Study: Being a selfish jerk doesn’t get you ahead

Featuring:

  • Cameron Anderson
    Professor | Lorraine Tyson Mitchell Chair in Leadership & Communication II | Chair, Management of Organizations Group

The evidence is in: Nice guys and gals don’t finish last and being a selfish jerk doesn’t get you ahead.

That’s the clear conclusion from research that tracked disagreeable people—those with selfish, combative, manipulative personalities—from college or graduate school to where they landed in their careers about 14 years later.

“I was surprised by the consistency of the findings. No matter the individual or the context, disagreeableness did not give people an advantage in the competition for power — even in more cutthroat, ‘dog-eat-dog’ organizational cultures,” said Berkeley Haas professor Cameron Anderson, who co-authored the study with UC Berkeley psychology professor Oliver P. John, Berkeley Haas doctoral student Daron L. Sharps and associate professor Christopher J. Soto of Colby College.

The paper was published Aug. 31 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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“The bad news here is that organizations do place disagreeable individuals in charge just as often as agreeable people,” Anderson said. “In other words, they allow jerks to gain power at the same rate as anyone else, even though jerks in power can do serious damage to the organization.”

Cameron Anderson is a professor of organizational behavior, and teaches courses in Power and Politics in Organizations, Negotiations, and Conflict Resolution. He is an expert on topics pertaining to power, status, and influence processes, leadership, negotiations and conflict resolution, and team dynamics. Anderson is available to speak with media about his research.

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