Being unpopular at work is very easy. All you have to do is interrupt your boss or colleagues while a meeting is in progress, continuously talk about your personal experiences in a group or simply prevent your colleagues from voicing their opinions by airing your own.
Employers can detect this trait in a person during an interview. Says senior executive director, Dr M K Munshi, “There are several ways to detect a potential unpopular person — from the person’s body language during an interview, to his/ her response to questions. Jyotsna Maskay, who works with a women’s NGO in Thailand, says, “Micro-managers are unpopular. A micro-manager is someone who tries to manage minor issues of the organisation when other people can solve it. It’s like poking your nose in everything.”
And then there are some who become unpopular because we play politics. Lacking leadership skills and poor communication skills can make you unpopular.
How to spot them
General appearance – The way you dress, the way you walk, your facial expressions and your body language, give out signals. Some people really don’t care what they wear to work. Crushed salwar kameez or shirt and trousers, uncombed hair, torn sandals, unpolished shoes — all constitute a negative image.
Attitude – It’s hazardous to be have a team member who sports an ‘I don’t care’ attitude. Not caring what the other team members feel, not sticking to deadlines can be detrimental to the long term goals of a team/ company.
Superiority complex – This mostly happens in a senior to a junior setup. The dislike towards a senior increases if he/ she constantly picks on a junior. If a senior had a bad day, he/ she may take it out on the junior. A fresher or an employee with a few months of work experience can find it difficult to stand up to such an individual. This kind of courage comes with time and experience.
Behaviour – How one behaves with colleagues, especially with the opposite sex speaks a lot. Flirtatious behaviour, sitting on the table to catch up on gossip, talking loudly, clapping and laughing loudly, making sure one is heard are some ways of seeking attention.
Gossip – He who gossips to you, gossips of you. Beware of a person who comes to offer you a juicy bit of gossip. In turn, the very person will go and talk about you to the other person as to what you had to say about him/ her.
Selfish – A self-centred person is only concerned about his/ her own welfare, uncaring of other’s feelings and welfare. He/she is prepared to get his/ her colleagues in trouble.
Passing the buck – If at a managerial level, this person always takes credit for success but never for failures.
Indifference – A person who possesses a chalta hai attitude refuses to take any initiative for tasks, such as planning an office party or taking part in any event.
How to cope
“Given a choice, one tries to isolate the person and keep him/ her out of activities involving teamwork. Secondly, one is very guarded in their presence and discussions are often limited to the bare essentials,” says Dr Munshi.
Seconding this is Pune-based Sahana Rao, an assistant manager in instructional design who adds, “I would limit my interaction with that person as far as possible. If we are in the same team, I would try to ignore that person’s comment.” Rao feels that such people tend to take tend to take things too personally and that, a change in the person’s attitude is required to improve upon that unpopular image.
Tips to being popular
Punctuality – Being punctual is of prime importance. A person who shows up late is not only sending out a message that he/ she not only does not takes his/ her tasks seriously, but also does not respect other people’s time.
Respect the little people – Respect those employees who do not form the hierarchy but are of immense help. Don’t alienate the peons, the office boy, the watchman, the man who serves tea or the cleaner. Be polite to them.
Feedback – Remember the military adage — Praise in public, rebuke in private. Don’t scold a junior for poor performance in public. Even if he/ she hasn’t performed well, it doesn’t mean that he/ she has to be ridiculed in front of everyone. Don’t hurt anyone’s ego or self-respect. Call the person aside, in a conference room and then talk to him/ her. Offer to help him/ her to work better, instead of dousing his/ her enthusiasm.
Interaction – Don’t order people and expect them to follow. Interact with them. Instead of shooting down ideas for an office party, go ahead with someone’s plan and offer your ideas and suggestions in the next round.
Making fun – Don’t poke fun at others. Not everyone enjoys being the subject of a joke, especially in public or at work. Know when to stop and when a person is not enjoying the joke. Apologise immediately for insensitivity.
For Rediff.com, 12th February, 2007.