Okay, so I am popular. Now what?


There are two steps to achieving contentment in life and work:

  • Convince others to give you what you want
  • Then tell ’em what to give you

Maybe not. Life seems to be more complex.

I recently read an article by a guy named Mike Tattersall, called How To Become Popular at Work. As of today, he has published 1139 articles on a website called How To Do Things. No joke – this guy must be the real deal!

In all seriousness, I liked his article. It was a clear and useful (re)statement of conventional wisdom. We need conventional wisdom to be restated as often as possible, I believe, because ironically we tend to forget it. So he tells us how to be popular at work, and it basically all comes down to being nice and lovable and getting on the good side of even the office grouch (does HR let us say “grouch” anymore?). It’s good advice, and it makes the office a happier place for everyone. But is that enough?

What do you do after you’ve become popular?

Knowing When to Stop

There are two types of workers in an office. Those who like their job, and those who don’t. (By the way, I am a big fan of always breaking down things into “two” groups – everything is black or white, in my World.) Oh, and then there’s the type who do or don’t like their job, and they just work like heck, busy little bees, always doing something, and maybe or maybe not spending a lot of time doing the things that actually help the office, the company, the people. Alright, so I introduced some “complexity” into my black and white depiction. Now I am.. muddled? Perhaps.

If you can, should you? Really??

Well, so once you are popular, and you have the entire office eating out of your hand, now you can get anything done that you want right? I am asking. Seriously. I am sort of well-liked in the places where I have worked, but I would never say I was, like, the Homecoming King or anything like that. I don’t know what it is like to be able to get “anything done that you want”. It’s probably nice.

But I do have experience in a related area. I know there are people who have the ability to do certain things in a company, and who then just go ahead and do them, without necessarily thinking whether that particular thing should actually ever be done by anyone. They follow the principle of:

If you can, you should.

Which is dumb. There are lots of things which can be done, but which would just be pointless to do, and which distract us from more important goals. It happens in life, too. Like when we keep watching TV until well after 11pm, even though we all know the last bit of good TV each night is the opening monologue of The Daily Show, which is clearly over by 11:10pm. 😉

Be careful what you do. Ask your manager for guidance. We all need guidance from folks who know more. Always look for someone who knows more. Know what I mean?

Am I Popular, Or Do They Just Like Me?

Something that Mike Tattersall doesn’t cover in his article – how do you know when it’s honest and good? Popularity is not the same as being liked. People are popular when they give a knee-jerk feeling of happiness to the people around them. I am sometimes popular, like when I stand up in the cubicle farm and tell a good knock-knock joke during the mid-afternoon slump.

But I am not liked for my extraordinary knock-knock jokes. In fact, I’ve been told to “stop doing that”. Oh well.

Predictability is not really dry.

What I am liked for, in my better moments, is my ability to “keep my eye on the ball”, “get on board with that”, and all the other many cliches at which I excel, from time to time. There is a reason that cliches have stuck with us for so long – they, like conventional wisdom, are true, and they work. They guide us, many times. Companies like predictability that helps them move things along. Predictability can be dry running for the staff, but it gets us all to good places in the end, and it’s not really dry once you look at it the right way – it is really quite.. wet and “nice to feel wanted and valuable”.

What do you all think? Was there ever a time when you thought you were “liked”, but it turned out you were merely “popular”?