Majority Prefer To Work With Friends Over Competence
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Majority Prefer To Work With Friends Over Competence

Majority Prefer To Work With Friends Over Competence

A study by the director of Abu Dhabi’s INSEAD business school warns homogenous teams at work can be dangerous.


The majority of people prefer to work with a colleague who they like rather than one who is good at their job, an INSEAD study has found.

Miguel Sousa Lobo, director of the business school’s Abu Dhabi campus, studied the models of social network analysis and discovered that there is a trade off between working with people you trust and those who excel in their job.

“If you have the choice between two people to work with, one is competent but not likeable and the other is a friend but not good at their job, most people say they would put the priority on competence,” says Lobo. “They think ‘I’m a serious professional and will put that ahead of likeability.’

“More often than not however, the results showed that most people put equal weight or even priority on likeability rather than competence.”

Lobo says the results of the study, which polled five different organisations, questioned what role emotions plays in the formation of teams and networks.

“The reason is emotions carry information,” he says. “Often emotions are based on assessments of trust and if someone will support you and share information, you start relying on those emotions.”

But it’s not a simple clear cut between the two. Lobo argues that if you don’t like somebody, there are consequences when you avoid them no matter their competence. Likewise, if you like somebody but they’re not good at their job, you may not want to approach them.

“Being liked makes your competence relevant, not being liked switches off that recognition,” he explains. “The big downside has to do with the theory that you like someone who is like you; you need to expand less thinking to get on with them, so that’s more comfortable.

“If you like people who are more like you, you seek them out and form teams and will have homogenous teams, which we know are a dangerous thing for organisations.

“The advantages can be ease of communication, if the task doesn’t involve much creativity. But for most tasks that are knowledge intensive and information intensive, homogeneous teams lack diversity and communication, which is dangerous.”


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