The word from a recent study is that people who make things miserable for everyone else at work get paid the most.
So if mean people make more than everyone else, is it better – in this season of Christmas – to be naughty or nice?
Best answer? It depends
While mean people, frequently stereotyped as those hard charging, take no prisoner, “Type A” personality folks may make more money, turns out they don’t live as long. They also suffer from a higher incidence of heart attacks and depression than their more agreeable peers.
It also happens that those people in school who get to the head of the class die sooner; all of the attention and any collateral damage people cause maintaining their top dog social status takes years away from their life.
NY Times columnist David Brooks in a piece titled Nice Guys Finish First notes “competitions are examples of the survival of the fittest, but when groups compete, it’s the cohesive, cooperative, internally altruistic groups that win and pass on their genes. The idea of “group selection” was heresy a few years ago, but there is momentum behind it now.”
A Harvard University study conducted by Martin Nowak and David Rand demonstrated that nice guys do finish first. And, not to drive a nail in anyone’s coffin, the single biggest factor that predicts life span is conscientiousness; turns out the being a jerk shortens your life. And that same report that found that mean people were paid more? It also reported that being mean – incivil – was bad for organizations as a whole.
Watten Hellman, San Francisco financier and philanthropist, passed away Sunday at age 77. A wealthy man through his financial success, Hellman told Fortune magazine “What does move me is the philanthropic stuff. Giving really does move me. Part of it is selfish. It’s fun to be appreciated. But the other part is that good things really are growing.” He was a nice guy, a mensch, and proof perhaps that nice guys can do well.
So for this holiday season and the new years to come, you can be mean and be paid more, or be nice and mindful of others and know that it helps you to live longer and finish first.
Maybe Santa was on to something. It is better to be nice than naughty.
Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.