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Why Being Agreeable Might Not Get You That Promotion

Will being horrible really get you to the top?

8May

It’s logical to assume that the nicer you are with you colleagues the easier it will be to get a promotion. Often labelled ‘office politics’, it’s always been a case of being nice to the right people when you’re looking to get ahead, but it seems that those who are high in agreeableness tend to be worse placed to lead big teams.

Well that’s the findings from a recent study from Truity Psychometrics, a personality assessment company, who found that people who are more sensitive to the needs of others often lack the ability to give critical, concise feedback, something which subordinates actually appreciate.

In another study conducted by Psychologist Art Markman, Ph.D. it was identified that agreeable men were far less likely to get ahead than men who were deemed colder and more likely to hand out harsh criticism.

Another reason why less agreeable men get promoted into senior positions is that they are more likely to self-promote, whist more mild-mannered workers tend to get embarrassed outlining their achievements. This means that disagreeable people often have a higher status at work - whether it’s warranted or not.

Although disagreeableness seems to be positive in terms of gaining promotion, the best managers will be able to learn from those around them and adapt their somewhat abrasive style so that it comes across as more empathetic.

Whilst this news might come as a shock to those who have styled their career on being helpful, it’s not certain whether this can be applied to all industries. The adjective ‘agreeable’ could perhaps be changed to ‘straight-minded’. This would better explain why people who are not afraid of not expressing their opinions got on better than those who don’t. Straight-mindedness and disagreeableness are not one of the same thing - so this could perhaps be more a accurate definition.

Both Art Markman, Ph.D’s and Truity Psychometrics’ studies are interesting and point towards the need for people to be forward-thinking and almost narrow minded in their belief that what they are saying is correct. From a strategic standpoint however, this is unlikely to be music to most companies ears, as this type of worker is not aligned with the collaborative approach which most companies are looking to in order to encourage innovation.

This study should of course be taken with a pinch of salt, but it seems to show that knowing what you want and how you're going to get it is the best way to get to the top of any company.

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