I was recently chatting to a very bright, ambitious twenty-something woman who works in the IT industry and she said something about getting ahead in the workplace I've never heard put so succinctly.

As a Gen Y-er, she said it was often quite testing in the IT industry, simply because older generations - Gen X and the Baby Boomers - had entered the profession learning very different technologies.

She took pains to emphasise she wasn't suggesting they were ignorant of current technology, in fact most were masters, it's just their first learning was done completely differently to the generations before or after them.

Not surprisingly, people get into habits in the workplace, and when it comes to problem-solving, a lot of us default to the tried and tested ways we first learned things.

"There's nothing wrong with this, especially in my industry, there is no right or wrong way to do things if you can all arrive at the desired result, the elegant solution, in an efficient timeframe," she said.

The problem for her, as a Gen Y, is older colleagues are often unable to acknowledge the result as more important than the process.

This is sometimes because of fear of appearing out-of-date but, most commonly, it's a simple adherence to the way things were done when they were an up-and-comer.

Which is all well and good, except they also often expect younger colleagues to show deference to their methods.

My friend accepts this as part of the dynamic in any workplace, but said to me being able to smile through time-wasting ego-stroking of senior workers was one of the more challenging aspects of her job.

"But then, the most important skill in any workplace," she said, "is likeability."

"Excuse me?" I said.

And she went on to explain, that being likeable, being easy to work with, was the singular most important talent in her industry.

"I'm good at my job," she said, "but so are lots of people and there are lots people out of work in my industry.

"I've seen many, many people made redundant over the last few years and I always ask myself 'why them?' and very often, it's not a matter of their skills or qualifications or age but how easy they are to work with."

Having not worked regularly in an office for almost eight years, I've largely forgotten the grate and grind of office politics - which is often just another way of saying "getting along with others".

However, conflict does still occur, particularly when my editors spike a certain column or blog post and say it's not suitable for publication.

For a minute or two, I will stare at my inbox and roil with outraged defiance someone would question my writing or sensibilities. Often I'll politely argue my case via email, but then I'll think about the 40 other things my bosses have to worry about and how far down the list of priorities sits a writer's wounded pride and ...

I write replacement copy.

In the end, people might remember if the job got done or not, but they "feel" how it got done. If your name floats into their head and they think "Aw, what a pain in the arse that was," it's not a good look for you.

This goes on in literally thousands of industries.

For whatever reason, people in authority will question or alter the nature of your work and some employees get their noses out of joint.

They complain, they bitch, they deny reality, and they also transmit the stress they're feeling to colleagues and superiors. People eventually get sick of it.

Being likeable is more than just cultivating harmony and caring about your colleagues - which are enormously important workplace goals in themselves - it's also taking what you perceive as crap and swallowing it with a smile, then getting on with the job.

My friend said to me: "I have colleagues who tell me they're going for a new job and they'll outline what they're going to say on this topic and that, how they'll dress, exact lines they'll use in the interview.

"I always say to them: 'Don't forget to be likeable, too'."

What's more important to you? Being likeable, or being good at what you do?

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