Why Popularity at Work Matters
In high school, didn’t a part of you always wonder how the cool kids did it? Popularity remained an enigmatic aspect of human existence that ceased to be relevant once we threw our caps in the air…right?

There are scores of research studies on popularity in schools, and most have indicated that popular children are viewed as better students and make and maintain friendships more easily. In 2009, however, organizational psychologists Timothy Judge and B.A. Scott at the University of Florida demonstrated that popularity plays a significant role on success in the workplace. They defined popularity as being “accepted by one’s peers” and conceptualized it as a function of both an employee’s personality and the situational position within his group. As a result of studying two samples of employee populations, professors Judge and Scott reported that co-workers reliably agreed about who was popular on their team – and who wasn’t. Co-workers also felt that an employee’s popularity was associated with receiving more favorable treatment at work. Why? Judge and Scott suggest that popular employees are rewarding to interact with for both emotional and instrumental reasons. In addition to being “fun to be with,” popular individuals are thought to increase co-worker status by association and make it easier to get things done.

Meg Cabot just wrote a book for teens called How to Be Popular, but rest assured, I’m not going to make you read it. Instead, here are some painless tips for increasing your popularity on the office social circuit.

  • Be interested in other people: Human beings love to talk about themselves and be listened to. By taking the time to learn about what a co-worker deems important and inquiring about those things, you’ll make her happy and encourage her to like you.
  • Shift attention away from yourself: Don’t chat on endlessly about what you and your boyfriend or girlfriend did over the weekend, and if a co-worker broaches a particular topic, don’t immediately turn the discussion to your own experiences. Instead of trying to be admired, be admiring.
  • Eradicate self-consciousness: People who lack confidence make others feel nervous and awkward. When conversing with co-workers, try to be natural and relaxed, without worrying about how you’re being perceived.
  • Organize team building activities: You don’t have to be your department’s cheerleader, but it’s nice to occasionally take charge of getting the group together for drinks or another fun activity after work or during the holidays. Most people like to be social, and the individual who takes responsibility for being the organizer usually gets popularity points.
  • Help whenever you can: Always be generous with your knowledge, expertise, and time without expecting anything in return. People like those who they can count on in times of stress and who are willing to pitch in without making a big production out of it.

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