Being competent, diligent, industrious, and resourceful is important in a business setting. But it's not enough to succeed. You know that popular person at the office? He or she instinctively understands an important principle: being competent won't get you anywhere unless people like you.

It sounds silly. Business is about results, so if you can get them you should be valued and get ahead, right? Except business is also about people working together to achieve a goal, and that's the snag. If others don't like you, they're not inclined to work with you. Competence is important as a criterion in working with someone, but comes second to having a positive view of that person.

Think of it this way, how many times have you had to deal with someone at work where you were thinking, "Someone just shoot me now and put me out of my misery." That's why being popular and likeable at work is an important factor in getting ahead. If no one wants to work with you then no one will want to promote you.

Maybe you don't have the natural ability to befriend and bring people along. But there are things you can start doing today to improve how you relate to others and how they, in turn, relate to you.

Be real

To relate to others, you actually have to be you and not pretend to be someone else. Otherwise, the entire relationship is imaginary, because you are. Most people appreciate sincerity. It's also far less tiring than putting on an act.

Avoid office gossip

It's tempting, but talking about others is bad in a number of ways. One is that you're feeding into an unpleasant aspect of how people relate. Another is that people will wonder if you'll talk about them behind their backs. Plus, there's always the good possibility that the gossip will get back to the subject. Stay clear and above the fray.

Treat people generously

When trying to advance themselves, some people see others as something to use. Unless you are particularly skillful at manipulation -- like a sociopath -- this is a terrible idea. People long to be recognized and treated decently. Freely give praise where due. If someone needs help, offer it. On the whole your generosity will be returned and, oddly enough, you'll feel more bound to the people you've helped.

Offer respect

Much of life is an exercise in facing disrespect. Part of being liked at work is being respected, and respect comes most easily, without force, when you offer it first. Recognize the expertise and opinions of others and treat them as you'd like to be treated.

Take an interest in others

People are fascinating when you give them a chance. They also love attention. Cultivate a genuine interest in what other people do, in their background, in their views and thoughts and struggles.

Root for other people

If you have real relations with others, you pull for them. Promote their interests when possible (and it's often possible). Give them the opportunities you'd like to get. In a world where many focus on themselves, it will be a welcome relief.

Be positive

Everyone has off days and many are wary of someone who comes across as relentlessly and naively cheerful all the time. But, on the whole, be positive. Work toward what can be done, not sit in a stew about what it wrong. You become much more pleasant to be around.

Strive for the team

Work is, or should be, a team activity. Focus on how you work with others, and how easy you make it for others to work with you, while pursuing the common goal. We all gravitate toward those who help pull things together.

Let yourself be confident

Confidence is attractive. Too often we forgo it by concentrating on our own shortcomings. But we all have shortcomings, just as we all have strengths. Remember that you can continue to pursue what you need to do and, if you stumble, get back on your feet and keep going. Your worries will begin to fade and you'll start to project confidence.

Listen

Too often people talk and work to make their viewpoints heard. Too seldom do others wait and truly listen to others, acknowledging and celebrating their existence. Give the gift of recognition to those around you.

Take your share of blame

Trying to avoid responsibility leads to recriminations and anger, because when you duck out, you essentially point the finger at someone else. Be big enough to accept where you erred. It makes the space for others to stop worrying and do the same.

Relax

Do you like to be around people who are often anxious or tense? Of course not because it puts you on edge. When you relax, others can. And like all the other things you can do to be more popular at work, this is also a way to be happier and more comfortable yourself.

Published on: Jan 13, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.