Does It Pay to Be Mean?

We’ve all pondered the answer to the age old question, “Do nice guys finish last?”  According to a study reported by the Wall Street Journal, in the workplace, they just might.  You can hear the hearts hit the floor of the woman who always holds the door even when the follower is several strides behind her, the man who always offers to pick up the tab, the guy in finance who always makes a Friday Starbucks run for the office, as they think “Are you serious?”  The study suggested that people who were “mean” tended to make more money than the “nice guys,” unearthing the conclusion that you might catch more flies with honey, but you won’t be catching more benjamins.

This doesn’t mean that tripping your coworkers on their way to the water cooler will get you a fatter paycheck; the study suggests that perhaps the qualities of the so-called “meanies,” such as aggressive determination to get their way and the desire to look out for numero uno, could maybe give them a leg up on the corporate ladder.  Read the WSJ story by Rachel Emma Silverman below. What do you think?  Do you agree with these results?  Would you amp up your mean factor if it meant more success in the workplace?

It may not pay to be nice in the workplace.
A new study finds that agreeable workers earn significantly lower incomes than less agreeable ones. The gap is especially wide for men.

The researchers examined “agreeableness” using self-reported survey data and found that men who measured below average on agreeableness earned about 18% more—or $9,772 more annually in their sample—than nicer guys. Ruder women, meanwhile, earned about 5% or $1,828 more than their agreeable counterparts.

“Nice guys are getting the shaft,” says study co-author Beth A. Livingston, an assistant professor of human resource studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
The study “Do Nice Guys—and Gals—Really Finish Last?” by Dr. Livingston, Timothy A. Judge of the University of Notre Dame and Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario, is to be presented on Monday in San Antonio, Texas, at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, a professional organization for management scholars. The study is also forthcoming in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The researchers analyzed data collected over nearly 20 years from three different surveys, which sampled roughly 10,000 workers comprising a wide range of professions, salaries and ages. (The three surveys measured the notion of “agreeableness” in different ways.) They also conducted a separate study of 460 business students who were asked to act as human-resource managers for a fictional company and presented with short descriptions for candidates for a consultant position. Men who were described as highly agreeable were less likely to get the job.

For men being agreeable may not conform “to expectations of ‘masculine behavior,'” the researchers write in the study. People who are more agreeable may also be less willing to assert themselves in salary negotiations, Dr. Livingston adds.

Other research shows that rudeness may not always benefit employees or their firms. A paper presented earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association found that 86% of 289 workers at three Midwestern firms in the manufacturing and health-care industries reported incivility at work, including public reprimands and making demeaning comments. Incivility was bad for the organizations as a whole, though, increasing employee turnover, found the researchers, Jeannie Trudel, a business professor at Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion, and Thomas Reio, a professor at Florida International University.

“The problem is, many managers often don’t realize they reward disagreeableness,” says Dr. Livingston. “You can say this is what you value as a company, but your compensation system may not really reflect that, especially if you leave compensation decisions to individual managers.”

Lockerz, a 65-person Seattle, Wash., social-commerce company, has what it calls a “no jerks and divas” policy that is stressed in its employee handbook and orientation, says Chief Executive and founder Kathy Savitt. She notes, though, that there is a difference between being respectful and being agreeable. “We are not about being ‘nice’ or ‘agreeable’ or ‘civil,'” she says. “We have a lot of robust debates about all kinds of things. But we do stress the notion of being respectful.”

Paul Purcell, chairman, president and chief executive of Robert W. Baird & Co., a Milwaukee financial-services firm, says that his 2,700-employee company “doesn’t hire or tolerate jerks. That’s frankly a large percentage of people in our business. They don’t get through the interview process.” The firm has fired at least 25 offenders of its “no-jerk” policy, he says.

Human-resources consulting firm Development Dimensions International, of Pittsburgh, offers courses in “Interaction Management,” covering interpersonal skills such as teamwork, managing conflict and giving and receiving feedback. “They are very trainable skills,” says Jim Davis, DDI’s vice president of work force and service development, who says that its interaction-training business is up 20% so far this year.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904823804576502763895892974.html

5 thoughts on “Does It Pay to Be Mean?

  1. For myself personally, my answer will unequivocally always be nice… never be mean. A million studies proving that being mean pays better and brings more success may leave me in the dust as an underachiever, but I would choose to be nice over mean at any cost. I would more correctly identify this very suggestion that one must be mean to make more money as being ridiculous and one of the grossest injustices to ever plague the workforce and our world. When all is said and done, I guarantee all will much rather have me working with them or for them. In the end I sleep better, have an honorable reputation, and the respect and friendship of the multitude. “Treat others as you wish to be treated” is the “Golden Rule” for a very good reason.

  2. I like to think that to agree blindly is not necessarily indicative of niceness so much as ignorance, so if stating your opinion in a well-spoken and thoughtful tone (such as you did) does in fact make you a "nice meanie," then I would hope that you, I, and a whole lot of business people in important positions would fall into that category as well. After all, how would we have cohesive, productive corporate teams if everyone was mean? Corporate America wouldn't get very far without the nice guys either.

  3. OK, here’s a complicated “good guy – bad guy” scenario for you. I was recently “layed-off” from my position because I stood for what was truly right & legal. I acted on sound business integrity & upheld Federal & State Regulations as a matter of policy & procedure & advocated in behalf of our customers who would benefit thereby. My Manager chose not to listen to me “the only expert” and chose to cut costs against Federal Regulations. As the “good guy” I was let go… as the “bad guy” my Manager won. This Manager may one day lose their position as a result, but now so have I. My position can never be reclaimed; who actually will stand as the winner down the road when everyone learns the truth?

    ANSWER: “Good” always wins! I retained my good character and work ethic- something which will undoubtedly repay me someday regardless. This Manager has neither, & eventually will have nothing as a result… I win!

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