According to a recent issue of Organization Science, social ‘chameleons’ may hold the secret to achieving career success. Researchers found that workers who adapt their behavior to differing social situations tend to be sought out more for assistance than those who do not adapt their behavior to those around them. This position as an informal adviser “was found to be more closely tied to job performance and career success than other positions within the (work place) network.”
Surprisingly, people who act as ‘chameleons’ in the work place do not necessarily exhibit extroversion or even agreeableness. Specifically, extroverts don’t seem to be sought after for advice and are only people who claim they have many friends in the workplace. The study shows that ‘social chameleons’ do not claim to have more friends than others, but more people claim them as friends. In addition to extroversion, agreeable people sometimes seem to have opinions that are easily swayed and are therefore undependable for help and advice. Similarly, a disorganized, neurotic person may not have the consistency or organization to provide reliable advice with a work product.
In sum, in the battle for career advancement, having a characteristic that encourages others to approach one for help and advice may play a vital role in career success. The ability to modify social behaviors depending on which co-worker is involved seems to encourage the feeling that the ‘chameleon’ is always able and ready to help as many people as possible.
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