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Why nice guys finish last and actually earn less at work

(ENTREPRENEUR) Nice guys finish last isn’t only a common phrase in the dating world, but also in the professional world, and here’s why.

Two men staring at each other representing nice guys at work

Being nice at work

There are varying theories of how leadership is formed, and while it depends on your industry and company structure, some companies have aggressive men in leadership, others have agreeable women leading. It is intuitive that leaders must get along with others in order to be successful, but while being kind makes a company picnic more fun for all, does it spell a better bottom line?

According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it all depends on how agreeable you are. According to Harvard Business Review, agreeableness is defined as (1) the extent to which you value getting along with others, and (2) the degree to which you are willing to be critical of others.

By analyzing employee earnings data, the Journal found men who rank highly in agreeableness make substantially less than their less agreeable counterparts, as much as $10,000 less per year. Being an assertive, less agreeable man pays, but what about women leaders? The earnings difference was too small to be substantial.

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Why do nice guys finish last?

Because quality leaders must tell their team what they don’t want to hear and have to be honest with themselves, they tend to be less agreeable, and the study notes that the more assertive, less agreeable male leaders are typically putting themselves before others to advance which actually made them more attractive as potential leaders.

Agreeableness is not necessarily a measure of how kind or generous a person is or how well they listen or how creative they are, rather it is a measure of being able to criticize team members to push them to improve rather than simply being agreeable or employing “yes” men/women.

When nice guys finish first

The study suggests that nice guys finish first when it comes to keeping their jobs, as the less agreeable are more likely to lose their jobs, which we would assert is likely because the less agreeable, more assertive types are more willing to take risks and to push people harder which doesn’t always feel good, and honestly, does not guarantee results.

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Being a better leader.

Remember, being disagreeable means being willing to lead with more than pats on the back, but with constructive criticism – it does not mean that jerks make more money, as the two are not mutually exclusive.

Written By

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.


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