September 23, 2011
Want a Raise? Be Disagreeable.
That's the conclusion of a study by Timothy A. Judge (Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame), Beth A. Livingston (School of Industrial and Labor Relations,Cornell University, and Charlice Hurst (Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario). The study, Do Nice Guys – and Gals – Really Finish Last? The Joint Effects of Sex and Agreeableness on Income, is to appear in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and a pdf of the paper is here.
Sex and agreeableness were hypothesized to affect income, such that women and agreeable individuals were hypothesized to earn less than men and less agreeable individuals. Because agreeable men disconfirm (and disagreeable men confirm) conventional gender roles, agreeableness was expected to be more negatively related to income for men (i.e., the pay gap between agreeable men and agreeable women would be smaller than the gap between disagreeable men and disagreeable women). The hypotheses were supported across four studies. Study 1 confirmed the effects of sex and agreeableness on income and that the agreeableness – income relationship was significantly more negative for men than for women. Study 2 replicated these results, controlling for each of the other Big Five traits. Study 3 also replicated the interaction, and explored explanations and paradoxes of the relationship. A fourth study, using an experimental design, yielded evidence for the argument that the joint effects of agreeableness and gender are due to backlash against agreeable men.
This excerpt from the study was especially interesting to me:
Although being disagreeable does not mean that one is more competent or agentic—communion and agency are not opposite ends of the same construct (Wiggins, 1991)—it may imply as much in the minds of employers. People who are low in agreeableness may be perceived as more competent by virtue of their lack of warmth (Benyus, Bremmer, Pujadas, Christakis, Collier, & Warholz, 2009). Amabile and Glazebrook (1982) found that people who were highly critical of others were rated as more competent than those offering favorable evaluations. Furthermore, in an experimental study, Tieden (2001) found that people recommended a higher-status position and higher pay for job applicants who expressed anger—a display that is more likely among disagreeable people (Jensen-Campbell, Knack, Waldrip, & Campbell, 2007; Meier & Robinson, 2004).
I'm hoping this knowledge helps me to think a little more consciously (and carefully) about how I assess current or potential new colleagues.
I've been trying that for over 25 years. Hasn't worked that well. :)
Posted by: Steve Bradford | Sep 23, 2011 12:16:55 PM
Reminds me of the book Moneyball when Billy Beane arbitraged baseball scouts' bias against baseball players with certain body types and styles (short, fat, etc.) who nevertheless had great stats.
I would never have guessed, however, that being agreeable was the workplace equivalent of being short and fat.
Posted by: Joseph | Sep 23, 2011 11:43:12 PM