A stellar performance and excellent work ethic will take you far in your career — but your relationships are what will ultimately make or break it.
“People should remember that being likeable helps you succeed at work,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “The Humor Advantage.” “Conversely, getting on someone’s wrong side can lead to conflict, inefficiencies, and stress. It can ultimately have a huge impact on your overall level of happiness at work.”
Ryan Kahn, the founder of The Hired Group and creator of the best-selling How To Get Hired online course, concurs. “The ability to establish positive working relationships with your coworkers and boss can be a key advantage in your career,” he says.
“There are several benefits. First off, you never know when — or from whom — you will need help or advice to complete a project or objective. Having a large network of people willing to assist you can be the determining factor in your ability to succeed.”
Of course, both Kerr and Kahn say you should always treat everyone — no matter where they rank in the company — the way you want to be treated, but there are a few people in particular you should be especially nice to if you want to get ahead:
1. Your Boss.
Your manager is someone who makes decisions regarding promotions and raises; the person who assigns projects — good and bad; the person who provides feedback about your performance to upper management; and the one who ultimately makes your work life fantastic or unbearable.
You don’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) best friends with your manager — and you definitely don’t want to be a brownnoser — but a little sucking up every now and then won’t hurt.
Plus, if you ever move on to another job and need your boss to be a reference, you’ll want to know they’ll say positive things about you.
2. The CEO.
This one is a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t you want the top exec to like you?
3. The office administrator.
Quickly need the ink replaced in the printer before an important presentation? Need to use a conference room for a big meeting that has already been reserved by someone else? If you’re buddy-buddy with the office administrator, they might be more willing to pull strings for you when you’re in a jam.
These people have a lot of power. Don’t take advantage, but definitely get on their good side.
4. The receptionist or security guard.
These people tend to be in the know — they’re secretly the eyes and ears of your organization.
While you don’t want to get caught up in the rumor mill — and you definitely don’t want to be known as the office gossip — it may work to your advantage to be friendly with the receptionist and/or security guard. (Reminder: Don’t believe everything you hear!)
“Front line receptionists are key people to get to know and ‘make nice’ with,” adds Kerr. “They are often a treasure trove of company information and can help you in unexpected ways, whether it’s watching out for an important package you’re expecting or letting you know when someone’s arrived on the premises.”
Plus, these are likely the first people you see when you arrive at the office each morning, and it’s always nice to start your day by being welcomed with a friendly smile or “good morning!” which they’ll be more likely to give if they like you.
5. The Company Accountant.
Become friends with the person who handles expense reports. No, we’re not suggesting you do this to get away with fudging these reports. But they can be tricky and confusing and you may have a lot of questions or make the occasional mistake, so it might be helpful to be on this person’s good side.
“Befriending and building trust with people in key financial roles can pay huge dividends the next time you are dealing with a financial mix-up or navigating a big contract or substantial purchase through the bureaucratic maze,” adds Kerr. “Having people who are on your side can save you a huge amount of stress and conflict.”
6. An IT Employee.
“Winning over anyone and everyone in the IT department is critical,” says Kerr. “When a technological issues rears its ugly head, these are the folks that can save your behind and their responsiveness and support can make the world of difference.”
“It’s important to get to know people in different roles across your department and those that you interact with,” says Kahn. “One tip I like to offer is setting up a few days each week to get lunch with a different colleague. You have to eat anyway, and this could be a good way to learn more about coworkers both professionally and personally.”
The simplest way to show a genuine interest in people, he says, is to remember names and previous interactions. “If you’re forgetful, there’s nothing wrong with making notes in your contact cards.”
Kerr says flattery also goes a long way (so long as it’s genuine) — as does offering your help and asking colleagues for their input. “It shows that you respect their judgment and that you value them.”
7. Someone in the HR Department.
It can’t hurt to have your company’s Human Resources personnel on your side. They’re, well, a great resource for employees, and can usually answer almost any question you may have about benefits, perks, policies, and payroll.
If you ever have a question, problem, or concern, these are the people you should talk to. If they like you, they might respond faster or make your issue a priority.
Kerr adds: “You should be especially nice to HR people — again, because of the huge breadth of knowledge that typically resides with them, and because when it comes time to consider promotions, lateral transfers, or even performance appraisals, their perspective on your character may be sought out.”
Kerr says there is a line between subtly sucking up and being a full-blown brownnoser.
“Partly it’s about intention,” he explains. “If you come from a good heart and make an effort to be a kind human being who everyone wants to work with without adopting an ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ mindset, then your motives will never be suspect.”
“Authenticity plays a role too,” he adds. “No one likes an obviously phony person or someone who only puts on the charm at certain times to make an impression. It’s about being yourself and remembering that the nicer you are, and the more helpful you are to the people around you, the easier and less stressful your job will be, the less conflict you’ll have, the more efficiently you’ll be able to get things done, and the happier you will be.”
Kahn says it’s often easy to tell when someone is insincerely sucking up, “which can have the opposite effect from what was intended,” he explains. “Take the time to genuinely get to know your coworkers as people. Just a small amount of effort can go a long way — and who knows, you just may come away with some new friends in the process.”