It sucks when you hear someone doesn’t like you. An old co-worker called a meeting with me because someone on his team didn’t like me and my type A work style.
I couldn’t help but be a little offended and hurt. The pressure to be liked in the workplace can be overwhelming, especially for women.
But I realized that if I went out of my way to make sure this person -- and everyone else -- liked me, I wouldn’t be as effective at my job. If I wasted time coddling everyone, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve so much professionally.
Don’t get me wrong: I love to be liked as much as the next person. I played sports in school, I was social chair of my sorority, and I’ve built an amazing network of friends throughout my life and career that I could never take for granted. But if I made being liked a priority at work, I wouldn’t get anything done.
You don’t need to be unnecessarily mean or harsh to get results -- that’s often just as counter-productive as trying to be likeable. But if you let go of the idea that everyone at work (and life, really) will like you, you’ll find it has a positive impact on your work and the results you can drive.
Here’s what happens when you let go of being liked:
When you need to say no, it won’t bother you
You empower yourself to express what you think without worry. It’s a lot easier to say “no,” “not now,” or “how about this idea instead” if you’re not hung up on whether or not you’ll please someone with what you think. More importantly, you won’t fall victim to doing something or agreeing to something just to keep everyone happy.
Steve Jobs was a model for prioritizing results over likability in this respect. He believed that beating around the bush in order to save people’s feelings was actually a form of selfishness. As Apple’s lead designer Jony Ive recently recounted in The New Yorker, Jobs helped him to see that a deep desire to be liked can undercut the need to give clear, unambiguous feedback. Being vague to spare someone’s feelings is actually an act of vanity.
You kill unfounded doubt and build confidence in even your toughest choices
I’ve found that placing my focus on results and getting things done over being a people pleaser builds confidence. It demonstrates that I stand for certain opinions and values, even if they’re not popular. And it also gives me and those around me more confidence in the decisions I make.
In a previous position at another company, I led a technical integration project that required partnering with a competitor. Naturally, the partnership wasn’t a hit internally. However, it turned into a huge success because it infused the business with much-needed cash.
Ultimately, the very employees who complained about the partnership were able to keep their jobs because of it. I learned then from the CEO, who stuck to her guns, that an unpopular decision might just be what’s best for business. I know now to review the data and even others thoughts and feedback but ultimately that my focus needs to be on the business, not on whether or not my decision will be liked by everyone.
You stay focused
If you’re worried too much about other people liking you, you are likely going to spread yourself too thin and not focus on the core things that matter. You worry about how your team member will be affected by the feedback you’re giving instead of worrying about getting the project done right. When you get caught up in what others think, you can easily get distracted from the overall goal you’re working toward.
In my experience, focusing on the things that matter -- like how your work impacts the bottom line -- in the end is better for your company's success and your career overall.
Being well-liked by colleagues isn’t wrong, but if you’re worried about everyone liking you, other aspects of your work will suffer. Even my current CEO at AppLovin has told me in my moments of frustration that if I’m doing my job well, I won’t be liked by everyone.
Some of the greatest CEOs, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Google’s Larry Page, Starbucks’ Howard Schultz and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, have all said they don’t care what people think. It might be tough to stop caring how others feel about you but when you start standing your ground, delivering unapologetic feedback where it’s warranted and focusing on your goals instead of other’s opinions of you, it’s ultimately better for you, your team and your business.