Most of us would like to work for a company where we can trust leadership and fellow coworkers. After all we spend the better part of our lives at the office so a modicum of general goodwill and decorum is sensible. But can companies fit that description and still obtain their goals and profits that shareholders expect? When it comes to success, many, albeit sadly, assume that reaching the top requires ethical compromises.
Thoughts of Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko character from the film Wall Street, and his slicked-back hair are an apt metaphor for unfettered ambition and greed. Gekko's famous line: “Greed Is Good," firmly remains a part of the American lexicon that it continues to inspire young Wall Street brokers nearly 20 years after its release.
According to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Beth A. Livingston of Cornell, Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario, and Timothy A. Judge of Notre Dame, levels of “agreeableness" are negatively correlated with the earnings of men. The defined terms, of which there are six facets to agreeableness, are: trust, altruism, compliance, straightforwardness, tender-mindedness and modesty.
Do nice gals finish last?
Why might “niceness" be a disadvantage? It helps to understand the essence of disagreeableness. Being disagreeable does not necessarily mean that you're dealing with a sociopath, far from it. It simply means that “disagreeableness" is the willingness, however uncomfortable it may make others feel, to aggressively advocate for their interests during conflicts.
Conversely, more agreeable people are much more likely to compromise for the good of the group. While conflict is never enjoyable, their disagreeable coworkers insist on holding firm. They do not mind fighting for what they want. To more clearly define the relationship between agreeableness and income, the researchers began with a data set consisting of nearly 9,000 people who entered the labor force over the decade from 2,000 thru 2,010.
The subjects were repeatedly interviewed about their career and given a battery of personality and cognitive tests. Levels of agreeableness, for example, were measured with a standard set of questions, such as, “Do you feel that agreeable describes you as a person, where 1 means quarrelsome and 5 means agreeable?" These ratings were then compared to income data.
The results were depressing
The study's first notable revelation was that women entering the workforce earn much less than men. Even after controlling for education, marital status, hours worked per week and workforce continuity, young women still earned $4,787 less than their male counterparts, or an average loss of 14 percent. Worse still was the news for agreeable men: nearly $7,000 less than their agreeable peers, whereas agreeable women were not quite as bad off, earning $1,100 less. In a series of follow-up studies, the researchers replicated their results, showing that agreeable men earn less even after controlling for a long list of variables, including other personality traits and the possibility that agreeable people choose less lucrative professions. The researchers summarized their data:
“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. Meanwhile, the “disagreeableness premium" for women was only 5.47 percent ($1,828). Thus, the income premium for disagreeableness is more than three times stronger for men than for women."
More bad findings...
What's driving this bleak correlation? In their final study, the researchers conducted an experiment on 460 undergrads in a business management class at a large American university. The students were given eight hypothetical job candidates, all of whom were described as smart, conscientious and insightful. However, their degrees of agreeableness were varied so that some candidates were described as much more trusting and humble than others. These 460 undergrads were then asked to select the best candidates for management fast-tracking.
Yet again, the study results were depressing: the candidates with higher levels of agreeableness were much less likely to get fast-tracked, especially if they were male (Women were slightly less likely to get picked for promotion regardless of their personality). This suggests that nice guys finish last because of an inherent bias against them.
Agreeable people are less likely to get fired, and are just as likely to supervise others. They appear far less effective at negotiating salary increases, thus suggesting that the main (financial) benefit of disagreeableness is a willingness to stubbornly fight for one's own best interests, even as it may make others uncomfortable.
Furthermore, the researchers argue that agreeableness is especially costly for men because it violates our gender expectations, since it is assumed that men will selfishly pursue their interests, albeit generalizations-cloaked, we tend to look down on those men who do not. In short, we expect the worst and punish the best.
What can we learn?
Some people find it difficult to hold firm, particularly when it involves asking for a promotion, or a pay increase. But it's well worth the anxiety-inducing moments that can help to push beyond self-limitations toward the path of self-enlightenment and strength. So let's embrace the challenge of pushing beyond needless self-limitation and perhaps enjoy an additional few thousand dollars pay increase.
Sometimes the person you have to stand up to is you! There I was, rewatching the Miss Universe 2019 competition. Which I do for inspiration from time to time. (No, seriously!) There is something about seeing women on stage, in full-on glam mode, and speaking with confident assuredness that really lights my fire!
I have seen this Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa win this crown so many times before, but something about this particular viewing, her delivery or her words, touched something inside me a little differently. At that moment, I truly believed, with complete conviction, that she lives what she speaks.
The announcement was made, the audience cheered, and the crown was awarded. The light was dazzling,, she looked stunning, almost blessed. The judges made the right call with 2019's queen.
Reflecting On Myself
Suddenly, the YouTube video ended. And I was left looking at a black screen. In the darkness of that screen, I saw my reflection and I began assessing what I saw, asking myself, "What have I been doing with my life?" It may seem like an overly dramatic question, but at that moment, I had to ask myself seriously… What have you done? The fact that I couldn't come up with a solid, confident answer gave my inner-cynic license to quickly spiral into self-criticism.
This went on for quite some time, until I got up. I stood up and walked to my mirror to have some serious one-on-one "Queen Talk." I needed to get out of that self-critical mindset, and I know that physical movement is something that help disrupt a way of thinking. I needed to remind myself of who I really was. The negative feelings I was experiencing at that moment were not reality.
Here are a few reminders for whenever you need some Queen Talk!
1.) Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
This saying feels like a cliché. That is, until it's applicable to you. At that moment, this "cliché, becomes self-evident. Comparing myself to someone on a stage with years of experience in an area I know nothing about is not only unfair but straight-up mean. A part of my comparison comes from me wondering, "Would I have the ability, if put in that position, to perform at such a level?" The answer is totally and without question, yes. I excel in the field I work in now, and I know that if I put that same energy towards something else, with practice, I could do just as well. No joy can come from comparing yourself to someone in a completely different field!
2.) Never forget the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.
Every single day, I am blessed to have the opportunity to wake up with all ten fingers and toes and choose to create the kind of life I want to live. There is so much power in that alone, but sometimes it's easy to take it for granted. Let us not forget those who are unable to make that same decision every day of their lives.
3.) Appreciate how far you have come!
I've been very intentional for some time to be kinder and gentler to myself. I need to realize that I am human. Being human means that I will not know everything, and I will continue to make mistakes.But I must let go of the need to always be right. I feel empowered when I can see the growth that I've made, regardless of the mistakes that may come in the future. I don't react to every little thing that bothers me, because I have learned boundaries when it comes to dealing with others and myself. I truly value my time and my energy, and, for that, I am proud.
4.) You Can Be Who You Want To Be
If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it in reality. I saw myself when I looked at the women on stage, when she smiled, the way she talked, her elegant walk. For a moment, in my self-criticism spiral, I forgot that we are all connected. Debasish Mridha has said "I may not know you, but I don't see any difference between you and me. I see myself in you; we are one." I will not sit in the mentality of lack, there is more than enough opportunity and good fortune to go around for everyone. Her win was not a loss for me, but it can be a nudge from the universe for me to go ahead and dream big!
This Queen Talk was not easy. There may have been some tissues and tears involved but giving myself an honest yet compassionate talk is sometimes what I need to bring myself out of some bad head space. In these moments of doubt, you truly need to be your own best friend.When times get rough, criticism won't always come from outside sources. How you speak about yourself internally is crucial to how you see and feel about yourself. As Beyoncé once sang, "I've got Me, Myself, and I." We must put forth every effort to be there for ourselves. I look forward to more Queen Talks when some negative emotions arise. I am grateful for the person I am today, but I am excited to see the women I become.