You kiddin me?
Still, this article kinda bugged me. As much as I’ve used the line in jest, that mindset annoys the heck outta me. How can a “nice” guy (or gal) finish last? Because they treat people with decency? Is it because they aren’t driven by financial considerations and actually try to do what is right? Try to work with people, rather than screw them and climb the corporate ladder over their battered and bruised bodies?
So, from what perspective do nice guys (or gals) finish last?
And by “nice,” the article means by being “agreeable.”
I find that interesting. Is it so wrong to be “agreeable”? Part of “the herd”? In life, we need all kinds of people, leaders and followers. We need agreeable people, and those who go against the crowd (and, no, this doesn’t have to mean belligerently). Yet the article is focused on the earning power of those who are and aren’t agreeable. The article states that if you are Mr. Nice Guy, you won’t earn as much because you will then be taken advantage of by those who are ruthless, and one person said, you have to be ruthless in the business world. If you’re not, you will be “taken advantage of.” And somehow this statement was immediately folded into the next statement that one doesn’t succeed because you know more, but that you can adapt.
Sooo: RUTHLESS = ADAPTABILITY.
I always thought (at least in the business world) that RUTHLESS = PRICK, but, hey, I was never all that great in math. In my mind, I find adaptability and ruthless in two different universes. If you look “ruthless” up, you find words like “merciless,” “cruel,” and “tyrant”; you don’t find any words remotely akin to “adaptable.”
I guess with New Math comes New English.
By the way, being ruthless as a woman didn’t similarly correlate on the earnings scale, the article said. That’s a whole nother topic, so I’m not going into it here; I am trying to attack the rest of the article in a gender-neutral manner, though.
The article went on to say that those who were ruthless (which, in the business world or at least this article, also seems to imply “adaptable”) made more money. Okay, I can definitely see that, and have seen it at work. I have to say that over my lifetime I have seen plenty of “interesting” people make more money because of similar attitudes–not all of them were pricks–but it seemed many of them indeed had an “edge” to them I would not associate with “nice.” But let’s look at this, too. So you get more money; well, what is usually associated with additional income is increased responsibility. Rarely do you just get more dough and it’s left at that. What usually happens is more “stuff” gets piled on you with the salary increase. More responsibility. So, if you felt busy before, you just got busier. That increases stress levels. Maybe the “Nice Guys/Gals” are onto something, here. Seems they might have the better lifestyle, huh? A good job, they do good work, get decent pay, and are less stressed? Being a prick and stressed out doesn’t usually improve one’s prickness, let alone one’s outlook on life, so thus is created the vicious cycle, and do I really have to elaborate on that?
I know the article was focused on earning potential versus workplace behavior, but the way this article was written seems to me to give to the impressionable–or those looking for a reason to justify their ruthlessness–a hook on which to proudly display their hats (which probably contain two little holes on either side of the crown of said hats…).
To me there is a difference between a “hard charger” and one who is ruthless.
Hard chargers are actively moving forward and getting things done–usually the implication being that get things done “right,” and they don’t step on people to get things done. While the term “taking advantage” can be applied to the scalar view of merely using someone’s abilities to their best usage, that was not the implication in this article. The implication (at least to me) was taking people’s perceived weaknesses [in this corporate scenario] and using it against them to gain personal and professional advantage over them.
The more I reread that rather short article, the more I feel that the proper topic was given short shrift. There were just too many terms used in that piece that (again, to me) contradicted each other, because, also as the article pointed out, just being disagreeable shouldn’t necessarily be termed “mean,” either. But how can you resolve all in that article when you keep throwing in terms like “ruthless” and “taking advantage” of people?
I also disagree that by being so agreeable you cannot maintain or establish any kind of a hierarchy. Why not? I my experience, within most groups of any workforce, you will usually-to-always (I will say) find someone who wants to be a leader, so if everyone’s so agreeable on the whole, why wouldn’t they agree to having someone lead them? In many groups I’ve been in over the years, there have always been those who want to lead. Maybe I was in a markedly different demographic, perhaps, but even if it was just me, there was always someone in my “group experience” that wanted to lead, with all the others having no problems whatsoever being followers.
Look, in the corporate world, as in any other world, there are going to be pricks and Nice Guys and Gals. Squeaky wheels and not-so squeaky wheels. Noise (however defined) gets attention. That’s just the way it is. If someone stands out of the crowd they either put up or shut up–or get shut down, if they can’t perform–and it’s gonna be those people who are gonna get looked at for increased responsibility or earning potential. Some are pricks and some aren’t. But, if this article really is true, and the ruthless are the ones getting to the top at the expense of more compassionate and kinder personalities, than that explains so much about where the global corporate world is. Leaders can be firm and kind, compassionate and hard charging, and to muddy the waters with an article stating that you have to ruthless to advance is counterproductive to creating better leaders and better corporate environments. Nice Guys and Gals can make great leaders (I’ve worked and work for many of them), that doesn’t mean you step all over people getting your job done or agreeing with everybody; it means having to occasionally making hard decisions that can involve the nasties, like firing or disciplining people.
Simply stated, you can never please everybody–but that doesn’t make you ruthless.
But, please, don’t confuse “ruthless” with “hard charging.”