Competent jerk or loveable fool



When looking for help with a task at work, people turn to those best able to do the job. Right? Wrong. Research shows that work partners tend to be chosen not for ability but for likability.
Drawing from their study encompassing 10,000 work relationships in five organizations, the authors have classified work partners into four archetypes: the competent jerk, who knows a lot but is unpleasant; the lovable fool, who doesn’t know much but is a delight; the lovable star, who’s both smart and likable; and the incompetent jerk, who…well, that’s self-explanatory.
Of course, everybody wants to work with the lovable star, and nobody wants to work with the incompetent jerk. More interesting is that people prefer the lovable fool over the competent jerk. That has big implications for every organization, as both of these types often represent missed opportunities.
Because they are liked by a disproportionate number of people, lovable fools can bridge gaps between diverse groups that might not otherwise interact. But their networking skills are often developed at the expense of job performance, which can make these employees underappreciated and vulnerable to downsizing. To get the most out of them, managers need to protect them and put them in positions that don’t waste their bridge-building talents.
As for the competent jerks, too often their expertise goes untapped by people who just can’t put up with them. But many can be socialized through coaching or by being made accountable for bad behavior. Others may need to display their competence in more isolated settings.
Intriguingly, managers aren’t limited to leveraging people that others like and changing those that others loathe. They also can create situations in which people are more apt to like one another, whatever their individual qualities.

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