Unfortunately, a survey by the National Sanitation Foundation shows that while 90% of people judge their coworkers for going to work sick, around 26% of people still do it. Many cite their workload or being unable to afford a sick day, but regardless of the excuse, it’s still a bad move and bound to affect their popularity in the office. If you should fall ill, prioritize your coworkers’ health and stay home.

22. Don’t act too much outside the norm
Every workplace needs innovators who can think outside the box, but sometimes the "eccentric innovator" stereotype stands in stark contrast to what the "in crowd" looks like in the office. Experts have found that being too different can make a person a target of bullying or ostracism by their peers, a lesson that many already know from high school. Social psychologist Deborah Prentice even argues that group leaders are actually "super conformists" because they uphold the social norms of the group. In order for you to be popular and seen as a leader by your coworkers, you may have to give in to social norms to get their acceptance. Intellectually, you can be as eccentric or creative as you like, but following social norms in your interactions with colleagues will make it easier for you to gain status within the group.

23. Don’t lose sight of the end game
It’s one thing to want to be popular in your workplace for the professional benefits it brings, but it’s quite another to want to be popular just for popularity’s sake. While the opinions of your colleagues do matter, you have to keep in mind what you hope to gain from their friendship. If you feel that you’re being disrespected, sacrificing your integrity, or working in a toxic work environment, popularity should be the least of your worries. If you feel like you’re constantly facing an uphill battle trying to win your colleagues over, it may be time to look for a work environment that’s a better cultural fit.

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