Nice guys and gals: How much we both get paid
So–is it better to be ‘nice’ or ‘mean’ when it comes to salary? We’ll disclose right up front that this is not a feel good post for some of you. As it happens, if you are someone high in agreeableness, (aka ‘nice’) you are likely paid less than someone less agreeable (aka ‘nasty’).
There are naturally some caveats in this research along with some (likely expected) gender differences. Most of us know that men are still (across the board) paid more than women. That isn’t news. But the rest of these findings might be–although you probably “knew” this on an intuitive level.
The researchers looked at three large datasets (each containing data on between 500 and 2000 adults). The datasets provided salary information as well as information on gender and various personality characteristics [including measures of agreeability]. Here’s what they found in a nutshell:
On average, men earned more a year than did women. [In one dataset, the overage was listed as $5,000 a year.]
Disagreeable people earned more. However, disagreeable men made significantly more [higher by 18%] than nice men while disagreeable women only made a slightly higher salary than nice women [about 5.5%]. The researchers say “the income premium for disagreeableness is more than three times stronger for men than for women”.
Men might benefit more than women from being disagreeable but nice men (i.e., agreeable men) are actually penalized salary-wise when they are highly agreeable.
They also found that the more disagreeable you are, the less you value relationships and the more you value the level of your salary. The flip side is that when you are more agreeable, you are more satisfied with your life, have more friends and community involvement and report lower stress levels. Translated, you might make less and enjoy life more.
So, it would appear that you have a choice. You can choose to fight for a higher salary (in which case you want to be disagreeable, especially if you are male) or you can choose to focus on having life satisfaction, rewarding relationships and a lower level of stress–regardless of your gender. According to this research though–it doesn’t appear you can have it all…still.
Judge, T., Livingston, B., & Hurst, C. (2012). Do nice guys—and gals—really finish last? The joint effects of sex and agreeableness on income. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102 (2), 390-407 DOI: 10.1037/a0026021