Friday, August 19, 2011

Nice Guys Finish Last: Disagreeing versus Disrespecting

With all respect to Leo Durocher, why can't Nice Guys finish first once and awhile? "Do Nice Guys -- and Gals -- Really Finish Last? The Joint Effects of Sex and Agreeableness on Income," by Timothy A. Judge of the University of Notre Dame, Beth A. Livingston of Cornell University and Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario, was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Since that publication, news outlets and bloggers have jumped on the study's finding, that nice guys, do in fact, finish last in terms of compensation.

But how are we defining "nice" and "not nice"?

The study's findings seem to point to the "not nice" individuals as those who are more disagreeable. But disagreeable doesn't mean disrespectful.

When teaching classes on Emotional Intelligence (EQ), we often get asked the question, why do I have to be nice to everyone? Or, why should I care if someone is hurt by something I might say, if I'm right or if I'm only trying to help? The short answer is, you don't need to change. However, people with high emotional intelligence can deliver a hard message in a way that does not disrespect the receiver of the message. Does that mean that the deliverer of the message is being "nice"? Not exactly, the deliverer is still being disagreeable by bringing up organizational challenges, personnel problems, conflicting opinions, or any number of other difficult discussions, but doing it in such a way that promotes respect and values others. The folks who are more likely to be perceived as "nice" are more likely to be avoiding conflict by not bringing issues to the forefront.

In the contrary, a individual who promotes his/her opinions by disrespecting others ("that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard" or "I'm wasting my time in this meeting, the answer is clearly what I've already said"), might also be labeled "not-nice". Let's take a moment and think about the culture that is promoted by that individual. Do you think co-workers and employees are going to be willing to share potential problems or ideas with that individual? If that individual is a leader in the organization, ideas and suggestions may end up being stifled, which would limit the organizations power to proactively respond to potential issues.

An organization as a whole cannot adapt to challenges by avoiding conflict and ignoring issues or remaining inflexible in one position, it follows that an organization would most value those individuals who can disagree on issues and highlight challenges but still foster a culture of respect.

In short, high emotional intelligence allows a disagreement to come to the front but not disrespect. So let's redefine "nice" as "high EQ" and say that those guys and gals do finish first.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very nice way of acknowledging "Nicer Guys" who are always at the receiving end because they disagree with what they feel is wrong in the wider interest of things e.g. at work, at home, in public interest, etc..., but are outnumbered by those who may feel insecure because their wrongdoings may stand exposed or those who simply do not want to acknowledge that they have made a mistake and hence may cover it up with their arguements, aggressive behavior, etc...

    Yes, this blog does tell the nice guys who always end finishing last how to put forth their viewpoints in a respectful manner maybe with facts so that it is acknowledged by everyone (though not necessary) and one can move on to finding a middle solution (negotiation, managing conflicts). Nice Insight.