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Do You Want to Be Liked or Respected at Work?

It's natural to say that you want to be liked and respected, but when forced to make a choice, I urge you to seek the respect of your co-workers and your boss. Here's why:
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In the era of Facebook you can "like" something with the click of a mouse to show your attraction or acknowledgement towards a person, object or sentiment in a post. It has become a popularity contest of sorts to attract numerous likes and expand your social media presence and network of friends.

Many women (and men) get sucked into the popularity contest mindset in the workplace as well and strive to be liked by their colleagues. It's natural to say that you want to be liked and respected, but when forced to make a choice, I urge you to seek the respect of your co-workers and your boss. Here's why:

Nice is Not Enough - being courteous and professional in the workplace is expected, but if one is too agreeable, passive and overly compassionate, it may hinder your chances of getting promoted or working on prime assignments. Being overly nice is probably not in your job description, so don't succumb to the self-sabotaging behavior.

Don't volunteer to take notes or get coffee for others if that is not expressly in your job description. I know that women tend to be nurturers and that's great, but do it at home with your loved ones and don't get too personal at work. If you find yourself acting like your co-worker's mother or become the company pop psychologist because you are a really good listener, you are being too nice. Get back to work!

Professional Respect - this evokes a positive feeling of esteem or deference for a person and their actions. If you are cultivating a professional persona where you are indispensable at work, you can become the go-to expert and distinguish yourself amongst your peers. You've got to assert yourself to be seen and heard so you can be recognized for the great work you are accomplishing. Nobody ever earned kudos on a performance evaluation for being nice. Miss Congeniality is best left for the pageant circuit, but it doesn't mean you can't be a colleague who treats others professionally and earns the respect of others.

Friends or Enemies - Charlotte Beers, author of I'd Rather Be in Charge and Former Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, says that relationships often matter more than work. Perhaps not fair, but it's reality. The quality of your work may be trumped by the relationships you build or break.

Charlotte says:

You have to recognize that there will be a moment in time when you will not be able to be represented by the quality of your work but rather by the relationships you have. Make as few enemies as possible, it's really just good form. Men can compete ferociously with each other and then turn around and lend a hand to their opponent. Here's the bottom line: The person who is very good at relationships is the one who gets to be in charge.

It's a small world and your boss today may be your customer in five years. Every person counts in our connected world-of-work, and respect is a key element in maintaining professional relationships.

Teach People How to Treat You - you have so much more control than you are allowing yourself to use. Dr. Phil McGraw offers this strategy: "Own, rather than complain about, how people treat you. Learn to negotiate your relationships to have what you want." Give yourself permission to train the people around you (at work and at home) so they treat you with respect and dignity. You must take responsibility for shaping other's behavior and teach them how you wish to be treated.

If you accept when people are aggressive, bossy or controlling -- and they get their way -- you have rewarded them for unacceptable behavior, according to Dr. Phil. You need to be accountable and ready to negotiate what you need and want in the workplace from a position of strength and power -- not fear or self-doubt. Your resolve to be treated with dignity and respect must be uncompromising. Being nice is not enough to command the respect of others.

Self-Confidence is Empowering - as you navigate your career path, consider how you can assert yourself more and earn the respect of your colleagues. The goal is to be more emphatic and self-assured, but not aggressive. Your new persona of respect will be palpable to others and perhaps cause a positive ripple effect in your organization. Don't ever compromise and sell out on this most precious commodity because you deserve to be respected.

A bonus to being respected at work is that many people will also enjoy being around you and that's a good thing. You will continue to foster professional relationships at work but keep the "liking" to Facebook.

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name ( She is the Director of Career & Professional Development and Adjunct Faculty at Indiana University Maurer School of Law and hosts the national CBS Radio Show Career Coach Caroline on Tuesdays at 5pm ET Caroline also contributes to AOL Jobs, CNN Money, and More Magazine online.

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