Success and Likeability: Can Women Workers Have Both?


As women move up the career ladder, are they less liked by their coworkers?

That’s a topic that the Harvard Business Review recently tackled in a new study that examined the likeability factor for both men and women as they move up into leadership positions.

The study found that for both men and women, the likeability factor is directly linked to their perceived effectiveness as leaders. Take a look at this interesting graph:


As you can see, women’s likeability trended a bit higher compared to their male counterparts as they moved into higher leadership roles.

This is good news for women. Oftentimes, we’re told we can be liked or we can be successful – but we can’t have both. In fact, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg addressed this topic in her massively popular book Lean In. Based on her research, she found that “success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.”

The reality is that being likeable in the workplace only fuels our success. When someone describes a great boss, chances are they’re talking about someone who is honest, a good communicator, fair and a good listener.  I’ve found that if you treat people with respect, and if you’re someone who doesn’t need to put others down in order to lift yourself up, then most people (men and women) will have respect for the work that you do and have a positive opinion of you as a person.

Women are constantly bombarded with mixed messages on what it takes to succeed: Be tough yet tender, be aggressive yet approachable. As we continue to break barriers in the corporate world, one of the toughest hurdles we face is overcoming false stereotypes.

We’ve already started to tackle this problem. In what The Huffington Post describes as “executive feminism,” there’s been a new wave of women leaders who are “discussing their role in the workforce, their impact on the business landscape and their involvement and commitment to their own careers.”

It is up to us to define who we are and the unique and invaluable skills we provide as leaders in the workplace.  We should all take advantage of the recent visibility and interest about women in the workplace by  supporting each other along the way and not being afraid to take our seat at the leadership table alongside our male colleagues. With more women at the top, we’ll continue to succeed and erase those stereotypes.