Sunday, June 03, 2007

A career of pleasantry

The other day I saw this link on the Yahoo home page (which, admittedly, I did not read other than a brief glance at the article before using it as a prompt for the glib pseudo-essay that follows below, but now hardly seemed the time to start allowing research to get in the way of wry observations offered with self-deprecation, as though that makes it better--oh, wait, we were in the middle of a sentence, weren't we?) wherein the writer (a career consultant with books to sell) suggested that being likable is beneficial to your job success.

I fail to see how that explains Donald Trump, but I digress before I start.

What little I recalled of the glance at the text before launching into is a reference to a study wherein the conclusion was that people would rather work with someone who is incompetent but likable than someone competent but unpleasant. And I am again struck by the thought: Who are these people they're surveying for these studies? And who continues to finance these studies? That's the sort of study that someone incompetent but likable would perform to prove he deserves to keep his job.

As I noted in the recent post about the curse of competence, another study concluded the incompetent lack the awareness to discern incompetence, but we'll grant that the incompetent can tell whether someone is (in their opinion) "likable." Therefore the incompetent who were surveyed would lack the frame of reference to identify who was competent and who was not; they would know only who was pleasant to them and who was not. Of course we all prefer to deal with people who are pleasant, and that's the only trait they could identify successfully, so that the study concluded likability was more important than competence tells us something about those studied. They are not the ones actually getting anything done.

Although some people are just continually curmudgeonly, I'd argue that most behavior is situational in what causes it. Thus, the less-desirable (according to the study) competent but unpleasant people are probably responding to something in the environment that makes them. And what might be driving the competent to the point of having a less than sunny disposition?

"Um, dealing with the incompetence of others in the workplace?"

Show me "Dealing with the incompetent"! [Ding] Number one answer! (Imagine that being said as Richard Dawson, by the way.)

The incompetent have no choice but to be pleasant; it's a defense mechanism. When the competent are cleaning up their messes, the incompetent must mitigate their culpability (to the extent they understand what they did wrong) by smiling and being nice, so they don't have acts of violence perpetrated upon them.

And I didn't even need to perform a lengthy study to figure out that much.

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