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Sunday, July 10, 2005

Social Networks : Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools!!

Over the weekend finished reading this article from the HBR on Jerks At Work.New research shows that work partners tend to be chosen not for ability but for likeability. 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 likeable; 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. 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, many can be socialized through coaching or by being made accountable for bad behavior.

The Economist also covered this research saying,The authors, Tiziana Casciaro and Miguel Sousa Lobo, academics at Harvard Business School and the Fuqua School of Business respectively, suggest that as well as training jerks to be more charming—although “sadly there are people who are disliked because they are socially incompetent, and probably never will be truly charming”—companies should also “leverage the likeable”. Amiable folk should be turned into “affective hubs”, people who can bridge gaps “between diverse groups that might not otherwise interact”.

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