We all want to be liked and accepted by our peers, but we have to remember that not everyone is going to like us. And some people are going to like us a little too much – which might not be such a great thing. It can even lead you down an annoying rabbit hole of people-pleasing and can actually do more damage than good in the long run.
If you want people in your office or workplace to respect you, here’s how not to be the least popular person in your own office.
Spend Time with the "Neutral" Coworkers
The first thought you may have is to be a social butterfly and cling onto anyone in order to make friends. But making friends with coworkers who are cold towards you in the past is hard and approaching office enemies will surely be even harder.
You should spend time with coworkers who are a neutral party to most things happening at the office - these are people who are disinterested (or choose to be disinterested) in playing the office politics game, and they focus their attention on getting their work done, getting their paycheck and then going home.
Likely a career isn't their primary life goal, but they've got to have a job to pay the bills. Neutral coworkers are easy to approach and talk to.
Take your time building up a good rapport with these people, because they will likely be more approachable and open to meeting with you than coworkers who are cold towards you. Neutral coworkers are thus easier to make friends with and they become allies with time. One more friend is one less person who thinks you are unpopular.
Furthermore, building an internal clique who you can know and trust is like building Dumbledore's Army (Harry Potter reference here!) which will come in useful when you need to navigate the corporate landscape or scale the career ladder.
Extend Relationships Outside of the Office
If you wish to keep your work life, social life, and home life separate, then skip this section. Otherwise, if you are comfortable with WhatsApp messaging or Instagramming with your co-workers, then bring that a step further.
Connect with their children - your kid might know their kid. Have you seen your coworkers at church? Approach them. Go out for drinks at the bar, or pub. Happy hour! Or if alcohol🍺 is not your thing, do sports - play ball, run or even participate in a competition (marathon?) with them.
Socializing outside the office brings popularity benefits when you return to work. People know you better, they relate and connect to you on a personal level that's far deeper than you would if you just treated work as work and shared about yourself as if you were reading off your resume.
Participate in Conversations (Don't be Introverted)
The quietest kid in class gets a bad rep, and the most talkative kid can be a social nightmare. This applies similarly in the office. But that doesn't mean you should become a chatterbox since it's not always the loudness of your voice that gets you noticed.
In a formal setting, you can facilitate small group discussion during meetings (not gossip) or help in workshops around topics like giving feedback or being more inclusive. In informal settings, participate in social activities like organizing team lunch, ordering bubble tea for coworkers, distributing workplace refreshments to all employees on a regular basis, and fulfilling other often-overlooked tasks.
These small actions might seem menial but they provide opportunities to create conversations (i.e. visibility) and tell people - "Hey I exist! And when I talk, I share stuff, respond and react sensibly; I'm no idiot at work, I'm sociable and you won't be ranking me as the least popular person you know in the office, right?"
In short, don't be a hermit in the office; have fun and participate in office events that can help you make friends.
Hide Your Weaknesses
Truth is - colleagues aren't always your friends. They fight for the same promotion placing as you do and there's only so much budget for everyone's salary. Everyone at work wants more.
Your weaknesses are the easiest targets for your competitive colleagues to highlight where they can gain the most value at your sake. They strike where you are the most vulnerable and where it hurts most.
Internally, you ruin yourself.
Here are some weaknesses you may show at work and how to counteract them:
- If you seem passive, reticent or disinterested in work, try to make sure that people know that you care and put in plenty of effort. (You don't have to actually care, but SHOW you care and make sure others SEE that you care.)
- If you are not the creative type and usually don't bring any new ideas to the table, don't be so vocal about your ideas when you have sudden inspirations. Others will likely use them, copy off wholesale and pass it as their own. They will take all the credit.
- If you are not naturally outgoing and do not like speaking up, be willing to take occassional risks. Join one of the few teams that's more communicative such as "the creative one", or "the one who thinks of ideas" where being an introvert is not a liability. Speak sometimes (at least once in a blue moon) so your coworkers won't mock you, thinking you are mute and deaf. (Yes, bullying happens.)
Figure Out What Makes People Feel Seen, Heard, and Valued
Let's face it, people want to feel seen and heard for who they are. In the workplace that can be quite a difficult task, but there are ways to achieve this without being fake or feeling like you need to fit yourself into a box.
In most office environments, people feel seen and valued when they are publicly recognized. A commendation email from your boss cc-ed to all your colleagues is recognition. When a large team agrees with your idea and votes on it pass, you feel validated. Receiving an award for the best employee of the month is a third way you are acknowledged and word spreads.
These little things can go a long way in increasing your in-office popularity.