Advance Your Career Without Being a Jerk

Climb the corporate Ladder without being a jerkWe’ve all heard the saying, “Nice guys finish last.” It’s a common phrase, but it seems to fly in the face of all proper etiquette when dealing with others. Being respectful, kind, and generous are usually key soft skills that employers look for when looking for job candidates or finding someone to promote into management.

Some of you might know what it’s like to be the nice guy. You respectfully do what you’re told, but that guy, who is being loud mouthed and demanding, gets all the attention and opportunities. The good news is that the office jerk doesn’t always get the prize. Here are some ways you can take comfort in knowing that nice guys can make it to the top.

It’s a Pain to Maintain
The office jerks often seem like they are always getting the opportunities because at first glance, they convey in a group setting that they have the most power. A study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that the more discourteous someone acts, the more others believe that the offender has power. Naturally, this person’s status is elevated and becomes a prime candidate for promotion or leadership.

The problem is leadership with that kind of behavior is unsustainable. These people tend to focus more on their ego than their team members, which will hinder performance and cause employers to question their leadership. If given enough time, they might job hop at the drop of a hat to another employer that hasn’t seen through the self-promotion and noise to see the jerk as he really is. They may climb the corporate ladder quicker, but they don’t stay there very long.

Assertive Not Aggressive
The biggest problem that the workplace nice guys face is that they can be so courteous that they become passive. They are concerned that if they assert themselves others will think of their behavior as aggressive, but assertiveness is that happy medium between being passive and being aggressive.

Being assertive is a matter of finding that balance of speaking up when you have an idea or opinion while respecting others who are already talking, disagreeing with requests if they are unreasonable, offering suggestions to compromise, and asking for favors and help without demanding it.

If you’re unsure where that line is, ask your manager or mentor to observe your behavior and alert you when you do things too passively or aggressively. You’re demonstrating a desire to improve your leadership and soft skills, which will already place you in a promotable position.

Integrity is Key
Generally, the most common thing the workplace nice guys have going for them is their integrity – they will do what they promised. The common trait most employers look for, other than the specific skills needed for the job, is integrity. Listening, understanding, and recognizing others are all traits that fall under that reliability. It builds trust with your management, and when you’re a little more assertive when letting your boss know about all that you’ve done, you’ll be a prime candidate when opportunity knocks.

How do you feel about the Workplace Nice Guy? Do you think it’s true that only jerks get ahead in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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