Men get ahead for being 'disagreeable' in the workplace; women don't

Aug 04, 2011 By Shannon Chapla

In the workplace they do, according to new research co-authored by University of Notre Dame Management Professor Timothy Judge. But there also is a double standard for women and, yes, a pay gap.

Judge, the Franklin D. Schurz Professor of Management in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business; Beth Livingston from Cornell University; and Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario, document the effects of gender and “agreeableness” in their study, “Do Nice Guys – and Gals – Really Finish Last? The Joint Effects of Sex and Agreeableness on Income.”

In contemporary psychology, “agreeableness” is one of the “Big Five” dimensions of personality used to describe human personality. It generally refers to someone who is warm, sympathetic, kind and cooperative (in short, a “nice” person), and is the most valued characteristic cited when people are asked to identify with whom they want to spend time.

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But in terms of predicting workplace success, “agreeableness” doesn’t carry the same cachet, says Judge.

“We studied four large data sets,” he says. “And in all four we found there is a penalty for being agreeable in the workplace. But, while men earn a premium for being disagreeable, women don’t.”

It’s the stereotypical double standard according to Judge.

“If you’re a disagreeable man, you’re considered a tough negotiator,” he says. "But, the perception is that if a woman is agreeable, she gets taken advantage of, and if she is disagreeable, she’s considered a control freak or ‘the B-word.’

“Think about Martha Stewart and Donald Trump,” Judge says. “They’re both tough people and, yet, I think Martha Stewart has gotten much more negative press and taken more grief because she’s a disagreeable woman.”

The study shows a strong negative relationship between and earnings for men. The more agreeable a man is, the less he will earn. For women, there is essentially no relationship at all. Regardless, they earn less than men.

So, what recourse is there for women?

“There’s a difference between disagreeing and being disagreeable,” Judge says. “So, I think women should not compromise and, in fact, it’s even more important for them to be aggressive in what they ask for. I tell negotiation students they need to ask for what they want to the point of ridiculousness. People think there are long-term consequences to asking for too much at work, and I don’t think there’s any evidence of that.

“Now, the unfairness of it,” Judge continues, “is that when women ask for more, they are more likely to have their motives questioned, which can neutralize some of the advantages. So, I think women must present their requests in a non-threatening, gentle but firm sort of way. In essence, the way communicate their demands matters more than it does for men.”

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User comments : 6

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Sin_Amos
not rated yet Aug 04, 2011
Alpha males don't take guff from no one, especially while sexism pervades society.
Dulcimer172
not rated yet Aug 04, 2011
When I deliver top quality work, I don't care. I tell people when they are wrong. But then, I'm a consultant - I offer a professional opinion & they are not obliged to agree.

If they have no issues with my work, I get invited back. I have worked at one client 5 times. I make sure not to show people up & 12-18 months later, I'm in Maui for a month, while they are still scrambling around in their petty power games.
ziphead
5 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2011
It is a bit like pushing one's opinions on this site, isn't it?
Being obnoxious and insulting turd pays off to some extent.
At this point I am tempted to name names, but I think it might be superfluous.
KBK
5 / 5 (2) Aug 05, 2011
I'm associated with a work place that has about 20 people. Aggression and/or negativity is not rewarded. Those people are fired.
The mood is set by the owner, and supported by every employee. Employees who want a nice workplace.
A business has to have a big enough workforce and separation from management (too many layers) to have this aggressiveness be able to 'grow'.
This aggression rule is therefore not universal.
Au-Pu
5 / 5 (1) Aug 05, 2011
I would not place too much trust in this study because its author is piss-weak.
He cannot even be honest enough or strong enough to say bitch, he has to call it the "B" word.
What a snivelling apologist.
Skultch
not rated yet Aug 09, 2011
I'm associated with a work place that has about 20 people. Aggression and/or negativity is not rewarded. Those people are fired.
The mood is set by the owner, and supported by every employee. Employees who want a nice workplace.
A business has to have a big enough workforce and separation from management (too many layers) to have this aggressiveness be able to 'grow'.
This aggression rule is therefore not universal.


Yeah, there's all kinds. I work for an even smaller company, but we all work closely and frequently with each other. I have found that assertiveness, as opposed to aggression, pays off very well. I'm not entirely sure what I mean by that, other than the kinda vague way of being and a few specific examples. I guess maybe leadership and taking ownership of projects when they're up in the air, so to speak.

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