This is the unpleasant personality trait that could really affect how much you earn.

There’s an old adage that says, “Nice guys finish last,” but that’s too much of an overstatement, and the most kind and decent individuals might disagree. Unfortunately, new research seems to confirm this adage — at least, in terms of how it might affect the professional success of well educated men.

Related media: Why Nice Guys Finish Last


Does It Pay To Be Nice?

Being a nice guy might really affect you than you thought otherwise; this is a hard fact to understand, but new research suggests that it could. Let’s assume that two boys are raised into different stereotypical families with similar demographics at the same time. Each of the boys have about the same Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and drive, but they differ in terms of personality. One boy is the nicest one on the street (the stereotypical nice guy), while the other boy is all sharp elbows, unafraid to annoy or even anger others (the stereotypical jerk).

When these two boys grow up, how will their personality differences affect their careers?

In attempts to prove such a hypothesis, you’d need to collect a vast dataset of young people and their careers — only then could you analyze and crunch the numbers to figure out the effects of their personalities in correlation with how it affects their achievements and earnings. Miriam Gensowski, an economist at the University of Copenhagen did such a survey.


Being “Mr Nice Guy” Might Cost You

In Gensowski’s 2018 study she published in Labour Economics, she analyzed data from the Terman study, a massive psychological study that followed up on more than one thousand Californians with super high IQs of 140 plus, aged between 18 and 75 — which started in 1922. All the participants were similarly talented, but Gensowski found that how they earned correlated with their personalities.

Unfortunately, the Terman dataset was from an era when women were marginalized, and fewer of them had jobs outside the home, so Gensowski couldn’t draw conclusions about how their personalities affected women’s careers. Unlike the men, the results were clear enough evidence — a trio of personality traits were linked with higher earnings.

The first two traits were unsurprisingly obvious: Conscientiousness (being hardworking and dependable), and Extroversion (being a people’s person). However, the last trait might be hard to accept. Gensowski found that the less agreeable a man was (that’s the less nice he was) the more he earned — especially later in his career when he was likely to be pursuing leadership roles.

“Men who are more conscientious and extroverted, as well as less agreeable, reap large benefits between their 40s and 60s,” she writes in her Harvard Business Review findings. “More agreeable men, who tend to be friendly and helpful to others, have significantly lower earnings than less agreeable men. The man who is very agreeable (in the top 20%) will earn about $270,000 less over a lifetime than the average man.”

(The effect was particularly large for highly educated men with graduate degrees).


Why Does It Pay To Be A Jerk?

Image: Shutterstock / iStock / Getty Images Plus

In fact, there is no clearcut evidence that supports that nice guys finishing last. Here’s the catch: why on Earth in the kind and lovely nature of humanity does being a jerk pays off? Hmmm?! We don’t know. Gensowski doesn’t offer any definitive answers. 

“Other data suggests that agreeable people — especially agreeable men — are less likely to hold leadership positions,” as Shana Lebowitz writes for Business Insider, she comments on Gensowski’s study.

“In his 2013 book Habits of Leadership, psychologist Art Markman suggests that employees appreciate a boss who can give frank feedback — and agreeable people may have a hard time providing criticism,” she adds.

Well, if being a nice guy does pay, then we now understand why people (in general tend to be rude, not judging). In short, be nice, but don’t let your kind heart affect your life — at least your income.


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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sat, May 11, 2019.

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