Monday, December 5, 2011

Are you agreeable? I’m sorry to tell you bad news….

As quiet leaders, we pride ourselves in personal qualities like trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness. These qualities are among the elements that researchers say make you agreeable.  I have to say that I personally like the idea of being agreeable.

Well the bad news is that according to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, your agreeableness is going to cost you.   Agreeableness is a handicap when it come to compensation and getting ahead.

I actually got a sick feeling when I read this on the Lifehacker site. I was standing in a slow line during some weekend shopping and immediately sent the following Tweet response:


A full read of the Lifehacker article will direct you to a Wired article entitled, Do Nice Guys Finish Last? which in provides a link to the research article that was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Beth A. Livingston of Cornell, Timothy A. Judge of Notre Dame, and Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario. You can access the research document hosted on the Notre Dame website.

Digging deeper, here is one research summary from the Harvard researchers:

Overall, across the first three studies, men who are one standard deviation below the mean on agreeableness earn an average of 18.31 percent ($9,772) more than men one standard deviation above the mean on agreeableness.

I don’t know what it means to be one standard deviation below the mean on agreeableness, but I was confident that there had to be a better way.

There are contrary findings and opinions on this subject.  I cited previously in my post Nice pays, winners don't punish the work of authors Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval as found in their book, The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness,

Nice is not naive. Nice does not mean smiling blandly while others walk all over you. Nice does not mean being a doormat. In fact, we would argue that nice is the toughest four-letter word you’ll ever hear. It means moving forward with the clear-eyed confidence that comes from knowing that being very nice and placing other people’s needs on the same level as your own will get you everything you want.

My recommendation for both myself and other quiet leaders: Stay the Course.   It will take us a bit longer but in the long run being surrounded by people where the relationship is based on trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness has its own rewards.

Thanks for reading.  Lead Quietly.  Stay the course.


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