How to Win Friends and Influence People at Work

You Need to Exhibit Genuine Interest and Praise Coworkers Honestly

You can learn how to win friends and influence people at work using these three strategies.

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You’ve probably heard of Dale Carnegie’s book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," but have you read it? Probably not (although many people have). If you have read it, have you applied the principles in the book at work? While friendship isn’t necessary for the office, it sure is a better place to work in when everyone gets along.

Here are three of Carnegie’s principles about how to win friends and influence people adapted to the workplace. Use these ideas so you can know how to win friends and influence people at work.

Become Genuinely Interested in Other People

That water cooler chit-chat won’t help you if your focus is always on you. “I did this,” or “Here’s what I think about that,” is often how people talk. People love to talk about themselves.

But, if you can switch that interest and become genuinely interested in other people, you’ll become someone people want to be with, and you’ll be able to selectively influence people on factors that are really important.

Remember, you already know everything there is to know about you, so don’t waste your time talking about you and your ideas. While it’s not appropriate to get too personal in the office (especially with people over whom you have hire/fire/evaluation power), it is appropriate to find out about their outside interests and use that information to build relationships.

For instance, “Hey, Karen, I saw that the Dodgers won last night. You must be thrilled!” This is a simple statement. It’s not personal, and it’s not invasive. But it tells Karen that you care enough about her to know what her favorite team is and it's important enough to you that you paid attention to last night’s game.

You should know people’s marital status, how many children they have, and the general health things. No, you don’t need to dig into their personal business, but giving an employee or a coworker a small, inexpensive gift for her baby’s first birthday will put her over the moon with her thoughtfulness.

When John tells you that he’s stressed because he’s had to move his grandmother to the nursing home, inquiring as to how his grandmother is every few months can show you care.

While all the above are critical to building a good relationship, you also need to focus on specific work-related tasks. Of course, you follow up on projects that you assign to others or with people who need to provide you deliverables, but if you want to build relationships, you’ll need to go a step farther.

Along the same lines as the personal information, ask questions about how things are going for others, but in an "I'm interested" manner, not an “I’m telling you what to do” manner. Here are several examples of good and badly expressed interest.

Good Examples of Expressed Interest

  • I saw that you were handed the Jones project. Congratulations, you’ll do an awesome job. How’s it going?
  • Hey, have you decided on a vendor yet for the Jones project? I saw the presentations too and wondered which one you thought was the best fit because I’ll probably need something similar later this year.

Bad Examples of Expressed Interest

  • Have you got everything under control on the Jone’s project?
  • Who is your vendor for the Jones project?

In the good examples, you’re demonstrating that you think your coworker is a capable worker. In the second, you sound like you’re trying to become the boss and second-guessing their ability to handle the job.

Always congratulate people for jobs well done, and offer help and sympathy when appropriate. This doesn’t mean that you have to take over and do extra work—your job is still your job and their jobs are still their jobs—but you do want to let people know that you’re available.

Let the Other Person Think That the Idea Is His or Hers

This may seem antithetical to getting ahead in the workplace, but it’s actually the key to success. If you want your ideas implemented, the best way to do that is to have senior people think that they thought it up.

But what advantage is there to let your peers or direct reports think they thought up your fabulous ideas? Well, remember, this is about making friends and influencing people at work. You want them to feel good about themselves, and there’s no better way than congratulating them on an awesome idea.

It’s winning all around—you get everything accomplished that you wanted to do (influence) while having everyone else love you (winning friends).

This strategy can be a bit tricky, and you can’t just say, "Jane thought of that." But, if you’re in a meeting, discussing a project, you can steer the conversation toward assigning credit. Here’s a sample dialogue.

Boss: We’re really having difficulty pinning down the finance team to get the right projections before we have to submit our headcount projections for next year.

You: Working with finance is tough. Like you were saying yesterday, Kevin is the key person for contact here. We should go ahead and set up a meeting with Kevin. If we can get him on our side, it will be possible to get the whole team working on this.

Now, your claim shouldn’t be a complete fabrication. Your boss has undoubtedly mentioned Kevin before, and you’re taking it to the next level. The boss will feel silly if she says no to the Kevin idea since she was the one who said he was the key to this success.

The result is, you get your idea implemented, your boss feels good about herself, and finance gets the right numbers to you on time.

Begin With Praise and Honest Appreciation

This is not a feedback sandwich. If you don’t appreciate the work others have done you will come across as fake and manipulative. Fake praise is more damaging than no praise.

So, you have to switch your brain to start appreciating the work other people do. If you think about it, you can make a list of a ton of things people do that make your life easier. For instance, the person who starts the coffee pot before you get in, the admin who keeps your calendar straight, and the person who maintains the client database all do jobs that make your job significantly easier than it would be otherwise.

This is also true of the janitor that cleans and stocks the bathroom, the cooks in the company cafeteria, and the payroll department that ensures you get paid on time and accurately every single pay period.

Many people don’t stop and think about those people, and as such don’t appreciate them. But, once you think about it, you can show appreciate them. So, start by saying “thanks” to the janitor every time you see her. Make a point to use her name. If you don’t know it, find out by introducing yourself, “Hi, I’m Jane. I see you all the time, and I’m afraid I don’t know your name.”

Don’t worry if the same person has been cleaning the office for three years and you’ve never asked. Now is the time to act.

There are 27 other principles in Carnegie’s book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," but hopefully, these three will give you the kickstart you need to make your life at work better.


Suzanne Lucas is a freelance journalist specializing in Human Resources. Suzanne's work has been featured on notes publications including Forbes, CBS, Business Insider and Yahoo.