Are you letting jerks get ahead?

by 18 Nov 2011

A recent study has claimed that office jerks may be walking away with bigger pay packets than their quiet, agreeable colleagues.

The ‘Agreeableness, Sex, and Income study’, published in the US Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, has suggested that disagreeable men pocket about 18.31% ($9,772) more than likeable guys.

And it’s not just the macho men getting ahead; the office mean girls take home are also taking home about 5.47% ($1,828) more than their amicable sisters.

Currently, there hasn’t been comparable research in Australia confirming a behavioural pay gap. HC wonders if HR and line managers have really come under the spell of the devil’s wearing Prada and Gordon Gekko’s of the corporate world.

Stephanie Thompson, principal corporate psychologist at Insight Matters, has said that to some degree, pop culture can affect our behaviour, but that notion cannot solely take the blame.

The reason is actually quite simple: being mean ‘works’ and according to Thompson it’s because “a domineering, manipulative, ‘take no prisoners’ approach strikes fear into others, so they do the mean person’s bidding to minimise personal damage”.

However, bullies often use extreme competition to get what they want, and their behaviour could potentially cost employer’s more than at first glance.

“There is a common but critical oversight about the cost to a business of employing [the ruthless]. Even though some may bring, for example, sales results, others close to them tend to under-perform or simply leave to save their own skins. Do the maths on the cost of lost productivity, loss of talent and continual re-recruitment, plus cultural and reputational damage,” Thompson said.

A common feature of bullies is their masterful use of manipulation. Most will appear to manage client relationships well and excel at work but don’t be fooled; a bully considers these as best practice only because it serves their best interests, whereas being cordial towards co-workers doesn’t.

Is there a bully terrorizing your office? Stephanie Thompson from Insight Matters shares her top three tips:

Stand up to them.  Don’t kowtow, but don’t be aggressive either.  Figure out what they want most because they are typically very self-interested, and keep this in mind in your interactions with them. Do they need ego strokes, to always be ‘right’ or to hog the limelight?  Allow some of this to happen in a controlled way, to keep the peace. 

Pick your battles. Only confront them about their most destructive behaviour, such as extreme rudeness, aggression or underhandedness.  If their behaviour is really out of hand, leave. It’s not worth it. 

Don’t stoop to their level. Be firm yet reasonable. When they behave badly, don’t simply complain but tell them the type of behaviour you want from them instead.

-Nastasha Tupas


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  • by Larisa Moreno 18/11/2011 3:26:05 PM

    Being assertive and standing up to a bully may also get you the sack - particularly if it is your boss or a person of greater seniority. It could also result in a grievance being lodged against you if the bully doesn't take kindly to your direct approach or has such a huge ego - they just can't stand being called on their bheaviour. I don't believe you should confront a bully as the advice seems to suggest as the personal cost may be more than is worth it. There will always be people in the workplace with ego and bullying behaviour. I don't suggest ignoring them or suffering at their hands but, confronting them may open a whole new can of worms.
    If anyone has any other ideas about what to do to handle egoists and bullies, I'd appreciate the advice.