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Are Success and Likeability Mutually Exclusive for Women?


Is it true that the more successful a man becomes, the more he’s liked? And that a woman’s success is matched by a correlating decline in likeability?

In Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, the Facebook executive talks about the double standard of likeability. Successful men are considered more likeable the higher the corporate ladder they climb. The opposite holds true for women, she says.

“As women get more powerful, they get less likeable,” she says in a recent interview. “I see women holding themselves back because of this, but if we start talking about the success-likeability penalty women face, then we can do something about it.”

Whether or not that holds true is a matter of debate. A study set out to test this Sandberg success-likeability penalty by surveying 9,500 men and 5,000 women in the corporate world. The results proved Sandberg mistaken. At least, according to this leadership development think tank called Zenger Folkman.

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“Both men and women took a hit in likeability when they moved from first-level supervisor to middle manager, but this drop was more precipitous for men,” writes Zenger Folkman CEO Jack Zenger for Forbes. “After that, the women made up some ground, while men’s standing continued to erode, significantly widening the gap between them.”

In another Forbes article, the author spells out three reasons to foster likeability at work. 

1. People prefer working for a boss they like.

2. It’s easier to follow tough commands when they come from someone you know and trust.

3. Likeability probably factored in your success to some degree.

Read the rest of the article here.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think there is a correlation between likeability and success? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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(Photo credit: Victor1558 / Flickr)

Jennifer Wadsworth
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