Nice people finish last? Not in the workplace, study shows

The common belief is that you have to step on heads and knock others down a rung to  climb the corporate ladder. A "dog-eat-dog" mindset has become the stereotype of success. But recent research shows the opposite to be true: disagreeable personalities do not attain more power in the workplace, and communal mindsets are essential to advancement. 

Researchers from the University of California Berkeley and Waterville, Maine-based Colby College conducted two longitudinal studies — one to compare participants' personality traits and their career trajectory, and the other to compare extraversion and power. Their findings were published to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 

The first study was self-rated and analyzed 457 personality tests taken by undergraduate or MBA students at three U.S. universities. Researchers followed up, on average, 14 years after the tests were conducted to see how participants had fared in the labor force. They found that extraverted, social individuals ended up in more powerful positions. However, disagreeable individuals did not see the same success — no relationship was found between traits such as selfishness and power. 

The second study was peer-rated and examined an independent sample of 214 individuals. Each participant was assessed across four behavior domains by their coworkers: dominant aggressive/intimidating, political/builds strategic alliances, communal/cares about others and competent/effective at their job. They found that people who scored higher in all four domains were more powerful; however, people who exemplified more dominant aggressive behavior also tended to be less communal. The relationship was compensatory — any positive effects of dominant aggressive behavior were offset by negative effects of a lacking communal mindset. 

The consensus was consistent across both studies — workplace bullies are unlikely to come out ahead and ambition can propel a person, so long as it's not at others' expense. 

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