Case Incident 1
The Nice Trap?
In these pages we’ve already noted that one downside of agreeableness is that agreeable people tend to have lower levels of career success. Though agreeableness doesn’t appear to be related to job performance, agreeable people do earn less money. Though we’re not sure why this is so, it may be that agreeable individuals are less aggressive in negotiating starting salaries and pay raises for themselves.
Yet there is clear evidence that agreeableness is something employers value. Several recent books argue in favor of the “power of nice” (Thaler & Koval, 2006) and “the kindness revolution” (Horrell, 2006). Other articles in the business press have argued ...view middle of the document...
Moreover, a 2008 study of CEO and CEO candidates revealed that this contradiction applies to organizational leaders as well. Using ratings made of candidates from an executive search firm, these researchers studied the personalities and abilities of 316 CEO candidates for companies involved in buyout and venture capital transactions. They found that what gets a CEO candidate hired is not what makes him or her effective. Specifically, CEO candidates who were rated high on “nice” traits such as respecting others, developing others, and teamwork were more likely to be hired. However, these same characteristics—especially teamwork and respecting others for venture capital CEOs—made the organizations that the CEOs led less successful.
1. Do you think there is a contradiction between what employers want in employees (agreeable employees) and what employees actually do best (disagreeable employees)? Why or why not?
2. Often, the effects of personality depend on the situation. Can you think of some job situations in which agreeableness is an important virtue? And in which it is harmful?
3. In some...