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Forget about Mad Men – it’s mean men (and women) who are rolling in the dough

The beautiful view from some jerk's corner office.
The beautiful view from some jerk's corner office.
-nanio-/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

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Brace yourself. Not only is that guy in the corner office a jerk, he’s probably making more money than you, precisely because he’s a jerk. This according to a new study, “Do Nice Guys–and Gals–Really Finish Last?” conducted by three distinguished university professors and forthcoming in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The researchers looked at “agreeableness” using self-reported data from a sampling of about 10,000 workers encompassing a wide range of professions, salaries and ages. Men who rated below average on the agreeableness scale earned about 18% more than the “nice guys.” That’s $9,772 more annually, which is anything but chump change. As for women, it turns out being rude or aggressive at work might not be as bad as customarily thought. The study showed that less agreeable women tend to earn about 5% or $1,828 more than those who are all sugar and spice. Why are employers rewarding bad behavior? Should employees cash in on this information? Does being agreeable help or hurt in your workplace? What role does gender play in all this?


Beth Livingston, Assistant Professor of Human Resource Studies at Cornell University in the Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) School; co-author of the study “Do Nice Guys—and Gals—Really Finish Last? The Joint Effects of Sex and Agreeableness on Income”