A new academic study to be presented next week focuses on workplace data gathered over the past twenty years. Questioning the reasons for the patters they found, the researchers from Cornell University and the University of Notre Dame conducted business simulations to get to the roots of the issue. As a result of the data analysis and the simulations, the researchers have discovered that people described as having agreeable personalities earn significantly less than non-agreeable jerks.
Nice women (“most agreeable”) earn 5% less than highly disagreeable women. The difference is even more significant for men. Nice guys earn even 18% less — almost $10,000 less — than highly disagreeable men. This tends to follow what I think most people expect. The study doesn’t show that a negative attitude causes a higher income, so don’t head off to work and begin acting like a jerk. The study shows a correlation.
The same personality aspects that might make someone disagreeable may help someone be a better negotiator. For men, the study does show that people rated more aggressive are more likely to be designated in a management track in their career. In fact, in simulations, men described as “highly agreeable” often were not awarded jobs despite having the same qualifications as men described as “disagreeable.”
If anything, the study is a reminder that if you want to earn more in a corporate setting, you need to speak up for yourself once in a while. Being assertive might lead people to characterize you as highly disagreeable, but if it’s money you’re after, the trade-off could be worthwhile.
Whether you work in a corporate environment or you work for yourself and deal with clients, are you assertive enough to make the most of your opportunity to earn income?
For people who aren’t assertive by nature, being more aggressive can be emotionally draining.
Published or updated August 17, 2011.