I didn't get where I am today by being nice...

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Study reveals agreeable men earn £4,500 less than their ruthless colleagues

It is a phrase that millions of good-natured people around the world will consider so obvious that it hardly deserves to be questioned. Nonetheless, a team of business experts claims to have proved the pessimistic notion that "nice guys finish last" – at least where money is concerned.

A study has found that a person's "agreeableness" has a negative effect on their earnings. "Niceness", according to the research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, does not appear to pay.

"This issue isn't really about whether people are nasty or nice," said Richard Newton, business author and consultant. "A better way of putting it might be a willingness to fight your corner."

While agreeable traits such as compliance, modesty and altruism may seem conducive to a good working atmosphere, the study found that managers are more likely to fast-track for promotion and pay rises "disagreeable" people – those more likely to "aggressively advocate for their position".

The study, by Beth A Livingston of Cornell University, Timothy A Judge of the University of Notre Dame and Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario, interviewed 9,000 people who entered the labour force in the past decade about their career, and gave personality tests which were then measured against income data.

The findings are bad news for nice guys, but worse still for women of all temperaments. They show that, regardless of their levels of agreeableness, women earned nearly 14 per cent less than men. Agreeable men earned an average of $7,000 (£4,490) less than their disagreeable peers.

"Nice guys do not necessarily finish last, but they do finish a distant second in terms of earnings," the study noted. "Our research provides strong evidence that men earn a substantial premium for being disagreeable while the same behaviour has little effect on women's income." Reasons offered for the difference include a better success rate for disagreeable types when negotiating pay rises, suggesting stubbornness is a key for success.

Horrible bosses: businesspeople with bite

Scott Rudin: The film producer has a reputation of being a difficult man to please with a nice sideline in Hollywood tantrums. He has produced films such as No Country for Old Men and The Social Network, but four years ago media blog Gawker named him one of New York's worst bosses.

Kenneth Lay: The former CEO of energy trader Enron was convicted of fraud and conspiracy in May 2006, in charges relating to the collapse of the company in 2001. Many employees felt bitter at their treatment by the executives. Lay died in July 2006, aged 64.

Steve Jobs: To the world he was a visionary, but Steve Jobs was renowned in Silicon Valley for his disagreeable nature. In 1981, Mactonish project founder Jef Raskin once complained to Apple president Mike Scott about Jobs' behaviour. When Jobs discovered the complaint, he fired Raskin. There are several accounts of Jobs firing employees on the spot for trivial reasons.

Carol Bartz: When she became head of Yahoo! in 2009, Bartz informed employees that she would "drop-kick to fucking Mars" anyone who was caught leaking company secrets. Known to staff as a "tough operator" Bartz was fired by Yahoo!'s board over the phone in September.

Don King: The boxing promoter has been involved in several court cases with fighters that he represented. Former world champion Mike Tyson said of him: "He would kill his own mother for a dollar ... He's deplorable, he's greedy, and he doesn't know how to love anybody." Because of this, King is the best-known promoter of his time.

Alan Sugar: Alan Sugar is perhaps less known for his business achievements than he is for The Apprentice, a show where contestants seemingly compete to see who can be the most willing to forgo civility to win. He was accused by the former Labour Party Treasurer Baroness Prosser as promoting "bullying and sexism" on his programme.

Don Arden: Described as the "most feared man in music" – Don Arden was said to have hung a rival out of a window, stubbed a cigar out on another's head, and not speak to his daughter Sharon Osbourne for 15 years over a contractual dispute. His methods appeared to work well for him – he found success managing the Small Faces, the Electric Light Orchestra and his son-in-law's band Black Sabbath.

Sir Fred Goodwin: "Fred the Shred" earned his soubriquet for his treatment of staff at the Royal Bank of Scotland. In a incident revealed in a book written about the financial crisis, he reportedly threatened staff with disciplinary action after someone placed the wrong type of biscuit in the boardroom.

Dov Charney: The chief executive of clothing label American Apparel has faced much negative publicity over his alleged behaviour, having faced lawsuits from female employees for sexual harassment which were settled out of court and allegedly masturbating in front of journalist Claudine Ko, from Jane magazine, in 2004, who was writing a profile about him.

Rupert Murdoch: The media baron has been both applauded and derided for his ruthlessness. Many argue that his often brutal business decisions – such the sacking of 5,000 workers in 1986 – are the key to his success. Others say he has fostered a fierce internal culture within his empire.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum