Two unfriendly people

Who wins: Nice guys or jerks?

Peter Harris|

While it has long been acknowledged that likeability plays a major factor in getting hired, there is rising evidence that the jerks out there have some advantages too.

On the side of the nice guys, just about every hiring manager is trying to evaluate whether a potential hire is going to be a good fit with their team. This means that being personable, positive and friendly will help you to come across as someone that they would like to work with.

In fact, in a 2013 study by management app TINYpulse 69% of employers ranked teamwork and a positive attitude among the top deciding factors they consider when evaluating employees.

Having the right skills on your resume just gets you in the door to the job interview. It’s your personal skills that will actually get your hired.

Point: nice guys. Case closed?

Not yet. A new study published by Social Psychology this week shows that ‘haters’ at work are actually more productive than nice people, and they’re getting ahead at work.

For this research, participants recorded all of their activities throughout the week while simultaneously completing a survey of their ‘dispositional attitudes’. They were then classified as haters (having a low dispositional attitude) and likers (with a high dispositional attitude.)

The research found that pleasant, sociable, and happy people spend more time interacting with others and participating in multiple activities. Haters, grumpier people, who seem to dislike everything participate in far fewer things.

This allows the haters to focus more of their time and energy on their specific areas of expertise, fine-tuning their skills to a higher degree. Likers on the other hand will most often wear many hats, therefore use many more skills, but to a lesser level.

Being disagreeable becomes a career asset as it allows for more advanced skills development. The study authors wrote: “Likers may adopt a jack-of-all-trades approach to life, investing small amounts of time in a wide variety of activities. This would leave them somewhat skilled at many tasks. In contrast, when haters find an activity they actually like, they may invest a larger amount of time in that task, allowing them to develop a higher skill level compared to likers.”

Point: jerks.

And as for a positive personality making it easier to get hired, we’ve actually seen lately how it’s the narcissistic and self-obsessed among us who actually have an advantage in job interviews and business settings. “Narcissists tended to talk about themselves, make eye contact, joke around and ask the interviewers more questions,” said UBC Psychology Professor Del Paulhus. “A job interview is one of the few social situations where narcissistic behaviours such as boasting actually create a positive impression. Normally, people are put off by such behaviour.”

That’s two points for the jerks.

They ace job interviews with their absurd self-confidence and bravado, and hyper-tune their skills through laser like focus on the one thing they hate the least. Do we give them the win?

Maybe, but what’s the point of winning if you have to be a narcissistic hater to get there?

In my experience, everything is its own reward. So being as nice as possible and doing the best work you can on whatever projects come your way usually leads to, if not greater advancement up the totem pole, at least greater personal satisfaction and happiness.

Being a hater or a narcissist is also its own reward. Whatever the minute career benefits these personality traits offer, you’re still going through life participating in as little as possible and hating stuff – or being self-obsessed to the point of missing out on genuine connections with other people. And that’s a pretty big loss.

Let’s give the win to nice guys.

See also:

Who wins: Night owls or early birds?
Who wins: Extroverts or introverts?
How to spot a narcissist
What you can learn from the jerks at work

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Peter Harris
- Peter Harris on Twitter

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