Are They Easy to Work With Or Just Friendly?

It's easy to confuse friendly with competence.warmth-competence A lot of companies talk about being easy to work with. Fewer explain what they mean by that.

As a software architect, I worked with a lot of programmers who came across as distant, reclusive, gruff, or even angry but were super easy to work with. Despite their social skills, they could cut through business jargon and determine the core need of the user, design a solution, and implement it with minimal headaches.

On the other hand, I've also worked with personable, friendly, engaging programmers who seemed to add to the customer's problems instead of reducing them.

If given the choice, we'd all prefer to work with people who are friendly and engaging. But only if they're also competent and intelligent. When we can't have both, we demand competence over friendliness.

Researchers tell us that people judge a person's warmth before they judge competence (Fisk, Cuddy, and Glick, 2010):

Although warmth and competence dimensions emerge consistently,considerable evidence suggests that warmth judgments are primary: warmth is judged before competence, and warmth judgments carry more weight in affective and behavioral reactions. From an evolutionary perspective, the primacy of warmth is fitting because another person’s intent for good or ill is more important to survival than whether the other person can act on those intentions. Similarly, morality(warmth) judgments determine approach–avoidance tendencies, so they are the fundamental aspect of evaluation[8,9] and, therefore, precede competence–efficacy judgments.

In business, we sometimes judge ourselves as "easy to work with" because people tell us how nice and friendly we are. But if we can't deliver, people quickly see our warmth as smarmy and glib.

Friendliness isn't easy to work with; it makes easy to work with more pleasant.