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It doesn't pay to be a 'yes' man

It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil... and a fatter pay cheque, especially in today’s work environment, learns AUDREY VIJAINDREN



ALTHOUGH there are upsides to being nice, such as being better liked by colleagues, the bottom line, according to recent studies, is that agreeableness is negatively related to income and earnings.

While this may seem illogical to some, it's now a proven fact that nice guys finish last on the pay scale.




Sharmini Hensen says being cordial does not fit well in corporate life


Life coach Sharmini Hensen says this is especially true in the Malaysian workforce.


"Although the phenomenon appears to be cross cultural, it's more evident in Malaysia because being polite and a people pleaser have always been part of our upbringing and culture. 

"However, being cordial and nice doesn't fit well in a corporation because in any situation or relationship, you need to articulate what you want and know how to get it. If you don't, you'll just end up being miserable and it'll show. Being a 'yes' man or'DBKL', picking up everyone else's rubbish, just doesn't cut it.


"Nice guys always try to save the day by taking on too much, causing other people to dump more tasks on them. Eventually, Mr Nice Guy gets overwhelmed and burnt out causing him to produce mediocre work. At the end of the day, he'll probably lose out on promotions and raises."

On the other hand, a worker who's able to say "no" or "no, not now" is someone most bosses want to work with, Hensen believes. 

"Contradictory to what we were brought up to think, the majority of managers would rather pick an assertive worker over an obliging one.


"This is because managers know that these employees are focused and won't stand for nonsense, especially when dealing with vendors and other third parties. They demand to be treated right and paid for what they're worth."

Country manager of JobStreet.com Malaysia, Chook Yuh Yng, echoes her opinion. 




Chook Yuh Yng says niceness is not a trait sought by employers


"An office worker who's nice in terms of agreeableness to every issue without thinking of the outcome does not have traits that are desired by employers. 

"Employees who tend to be overly agreeable may not be seen as good decision-makers or leaders. Their promotion is likely to be delayed until they dare to be more upfront."

It's the same with women. It does not pay to be nice.

"It's a known fact that nice women earn much less, they become doormats and blend into the furniture although they've been holding senior positions for many years. 

"But women don't have the same benefits as men when attempting to be assertive. They tend to over communicate and get unnecessarily emotional.

"For women, the strategy should be a little different, the less you say the better otherwise you'll be labelled with the 'B' word and the effects are adverse," Hensen adds.

Clinical psychologist and human behaviour expert, Wendy Walsh, believes women need to master peaceable methods. 

"At the end of the day, there needs to be social and emotional intelligence. Social intelligence means knowing when it is safe to be disagreeable. Women who stand up for themselves in the workplace tend not to be rewarded too much, they have to work their social skills in a peace making way. 

"It's sexist but it's true that when women are more disagreeable, assertive and aggressive, they are called the 'B' word but men are called ambitious and tough when they have the same behaviours. 

"The ability to disagree doesn't necessarily mean being rude, angry and abrasive, but it does mean being able to say to your boss, 'no, I deserve more'. And you can say it in a very polite way."

Hensen says it's a 21st century phenomenon to become incredibly selfish, which is not a bad trait. 

"It's okay to be very selfish with your work in order to create results. Stop being a wuss and doormat, it never applied before and it surely doesn't apply today. We're in the leading edge of change and that kind of attitude doesn't make you leading edge material. 

"However, be wise in balancing it out, sometimes you have to stand up and say 'no' while other times you need to be supportive and accommodating. But don't use these findings as an excuse to slide by and sail through your work day by doing as little as possible." 

Although it may not be in some people's nature to be confrontational and disagreeable, Hensen says it helps to focus on your self worth. 

"Notice even your smallest achievements and don't be embarrassed to talk about it. Bring it up during your appraisals and get the recognition you deserve. However, when a person has a certain level of esteem and strength, they also have dignity and class. State what you want and don't pester the bosses for it. If you feel that you're not getting due recognition, move on to the next opportunity with your dignity intact."

However, human resource consultant Peter Kanagaraj believes that in most Malaysian companies, one's chances of promotions and increments are heavily dependent on one's immediate supervisor. 



Peter Kanagaraj says promotions here depend on supervisors


"For instance, if you're a 'yes' man and your boss appreciates that, then you'll probably rise to the top quickly, but if he hates managing people who answer back and question his opinion, or feels that his job is threatened by your presence, your attitude will bite you.


"Also, company policies play an important role. Some organisations practise an open-door policy, which allows employees to approach higher management without having to go through their immediate supervisors. This gets them noticed even if their supervisors are not their biggest fan, opening more opportunities for advancement."

Kanagaraj says the scenario in Malaysia is different compared with other developed countries. In such countries, due to an abundance of competent persons, only the best secure employment and make it to the top.

Naughty or nice?

TWO years ago, a United Kingdom study into the link between personality and salary found that nice people are paid nearly STG1,500 (RM7,308) a year less than those who are more aggressive in the workplace.
Researchers for the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex claim their study shows that the amiable are on average paid less. 

Nearly 3,000 men aged between 24 and 64 living and working in the UK were grouped into five personality types, depending on their openness to experience, conscientiousness, level of extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. 

Researchers Dr Cheti Nicoletti and Dr Alita Nandi, demonstrated that those who were nice earned approximately six per cent less.

Nicoletti said: "The results clearly show that agreeableness and neuroticism are penalised in the workplace while extroversion is rewarded. While it's penalised in the labour market, it may make a person more socially acceptable, increase their social networks and finally lead to better mental health and well-being."

A recent United States study proved that these findings stand true even to today. The study which looked at the link between personality and wages found that "agreeable" workers earn approximately US$10,000 (RM29,800) a year less than their mean colleagues.

The study, titled "Do nice guys - and gals -- really finish last?", examined levels of "agreeableness" attributed to different people and compared it with their pay.

Agreeableness was defined as a tendency towards warmth, kindness and cooperation with other people.

Men who were deemed to disagree the most made 18 per cent more than those seen to be more willing to agree.

Disagreeable women make five per cent more than women who are more willing to seek common ground.

Data was compiled over 20 years from three different surveys. As a further part of the research, 460 business students were asked to pretend to be managers reviewing descriptions of potential employees. Researchers found that those viewed as more agreeable were less likely to get the job.

Cornell professor, Beth Livingston, who authored the study with University of Notre Dame's Timothy Judge and Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario, said managers are clearly rewarding nasty behaviour.

"Nice guys are getting the shaft. The problem is, many managers often don't realise they reward disagreeableness," she told the Wall Street Journal.



By Audrey Vijaindren nsunt@nst.com.my 2011/09/03
Source: The NST Home Local 2011/09/03

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