Being Liked

A colleague of mine mentioned a curious and “unscientific” observation today regarding the organisational effectiveness of team members “liking” each other.
The example he used was a meeting that recently took place where two mid-level managers from different departments who obviously knew each other fairly well, coming in to take their seat at the conference table. One said to the other, “you should sit right there so I can throw darts at you all meeting”.
This struck my colleague as not only an odd statement, but certainly the wrong foot to start the meeting on. Even though the comment may have been thinly veiled in humour there was an uncomfortable air in the room among the other attendees.
This got us to thinking… Is it possible for team members to subconsciously affect the outcome of a project, activity or task based on how much they “like” the other team members?
My colleague mentioned another “unscientific” observation: His son plays on a fairly competitive baseball team and he has noticed that the number of errors that the team committed when the pitcher is well liked by his fielders is dramatically less than the number of errors committed when the pitcher is less popular.
We’re now thinking about how we can measure how much team members “like” each other (which may consist of anything from trust level, attractiveness, affability and other factors) and how that may impact overall outcomes and performance.
Any thoughts?

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4 comments
  1. mike hrycyk said:

    isn’t this part and parcel with team building?
    it’s known that teams that ‘build’ for relationships and connections that help them to share a common vision are much more successful. well, with someone that you like there must be connections and relationships as well.
    it’s easier to form a solid vision in those cases.

  2. Definitely a persons likability affects the outcome of business dealings. Tim Sanders wrote “The Likeability Factor” and quotes many studies on this subject.

  3. Gavin Gormley said:

    I think there is definitely empirical eveidence to support this but I also think that respect and trust enter into organizational dynamics to a large extent. Often, these go hand in hand (i.e. one is probably more inclined to like someone they respect and trust), but not always.
    I’ve worked with people in the past that I didn’t particulary like (usually due to my perception of their arrogance or ignorance – or worse, both together) but I did respect and trust their judgement, opinions, work ethic, and commitment to achieving the common goal. There can also be a downside to collaborating with someone whom one likes – if their performance needs correction, it can be difficult to speak candidly and critically without allowing their likeability temper the dialogue. In other words, it’s more difficult to give someone a deserved bollocking if they are genuinely likeable.

  4. Somewhat related: http://blog.threestarleadership.com/2011/05/16/a-conversation-about-a-candidate-for-promotion.aspx

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