“The world went on the same after all. The same things happened every morning. So what if they did not like her? She would go on the same.”

Harriet the Spy


Let me get this out of the way upfront: likeability, in and of itself in an organization, is deadweight.


I just said that.

Now. I am not talking about people wanting to be liked. I believe Alicia Menendez wrote a book called “the likeability trap’ which deals with that.

I am speaking of how people desiring to ‘build a culture’ saying things like “its important we like each other.” No. It isn’t. It isn’t important you like everyone, its important to not actively dislike everyone <that is different than liking everyone> and it is important to respect everyone. It’s a business not a circle of friends.


I am not suggesting someone seek to be unlikeable nor am I suggesting actually recruiting based on finding unlikeable people. Shit. Liking people you work with actually increases some social cohesion. The tricky part about that is effective business culture is more about professional cohesion.

What I mean by that is say you have Joe, and everyone likes Joe. No one has anything bad to say about him and, in fact, almost every conversation begins with “I like Joe”. But then the inevitable shoe drops … “but.” He’s likeable but doesn’t contribute shit. He’s just the likeable guy in the office taking someone’s salary who may be a little less likeable, but you can count on to get good shit done when the business of doing business needs to be done. Yeah. Professional cohesion is grounded in contribution, productivity and respect.


Please no one suggest I am suggesting a binary. This isn’t an either/or discussion. This is a “what is most important discussion” and a ‘proportional” discussion. Let me address the latter. “Likeable’ takes on disproportionate importance in many businesses and how they view ‘culture’. What I mean by that is whenever a review comes up or senior folk are gathered around some mahogany conference room table the “everyone likes him” cloaks all the other business negatives surrounding good ole Joe. Yeah. Proportionally we seem to disproportionately weight the importance of likeability higher than just professional contribution. Its almost like we view the likeability/contribution organizational formula as a zero-sum analysis where a lot here, zeros out a little here. That’s slightly absurd and not really a good way of ‘constructing a healthy culture.’

Let me be clear.

Joe is deadweight.

Joe is also actually bad for the culture. Yeah. Deadweight and bad. Deadweight in that salary earned is supposed to be related to business value provided and in this case that translates into “we are paying him because he contributes to the likeability in our culture” (maybe suggesting he contributes in some way to social cohesion). Which leads me to bad. Bad in that everyone else in the company senses that if you don’t really have anything to contribute, but figure out how to be likeable you can pull down a sweet salary and get healthcare.

In the end. I dislike, no, hate when people discuss likeability when it is related to culture. “We want to be known as likeable” is a horrible objective. I am fine if someone states “lets make sure we are not unlikeable as we craft a distinct professional position in the marketplace”, but likeable? Please.

Written by Bruce