Tag: niceness

The Returns to Being Nice

Santa Claus may know if you’ve been naughty or nice — but does the market? This from the June issue of Scientific American (gated):

“When Nice Guys Finish First” by Daisy Grewal

  1. People who are nice are those who score high on the agreeableness personality trait. They are generous, considerate of others and pleasant. Such people benefit from good personal and work relationships. They are more likely to get a job—and to keep it.
  2. Being exceedingly agreeable does have drawbacks, however. Nice people tend to earn less than their more demanding colleagues and to get passed over for promotions
  3. Nice people should pay attention to their posture when they find themselves in leadership positions or in situations in which they need to exert authority over other people.

Sounds nice, but there’s no way it’s domain general. I expect returns to niceness are high for service professionals like real estate agents (see all those smiling faces on billboard ads?) and primary care physicians, but rapidly diminishing for win-or-lose professions like litigating and coaching sports. I also wonder about politicians. For academics, niceness probably pays in teaching more than research (or blogging?). Certain icons of creativity were also known to treat the people close to them boorishly, like Steve Jobs or Jackson Pollock.

In this working paper on siblings and twins, scoring high on agreeableness doesn’t seem to affect labor market success; instead, the market rewards extraversion and punishes neuroticism. Twins and siblings get put through the empirical ringer in this paper—unlike Santa, the market rewards nice boys and nice girls differently. Oh, how naughty.