‘Popularity: Does it matter? Research says it does‘ is a dangerous and, to a degree, an irresponsible article by Time magazine – little more than an advertorial by Mitch Prinstein, who is of course selling his book.
Good for him, I suppose. After all, it supports what many people believe, so it fits the criteria of confirmation bias. Being popular is important. But being popular for what?
Everything in the image above was popular – which is a bit unfair since those are instantiations of technology while we are discussing human interaction, but since popularity is a human thing, it demonstrates that being popular works as long as something more popular doesn’t go along. That’s a major factor in human interactions that may well be in the author’s book, but it certainly doesn’t bleed through the article.
All I see bleeding out of that article is confirmation bias.
And what does it mean to be popular, anyway? You can be popular with your peers and unpopular with management, and vice versa. Being popular with both is a balancing act that few can attain. Factor in the culture of wherever you work, being popular doesn’t mean anything at all if you’re popular in a culture that isn’t producing things of value.
And that gets down to a culture of value, and what that actually means. So, certainly, being popular is good for you and it may even be good for a company you work for. Certainly, being nice to other people is a major factor in office politics – did we really need a research study and a book to say that?
Unfortunately, yes. I’ve personally been in many environments where people were popular with management, had management’s ear – even drinking with management to continue their course, and bypassing peer review in the office. Who you’re popular with determines only how what you do is received; it does not determine the value of your work. Your peers, in a strong value culture, will not think you popular at all if the your work is of low value.
If you fail to understand that simply not being a jerk is a good thing and you need a book to tell you that, you should probably buy a book. Empathy is pretty straightforward for most people.
And, ultimately, if you are producing things of value and you’re not popular because of it – it’s not you. It’s them. Move on.