I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “You’ll attract more bees with honey.” It’s a way of saying being nice will get you farther in life than being mean. It’s something I really truly believe in, and try to apply whenever possible. For some people, getting ahead using fear-based tactics may help them succeed, but I have to imagine a little piece of them dies on the inside each time they use this technique.
Side note: Who REALLY wants to attract more bees. That’s why I’m changing it to, “You’ll attract more Pooh Bears with honey” because it’s WAY more true and who wouldn’t want more Pooh Bears in their life?
Coworkers and accolades = Pooh Bears
When it comes to the working world, I’ve definitely worked with those who range the full spectrum of being nice and being not-so-nice. So I thought it might be good to try and chart some of these behaviors in a way that compares the level of niceness to the level of knowledge being displayed in the working world.
As you can see from the chart below, the scale of nice ranges from “horrible human being” to “lovely.” And the scale of knowledge ranges from “newbie” to “subject matter expert” (I was tempted to put “genius” on that side of the spectrum, but come on…that’s pretty rare).
The four quadrants represent where your coworkers or bosses or interns (or even you…yeah you!) could fall at any one time. Is it the goal to always be the most knowledgeable and the most lovely at all times? Not necessarily. I think you have some leeway to adjust your levels depending on the situation. But just try NOT to fall into “The worst” quadrant. Actively trying to stay in this quadrant will likely get you fired. Seriously, what do you have to offer?
Finally, I tried to highlight some examples to give you an idea of those personalities as they pertain to what quadrant(s) they fall into.
Breaking it down…
- When you’re first starting a job and you don’t know anything, this is where you should aim to be. The only thing you have to offer is your personality, at this point, so it better be likable until you can learn the ropes. Bonus – your peers will give you a couple mulligans when you’re new if you manage to not piss them off.
- When you’ve conquered a niche and have the opportunity to speak about your expertise, you have a little more leeway with how nice you need to be. You should never be a horrible human being, but if you’re confident in your knowledge, and someone tries to discredit you, you shouldn’t let them walk all over you. But if it works to also be lovely, then by all means be both whenever you can.
- You are Donald Trump. You might know a thing or two, but you continue to be a horrible human being, and you’re definitely by no means the expert in your field. You have a very polarizing nature, but there will always be some supporters of this fear-based approach. If you’re like Donald Trump and can fund your own awfulness, I guess you have nothing to worry about. But if you’re actually trying to keep your job, it’s probably likely you’ll be fired pretty soon.
- You’re not as bad as Donald Trump, but you’re definitely pretentious. People despise that you know everything, but you are still a horrible human being that makes their job infinitely harder. You get to keep your job because others depend on your knowledge base, but you’re probably not going to be invited to many happy hours in the future.
- You don’t get a lot of recognition. Sure, you’re nice enough and you know some things, but you don’t stick out to anyone as going above and beyond. You’re just kind of…there.
- This is a good spot to live in if the project is not relying solely on your knowledge. You can always afford to be nice and you can offer up knowledge when it’s helpful.
Attracting Pooh Bears is great, but it’s not the only way.
My personal philosophy and way of breaking down these relationships helps me better understand the types of people I’m dealing with, as well as see where I fit on this scale at any one time. But I also know that the “People love you” category is not where everyone strives to be.
The act of being knowledgeable and stepping on whoever you have to in an attempt to scale that lifelong career ladder is what some prefer – and they’re successful.
Others prefer to be the really well-liked person who sticks around even though they don’t have much to offer…they just want the consistency of coming into work, having a place where they can be loved by others and not make too much of a fuss. And by their own standards, that is the measure of success.
And finally, there are those that will be brash, and will try to trick others with fear-based tactics to make them think they know a thing or two, even if they don’t because they believe that if they yell the loudest and look like a dictator, someone…somewhere will eventually believe them. They probably job hop a lot, but eventually, they’ll find a place where this ruse will actually work in their favor. In their mind, this is success.
I’ll probably always be striving for a combination of knowledge mixed with trying to be likable. I’d love to say that I’m above wanting to be liked, but I’m not. Being liked is a form of success for me. And being knowledgeable is also another form of success for me. My trajectory may not be as fast as those who strive for knowledge and power over being liked, but again, this is my form of success, and I’m okay with it.
What are your thoughts? Is this a naive way of looking at the world? Or does it make sense? And where do you fall?