Businesswoman shouting with megaphoneDoes it seem to you that the people who appear to be pushier and less accommodating at work tend to get the better terms and conditions and are paid more? And, that the more accommodating employees tend to be paid less? Do nice guys really finish last or is this a myth?

There’s no question that some degree of pushiness, and rejection of what is offered, is beneficial as the working world is not set up to provide you with the best available option up front. Take for example, the findings of this CareerBuilder survey, which showed that 70 percent of employers leave negotiating room when making their initial job offer and 10 percent would actually think less of a candidate who didn’t negotiate a job offer. So, a failure to be pushy here is tantamount to leaving money on the table and you will be poorer for not doing it.

This is not an isolated finding as a joint study, Do Nice Guys – and Gals – Really Finish Last? The Joint Effects of Sex and Agreeableness on Income?, by the Universities of Notre dame, Cornell and Western Ontario has also found that being somewhat disagreeable can have a positive impact on income. The study revealed, in no uncertain terms, individuals who were less agreeable earned more than the more agreeable subjects. (For the interest of clarity disagreeable means quarrelsome vs. agreeable, difficult vs. cooperative and stubborn vs. flexible.)

But, these study findings need to be qualified as there was a gender effect in play and it seemed that men seemed to profit more than women from being disagreeable in their approach. In fact, they found that disagreeable men earn 18.31 percent more in terms of salary, but disagreeable women only have a 5.47 percent salary premium. Women do get their own back a little as the study showed that men are actually penalized financially for being highly agreeable where women are not.

So nice guys and girls, to a lesser degree. do in indeed finish last when it comes to salary; it clearly pays financially to be pushy and disagreeable. But, just because being pushy and contrary delivers a higher salary should you adopt this approach? Not necessarily, according to this George Mason study, which found that employees who used more aggressive and uncompromising negotiating tactics did indeed get a higher salary but felt less satisfied than those who had been more accommodating and collaborative. But, it’s worth noting that those who adopted passive negotiation strategies were less satisfied than the negotiators who adopted the aggressive and the collaborative strategies.

There is no question that a median degree of pushiness and being contrary and disagreeable is absolutely required in order to elevate your earnings. However, a passive strategy will mean you are literally leaving money on the table and will leave you with the maximum amount of dissatisfaction. It’s clear that high levels of disagreement will allow you to maximize your earnings but could lead to a reduced sense of satisfaction, and could begin to alienate you in the face of your employer—so tread carefully.



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