Mean Guys Finish First in Salary Stakes

Posted September 3rd, 2011 at 1:18 am (UTC-4)

(Left Photo: Greg Peverill-Conti/Right Photo: Gianmaria Zanotti)

(Left Photo by Greg Peverill-Conti/Right Photo by Gianmaria Zanotti)

The old saying that nice guys finish last may be true after all.

New research shows that more agreeable or cooperative workers tend to have significantly lower incomes than less agreeable people or those who are boorish in nature.

While the study findings also apply to women workers, the income gap is  widest between the polite guys and the nasty guys.

Men who are one standard deviation below the study’s mean on agreeableness earn an average of 18.31 percent more than men one standard deviation above the mean.

In contrast, the ‘disagreeableness premium’ for women was only 5.47 percent. So, the income premium for disagreeability is more than three times stronger for men than for women.

Study authors – Beth A. Livingston of Cornell University, Timothy A. Judge of the University of Notre Dame and Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario  – admit their findings are a bit puzzling considering the emphasis today’s employers seem to place on teamwork in the workplace.

Instead of men who are team players out-earning their colleagues who aren’t, the study shows quite the opposite is true.

The report looks to the powerful effect masculine stereotypes have on men’s earnings as a possible explanation for the contradiction.

When it comes to gender, the study authors say even the nice guys do better financially in the workplace than both agreeable and disagreeable women.  The report shows that women who are considered to be highly disagreeable don’t even earn as much as highly agreeable men.

So, being nasty instead of nice may not make as much of a difference for the ladies as it does for guys.

The researchers made their conclusions based on their analysis of data collected over a span of almost 20 years in four different surveys.  The first study was conducted in 1957 and the most recent in 2008.

So what’s a nice guy or gal to do?  On one hand, employees are expected to respect and cooperate with each other and get their jobs done with the help of teamwork.  On the other hand, this study suggests they won’t be financially compensated for it.

Study co-author Beth Livingston of Cornell, advises nice guys to resist the temptation for a wholesale personality makeover, even if that were possible.

Professor Livingston says nice guys should maintain their good nature without compromising their own self-interest and remember that there are ways to make sure that your contributions are recognized, without being a jerk about it.

Professor Livingston  joins us this weekend on the “Science World” radio program to discuss more about why nasty guys finish first in the salary stakes.

>>>> Listen to the interview here…

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Other stories we cover on the “Science World” radio program this week include:

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

2 responses to “Mean Guys Finish First in Salary Stakes”

  1. […] in September,  we blogged about a  study which found that nice guys make less money than their meaner counterparts.  Today, we get word of another study that concludes nice guys can finish first after […]

  2. […] in September,  we blogged about a  investigate that found that nice guys make reduction income than their meaner counterparts.  Today, we get word of another investigate that concludes good guys can finish initial after […]