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Discovery Surveys, Inc.
Specializing in Employee Opinion and Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Improving the Workplace
HOW TO GET YOUR ENEMIES AT WORK TO RESPECT YOU

By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President, Discovery Surveys, Inc.

One out of every five employees says they're not treated with respect by their coworkers.

In business, we all have them. Enemies. Rivals. Adversaries. Foes. They say bad things to others behind our backs. They prevent us from succeeding in our work. Some act passive aggressively by ignoring us.

You know who they are. Have a few names in mind?

Question: What's the quickest way to get one of these archenemies to like you?

Answer: Get them to do you a small favor.

Let me explain.

It sounds counter-intuitive but it can be explained easily by what social psychologists call Cognitive Dissonance Theory. The theory predicts that we all try to maintain consistency in our attitudes and behaviors. When we do a person a favor (the behavior), we tend to like them more as a result (the attitude).

This phenomenon is also known as "The Ben Franklin Effect." Franklin said in his autobiography, "Enemies who do you one favor will want to do more." A political opponent in the Pennsylvania state legislature was annoying Franklin and he set out to win him over. He asked this adversary if he could borrow a rare book in his library. According to Franklin, when they next met in the House, the adversary spoke to him for the first time "with great civility." He added that they eventually became great friends.

THE PROBLEM

All employees need cooperation from their coworkers in order to succeed at their jobs. Without respect, they won't receive the cooperation they need to be effective. Senior management can promote the importance of teamwork until they are blue in the face, but employees must respect one another to work together effectively.

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WHAT TO DO

Here is the Ben Franklin method that individual employees and managers can use to get their enemies to like them.

  1. Identify Your Enemy

    Think of the individuals who are preventing you from succeeding at your work. It could be a coworker, subordinate, boss, employee from another part of the company, or even a customer.

  2. Ask For a Small Favor

    The favor should require the adversary to expend some effort, although it shouldn't be a Herculean task.

  3. Proceed As If You Are No Longer Enemies

    If your future interactions with this person are to be positive, you must behave toward them as if they are a colleague and not an adversary. Otherwise, your attitudes may negate their newly gained feelings of good will toward you and, instead, perpetuate the ill-will they felt in the past.

CONCLUSION

Take a lesson from Ben Franklin and the Cognitive Dissonance Theory. If your work enemies are making it difficult for you, ask them for a favor. Give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.

I am very much interested in your views on this topic.
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