Help me to move on


I work in the medical field as a Patient Services Rep. and have been at my position for three years. It is a small practice run by two of the five doctors and we do not have a HR Manager or anyone who handles workplace personality or bullying issues.

The Office Manager is a bully and about 80% of the employees cannot relate to him. I have been bullied and realize now more than before that I do not fit in this environment.

My question is why does joining a clique seem to be more important than a serious work ethic and dependability, along with hard work? The people in this clique are controlling (quietly) and do not like the Manager, but respect the Doctors.

When I leave this company, should I look for a position where people will probably like me or look for a position that I can apply my skills to? This is quite a dilemma for me because I am now between 55 and 60.


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Peter Vajda's Answer:

First, the pure and simple truth is, there is no room for bullying in the workplace. Every instance of bullying, large or small, is nothing other than showing disrespect for another. And everyone - everyone - deserves respect. It's imperative that leaders and managers make it abundantly clear that there is no room for disrespect of another human being at work - ever.

That being said, it sounds like you've made up your mind about moving on. So, I won't address your current bullying/clique issues.

So, now to your two questions: (1) when I leave this company, should I look for a position where people will probably like me or (2) look for a position that I can apply my skills to?

The second, first.

Since you made this an either/or-type decision (vs. both/and), I'd be curious what your life at work would look like if you took a position where people liked you, but one which would not require you to use your skills. Would that type of situation be OK with you? And, if so, why?

Let's consider your first question. And here an important distinction needs to be made. Most everyone wants to be liked. It's the human condition. However, some of us need to be liked Ė the human condition taken to an extreme Ė an often self-defeating and self-sabotaging extreme.

Generally, those who want to be liked are often OK if they're not, as long as they feel respected. Life at work goes on quite well for these folks. .

On the other hand, those who need to be liked, and are not, often experience some flavor of personal and interpersonal dysfunction Ė played out as, for example, public or private displays of feeling unwanted, unseen, abandoned, unloved, and the like. These emotions and feelings, when manifested in the workplace, can result in some degree of personal or interpersonal conflict that often results in less than expected performance reviews, negative feedback, lack of inclusion and so on.

So, that's a question I would ask you to consider. Do you want to be liked or do you need to be liked? Your answer will have a great bearing on how you show up - as one who is OK with not being liked (by your colleagues) or as one who exhibits a neediness for being liked, and acts out with some form of reactivity and resentment when one isn't.

In my experience, the best way to be liked is, by being likable. When we're likable, "being liked" is the reward. When we're likable, we become a magnet for others' "liking."

When you're "likable," people gravitate towards your positive energy. When you're needing to be liked, people can often sense this kind of energy and in large measure you may find them ignoring, or resisting you. When you're "likable," you're giving solely to give. When you're needing to be liked, you're often "giving to get," and this results in co-dependent or dysfunctional relationships.

When you're "likable," the other comes first - the client or customer, your teammate or colleague, your direct report or your boss and other stakeholders. When you're needing to be liked, you come first, and this kind of neediness is often off-putting to others. When you're "likable," you can be fair, balanced, and just without turning people away. When you're needing to be liked, you might often bend the rules, look the other way, or engage in collusion, dishonesty or other unethical and inappropriate activities, not for the sake of fairness or integrity, but for the sake of needing to be liked and this can lead to some very slippery slopes.

Likable folks more generally have an easier time at being objective; folks needing to be liked generally do not.

Tim Sanders in his book, The LikeAbility Factor: How to Boost Your L-Factor & Achieve Your Life's Dreams suggests that likability requires four factors: friendliness, relevance, empathy, and realness. Nothing he suggests involves needing to be liked.

There's a school of thought that says men want to love someone, and women want to be loved.

Dr. Lois Frankel, author of Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office has identified a number of things women do unconsciously that sabotage their career success. One of these is: Women have an inordinate need to be liked.

She writes: "It's important for both men and women to be well liked at work - but you can't build a career solely around being liked."

So, to your questions, I would suggest a "both/and" approach. My experiences says that when you have requisite skills and combine them with a likeable personality you're more often than not going to find yourself in a win-win situation.

I hope I answered your questions and wish you well as you move on to the next chapter of your life at work.

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About our Expert

Peter Vajda
Peter Vajda

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a seminar leader, workshop facilitator and speaker. He is the founding partner of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.