Here’s How to Be Likeable at Work

Learn how to make friends

Getting along with your co-workers is important. No one wants to be a pushover. But on the other hand, neither do you want to be that person everyone avoids.

There can be a fine line between being likeable, and trying too hard to please people, particularly for women. Most of us have a natural tendency to want to be liked, which isn’t bad. People seek out other caring and nurturing people to work with. However, you have to have boundaries. Read on as our experts weigh in with their opinions on how to get along with others in the workplace without undermining your authority.


Take your cues from others

Being likeable at work matters. Personality clashes and disagreements between colleagues can poison the office atmosphere and prevent everyone from working to their full potential.

If you’re in a new work environment, look toward others for your cues on how to conduct yourself in your office. The jokes that worked at your last job might not be appreciated at your new company.

Five guidelines to follow

Keith Rollag, associate professor and chair of the management division at Babson College and author of, “What to Do When You’re New: How to Be Confident, Comfortable, and Successful in New Situations” shared his best five tips on how to make friends at work

  1. Relax. Recognize you’re hardwired to fear social rejection, even if you know that making friends is largely a numbers game. Sometimes work relationships turn into friendships, and sometimes they don’t. Don’t see every attempt to make a friend as a litmus test of your self-worth. But you won’t make friends unless you put yourself out there and try.
  2. Focus on giving others energy. The key to making friends is to realize that success is not about impressing the other person with your intelligence, achievements and winning personality. It’s more about ensuring that the other person gains energy from interacting with you. People gain energy by being understood, valued, and accepted, as well as by accomplishing something meaningful. Figure out what brings them energy, and help them get it.
  3. Stay positive. Most people don’t like to be around those that are negative all the time. What’s more, researchers have found that if you say good things about other people, people tend to remember you as having those positive qualities too. For example, if you tell a new co-worker that your previous boss is a friendly, helpful person, they will likely walk away remembering you as somewhat friendly and helpful too. In contrast, if you complain that your previous boss was an egotistical jerk, they may see a few of those qualities in you too. Psychologists call this “spontaneous trait-transference.”
  4. All relationships are built on reciprocity. We help other people meet their needs, and they in turn help us meet our needs. Many of the things we want in friendships – trust, reliability, integrity – have their basis in reciprocity. Figure out what other people want, and help them get it, and you’ve pre-disposed them to see you as a potential friend.
  5. Don’t wait for others to make the first move. For whatever reason, they may have even more reluctance to approach others than you do. Just go for it. What’s the worst that can happen?

Don’t underestimate the importance

It is important to be likable at work. When people like you, the more likely they are to help you. That can result in greater teamwork and possibly promotions. Plus, likeability can help you be happier, which improves engagement and productivity, said clinical psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of “Better than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love.”

Dr. Lombardo’s top three tips to be more likable at work are:

  1. Listen. People like to be heard. Instead of engaging in a conversation and trying to get your opinion expressed, really listen to the other person and be present. This will help them like you more.
  2. Be happy. People want to be with happier people. Happiness is a skill, which anyone can learn and improve upon. The happier you are, the more likable you will be.
  3. Help people out. Whether it's jumping in to assist with the project, or even just opening up the door. And you can also help people by asking them how things are going in their personal life. If you know that a colleague has a child who plays soccer, ask how the kid is doing in sports. Giving them permission to share something that's important to them will be a huge asset for them – and your likeability.

What to do if you’re already unlikeable

If you’re already perceived as unlikeable, it’s a difficult situation to recover from. But, if it happens, take a reflective look at what happened. Why don’t your colleagues like you? Was there one particular incident that stands out?

In this instance, it might be good to try to start fresh and talk to your colleagues one-on-one, and give a sincere apology. It can take time for wounds to heal, and people to like you again, so don’t rush the situation. Just be kind and considerate of others, and try to make the best of it.

When people like you, the more likely they are to help you.

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