Kimberly C. Kisner

It Pays to be the Jerk at Work

By Joanna Boydak, LiveCareer

If you think brown-nosing and being the “nice guy” at the office is going to pay off, think again. The new study, “Do Nice Guys—and Gals–Really Finish Last?” finds that agreeable workers earn significantly lower incomes than less agreeable ones.

According to the study, men who measured below average on agreeableness earned almost 15% more—or $9,772 more—annually than their more agreeable counterparts. Ruder women, on the other hand, earned only about 5% more—or $1,828 more–than their agreeable counterparts.

The researchers define agreeable employees as those who “place a greater value on their interpersonal relationships” and are inclined to maintain these relationships than less agreeable employees. To sum it up, a more agreeable employee will stay mute on a subject instead of speaking up, for fear of hurting a coworker rather than contributing the bottom line of the company. Less agreeable employees realize the goal at work is not to win the popularity contest—it’s to contribute to the company’s success. It’s the really successful ones that are able to accomplish both.

So why the large gap for male and females? The researchers conclude that gender stereotypes are still alive in the workplace. When men act agreeable, they do not confirm to the expectations of masculine behavior. Furthermore, employees who tend to be more easy-going and agreeable may also be less willing to assert themselves in aggressive salary negotiations.

The study examined results from three different surveys collected over 20 years, from roughly 10,000 employees from a diverse range of jobs, industries and salaries. Each survey measured the notion of “agreeableness” in different ways, but the results all point in the same direction. As Cornell professor Beth A. Livingston and co author of the study puts it: “Nice guys are getting the shaft.”

Here’s what you can do to show your mean side and hopefully get noticed when it comes time to decide on bonuses or salary increases.

  1. Fight the good fight: Choose your battles wisely based on the company’s bottom line and you can expect to make your way to the top. When disagreeing with an idea or decision, remember that the goal of the decision is to benefit the organization in the long run. Employees that genuinely care about the performance of the company and fight for it will surpass employees that fight for personal reasons.
  2. Be more assertive: Even though the workplace may seem team-oriented, when it comes to contribution, it’s the individuals themselves that matter. Don’t be afraid to speak up! Your co-workers and superiors will respect you for it.
  3. Follow your gut: Knowledge is power–sometimes. Lack of knowledge is usually the reason for insecurity to speak up. However, ignoring your gut feelings and staying mute on a topic while you the take time to research wont benefit you or the company. Intuition can sometimes be more powerful than hard facts, so pay attention when these feelings arise. In fact, many business leaders strive to develop and perfect their ability to tune into their intuition.
  4. Show that you care: Taking the time to form an opinion and share your stance on a topic proves that you care about the decision at hand and are willing to work towards the best solution. Disagreeing with a co-worker is not a personal attack or an attempt to undermine their competency; you are simply doing your job to ensure that the best decision is made.


Acting less agreeable in an interview can also help you get the job or assist you in negotiating a higher salary. Instead of nodding to everything that the hiring manager says, show your interest in the company by asking questions and actively participating in the conversation. This “roll up the sleeves” mentality will reveal that you are a competent candidate that isn’t wasting any time on jumping in to start addressing the company’s problems.


Interview on “Girl Power” Blog Talk Radio Show

Good afternoon gang! If you were not able to catch me earlier this afternoon on “Girl Power” have no fear. You can listen to the re-play right here. Enjoy!

Self-Defeating Job-Search Moves to Avoid

The desperate post-interview phone call, the proclamation of self-doubt, and more blundering ways to negate your chances of winning the job

Despite the healing economy, employers are often slow to post openings and make hiring decisions. It’s a frustrating situation that can cause eager job candidates to act in counterproductive ways, scotching promising opportunities. Here’s our list of 10 real-life job-search misfires we hope will serve as cautionary tales for job-hunters. Don’t replicate these counterproductive deeds.

Inflicting Gratuitous Interrogation

I was reviewing résumés and found one that stood out in a positive way. I e-mailed the sender and asked whether he had a minute to talk by phone. “I might,” he wrote back. “Where is the company located, what is the starting salary, who is the CEO, and how long have you been in business?” That was the end of the correspondence; our street address was on our home page, the salary was listed in the job ad, and the company story (including inception date and leadership bios) was in the About Us section of our site. In his haste to make sure his time wasn’t wasted—a reasonable goal, in my opinion—the gentleman asked me to answer four questions he’d have already had answers to if he’d done a bit of homework. Lesson: It’s perfectly fine to guard against time-sucking or even bogus job ads, but do it in such a way that you don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

Forgetting Who You’re Interviewing With

The executive director of a small not-for-profit shared this tale with me. “I miraculously got enough money from my board to hire a marketing director last year,” she said. “I was over the moon. I had one precious job opening to fill. I interviewed five people, three of them from industry and two from the not-for-profit world. One of the industry folks was super-smart and insightful. Sadly, she knocked herself out of the running about halfway through the interview.” “How?” I wanted to know. “I asked her to tell me one story that illustrated how she rolls. I told her to think about our five-person agency and what we need in marketing, and tell me a story from her career that would make it clear she belongs here. She told me a story about a 24-month intranet development project involving 60 people across functions and six or seven levels of organizational sign-offs. I was nearly asleep by the time she finished. I think this lady really needs a big company atmosphere.” The job-seeker’s intranet story screamed “I don’t understand scrappy not-for-profits at all.” Lesson: In your written job-search communications and especially on an interview, keep your stories and questions relevant to the hiring manager’s issues.

Selling Yourself Short

A friend at a placement agency told me this story. Last summer she had a candidate on the short list of two finalists for a plum sales management job. She’d just gotten off the phone with the hiring manager, who said, “I have to sleep on it, but I think your guy Frank is getting the job tomorrow,” when Frank himself called her. “Don’t be mad at me,” Frank said. “Oh, no,” said the agent. “What did you do, Frank?” Frank had gotten fearful and had called the hiring manager to say, “If you don’t want me in the sales manager spot, I’ll take a sales territory assignment.” The manager hired him into the territory job and hired the other finalist for the sales management job. The placement agency lady never told Frank how close he’d come to the higher-paying, bigger job. Lesson: Stay the course. You’ll never show an employer what you’re worth, or persuade them they need you, by groveling.

Letting Minor Adversity Vanquish You

“I am so frustrated with my job search,” said a man I met at the library. “I had an interview last week, and when I got there at 20 after 5, the front door was locked,” he said. “Did you go around to the back?” I asked. “Did you call or text HR or the hiring manager?” “No, I went home,” said the gentleman. “When I got home, there was a message telling me the front door would be locked and I should go around, but I had left home before that message arrived.” “Did you reschedule?” I asked him. “No, I figured the opportunity was lost.” “Call them!” I said. He did, but they’d filled the job already. Lesson: Corporate hiring types are no different from anyone else; they make mistakes. On one job interview back in my 20s, I walked around the whole building looking for an open door for a 5:30 interview, and I finally walked across the loading dock to get in. Show your resourcefulness by rolling with the interview punches.

Sending a Generic Thank-You

I interviewed a brilliant young man for a business development role. “Look, Barry,” I said. “I want to make sure we’re on the same page. Over the next couple of days, send me an e-mail message and tell me what you heard today. It doesn’t need to be long. Just write a couple of paragraphs about what you see as our competitive situation and how you’d approach the assignment so that I know we’d be in sync.” Barry happily agreed. An hour later, I got the generic post-interview thank-you e-mail from Barry, saying, “Dear Ms. Ryan, Thank you so much for chatting with me today. I’m excited about working for your company and know I’ll do a great job.” Today we would call that an epic fail in the showing-comprehension department. Lesson: Whether the hiring manager asks you to, or not, make sure your post-interview thank-you recaps the conversation in an intelligent way, pointing out what the company is up against and how you’re equipped to tackle those challenges.

Offering a (Doubly) Misguided Information Packet

A reader called me for advice, saying, “I’m targeting a product manager opening at Company X. I’m going to a trade show where they’ll be exhibiting.” We talked about visiting the company’s booth and chatting up employees. A week later she called again. “I visited the booth but everyone was busy, so I left a packet for the sales manager.” “Hmm, for the sales manager?” I asked. I thought about a sales manager’s likely level of interest in a non-sales employee’s job-search packet dropped off during a chaotic trade show. What was in the packet? “I left him a note with an article I wrote for an industry journal several years ago,” she said. “Was the article about Company X?” I asked. “No,” she said, “it was a story about software documentation.” Unfortunately, Company X is not a software company. Busy working people are deluged with information. Job-search overtures need to be specific. My caller could have gotten her hiring manager’s name via a short conversation if she’d stuck around that booth until the trade show crew had a minute to chat. The unrelated article didn’t help her case and was likely tossed in the recycling bin. Lesson: Your target person is the hiring manager. Other, random people in the organization typically don’t make great conduits unless they’re friends of yours. And whatever materials you send must make it clear what you want and why anyone should care.

Frantically Self-Doubting

The CEO of a tech startup called me. “What about this?” he said. “I ran an ad, and a lady wrote right back to me with a great e-mail message. I replied to say, ‘I’d love to talk when you have time.’ She wrote back to tell me that she’s not all that technical, and I replied to her saying that we need more than just technical people. She wrote again to make sure I knew that she’s really not all that technical. By this time I was trying to figure out why she responded to the ad at all, but her résumé was great, so I said, ‘Let’s just get together and take it from there.’ Then she wrote back to ask me if there were going to be technical tests during the interview. We don’t use anything like that, but I had lost faith at that point and gave up. Please tell your readers to go with the flow. There’s no point in acing yourself out of job opportunities because you fear you might get tossed out at some later point in the process.” Lesson: Work the process. At a minimum, you’ll make valuable contacts, learn some new things, practice your interviewing skills, and give yourself a reason to get dressed up.

Surrendering to Salary Worries

“I got a call for a job interview, but I didn’t go,” said Samantha, a woman I chatted with at a networking event. “Oh, why’s that?” I asked. “They told me not to come in if I need to earn more than $75K, and I’m really focusing on jobs that pay $80K and up,” she said. “Seriously?” I asked. “You skipped the interview over that $5K gap? Are you being overwhelmed with interest from employers?” “Heck no,” she said. “I haven’t had an interview in months, but I figured I’d hold out for the number.” If Samantha had gone to the interview and started a conversation, she could have learned enough about the organization and its issues to talk them into another $5K in base or bonus or some other valuable exchange medium. Lesson: When you’re invited to a reasonable job interview, go! If it doesn’t sound perfect at first hearing, that’s O.K. Life is long, and priorities and investment levels turn on a dime. You’ll never know if you don’t show up.

Saying Yes to an Illogical Request

A client of mine, Maurice, wrote to me, dejected. “I should have taken a stronger stance,” he said. “What happened, Mo?” I asked him. “This corporate recruiter called and talked to me for an hour, and I guess I passed through that gate O.K.,” he said. “She called me back and asked me to write a marketing plan for the company. I haven’t even met those people yet. I went crazy and wrote a 20-page marketing plan and sent it to her. Then, radio silence for three weeks.” Maurice fell into the trap called Give Them Exactly What They Ask For, No Questions Asked. You’ll never show your value that way. A generic marketing plan is almost useless, and a thoughtful, customized one requires collaboration with the client. Trying so hard to please, especially in the early stages of the selection pipeline, is a bad strategy. Lesson: When you’re asked to deliver X, Y, or Z during a job search, remember that you’re an important part of the equation. Maurice could have said, “It would be irresponsible of me to write a marketing plan with so little information about the business, and apart from that it wouldn’t be fair to the people who have paid me for marketing plans in the past. Let’s set up a time for me to talk with the marketing VP and discuss her marketing-plan needs then.”

Utterly Failing to Prepare

I interviewed an editor candidate who said, “I think I could really help you.” “Marvelous!” I said. “How? Where could our publication improve?” “You mean your publication specifically?” she said. “You got me there. I didn’t actually look at it. I’m not a reader.” Lesson: Don’t apply for jobs that don’t interest you.


By Liz Ryan -

provided by

Bloomberg Businessweek