Image for Study casts doubt on assumption that nice people finish last in workplace

Study casts doubt on assumption that nice people finish last in workplace

Individuals who run roughshod over their colleagues are no more likely to get ahead than nice people, according to research

Individuals who run roughshod over their colleagues are no more likely to get ahead than nice people, according to research

Having a ruthless streak has long been seen as an advantage in the corporate world, while conversely the idea that nice people finish last has been popularised to the point of cliche.

But according to a US study lasting more than a decade, “deceitful and aggressive” individuals are no more likely to get their hands on the levers of corporate power than people who are “generous, trustworthy and nice”.

The research, published this week by the US National Academy of Sciences, questions the accepted wisdom drawn from the success of people like Steve Jobs, who, according to one biography, built one of the world’s most prosperous brands (Apple) while behaving like “a world-class ass****”. It may also surprise some in this epoch of strongman politics.

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The report invited 671 US people to take personality tests first as students, then 14 years later when they had entered employment. Volunteers were quizzed about their workplace, roles and responsibilities, while their co-workers were also asked to share their thoughts on the volunteers. Researchers found that any advantage gained by the volunteers through hawkish behaviour was cancelled out by a failure to work effectively with others.

“A close examination of behaviour patterns in the workplace found that disagreeable individuals engaged in two distinct patterns of behaviour that offset each other’s effects on power attainment,” concluded the report.

“They engaged in more dominant-aggressive behaviour, which positively predicted attaining higher power, but also engaged in less communal and generous behaviour, which predicted attaining less power. These two effects, when combined, appeared to cancel each other out.”

You will not get people to accept your influence if you do not show kindness

The study echoes research conducted by the Gottman Institute, a US-based organisation dedicated to the study of relationships, which concluded that all successful relationships are ultimately underpinned by kindness.

“You will not get people to accept your influence if you do not show kindness,” Lawrence Stoyanowski, a certified Gottman therapist told Positive News. “As soon as we’re tearing each other apart and going for the throat, no one ever changes their mind.”

Image: Brooke Cagle

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