Of course, being assertive and developing thick skin can do you good, but adopting a mindset in which you are just for yourself, it turns out, may not be good for anything.
Whether people who are aggressive, intriguing and selfish when they start their careers are more likely to become powerful than nice people is a centuries-old question that has long “captivated philosophers, scientists and lay people,”
“A lot of people believe that good guys finish last,” said study lead author Cameron Anderson, a professor of organizational behavior at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.
Researchers have found that the culturally persistent myth has blinded us to the reality that there are actually people in power who have reached the top without stepping on their neighbors’ desks.
“When we are introduced to someone in power who is a fool … it sticks out. It’s very remarkable,” Anderson said. “And I think we notice these (people) a lot more than the people in power who are good – these people mix in the background. Examples of people in power who are just terrible human beings are more accessible in the minds of people. “
How this perception arises and affects people’s approach to their careers is a phenomenon that Anderson plans to explore further, he said.
How to deal with personality types in the office
The researchers conducted two longitudinal studies that measured the personality traits of students in the United States before entering the workforce and then the strength they achieved in their jobs by 2018, about 14 years later.
Participants reported on their power, control over their subordinates, and ranking in their company’s hierarchy, three factors that were combined in an overall power assessment. The researchers also assessed the struggle and size of their company and included how long they worked there.
“It just seemed like no matter who you were,” Anderson said, “behaving in that kind of nasty, harassing, selfish way just didn’t help you.”
How abused power can jeopardize relationships
Unpleasant people are more likely to be dominant and aggressive, but less municipal to colleagues. Extroverts behaved dominantly and aggressively, but they were also deftly able to be generous to their colleagues; contribute and work harder; and click and gather support for their ideas.
“Our findings suggest that if the unpleasant people were better and perhaps more common with their colleagues, they could have competed for power,” Anderson said.
Bad relationships can threaten power because “everyone needs allies to be powerful,” Anderson added. “Very rarely can people have power and not have a strong set of alliances and a strong network. … And so for nasty people, this blurring of their alliances is murder.”
“Yet movies and TV shows more often promote the character of a ‘bad boss’ than a transformational leader for that man in power,” added Cooper, who is not involved in the study and is the founder of Cooper Strategic Group, a consulting firm. “Although they can do the job, the environment is hostile and encourages insecurity.”
Good news for nice boys and girls
The bad news from this study is that being a jerk doesn’t kill your chances of gaining power, because organizations hire nasty people in powerful positions just as much as nice people.
“The reason this is such a problem is (because) there’s a lot of research on what nasty people do when they’re in these positions, and it’s all bad,” Anderson said. “There’s a kind of whole food list that shows how toxic they can be as leaders, be it to teams, departments or organizations.”
What is also good to know is that behavior that is considerate of others can be beneficial to your relationships and thus build your strength in the workplace. “So, if you had to combine this very generously, giving behavior with assertiveness – where you also take care of yourself and insist on doing things – this is the magic combo,” he added.
People who understand their strengths and capabilities make the best leaders, Cooper Hakim said. And by focusing on people, leaders can use each team member’s strengths to work together to get the job done.
So keep in mind: Although the times we live in are particularly challenging, you don’t have to play dirty to be the leader of the pack.