article » Why Being Selfish and Manipulative Won't Boost Your Career

Why Being Selfish and Manipulative Won't Boost Your Career

September 23, 2020
1 min read

Lydia Smith, Writer, Yahoo Finance UK,
Yahoo Finance UKSep 23, 2020, 5:25 AM

A selfish boss or employee can significantly contribute to a toxic culture in the workplace.

Most of us have worked with someone unpleasant at some point. Maybe they were keen to blame their mistakes on other people, or throw their peers under the bus — so to speak — to get ahead.

Business has long been thought of as a dog-eat-dog world, dominated by those willing to trample on their colleagues to climb up the career ladder. And although there is a greater awareness of workplace wellbeing in general, many companies still encourage a “me first” corporate culture. But whether being selfish actually helps you progress in your career is under debate.

Recent research by the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business tracked more than 400 people from college to graduate school, to see how they were doing in their careers 14 years later.

The researchers conducted two studies of people who had completed personality assessment as undergraduate or MBA students across three universities. Then a decade later, they asked about their power and rank in their workplaces, as well as the culture in their workplaces. To make sure they got a fair assessment, the researchers also spoke to the participants’ colleagues about their rank and behaviour.

The results were surprising. Instead of bullying their way to the top of their fields, those with selfish, deceitful, and aggressive personality traits were no more likely to have more power than those who were nice.

That isn’t to say people who are horrible don’t reach positions of power, as anyone who has had an awful boss will attest. It’s just that they didn’t get there any quicker than pleasant people — and being selfish, manipulative and sneaky didn’t help.

Importantly, any power boost they did get was counteracted by their poor relationships with other people.

“I was surprised by the consistency of the findings. No matter the individ