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Nice Guys Finish Poor: 5 Personalities that Don’t Get Promoted

Nice Guys Finish Poor: 5 Personalities that Don’t Get Promoted

July 21, 2011

Money is nice. But the business of earning it, according to some researchers, may be just the opposite.

A German study conducted by the Institute for Employment Research recently found that “nice” people tend to earn less money than their not-so-nice colleagues.

Before you ditch your good manners and start practicing your growl, take a moment to reassess your nice guy/nice gal habits.

The detrimental aspects of “nice” are usually associated with specific personality types. Here are some common culprits:

Here are a few of the types of worker you DON’T want to be — if you’re looking for a promotion.


  1. The Den Mother Cub Scout camp is over. Unless it’s a part of your job description, do not become the self-appointed nice guy who organizes office snacks, decorates the bulletin board, cleans the break room, or maintains a widely advertised supply of cough drops. For one thing, all this motherly “niceness” can actually be a real time-zapper. For another, you’ll create the perception that you’re strictly focused on assists, not on goals.
  2. The Diplomat Diplomatic nice guys make a habit of polling coworker opinions. But colleagues aren’t constituents. Too much canvassing creates the impression that you’re wishy-washy and indecisive. If and when you do assert your own judgment, coworkers will be more inclined to ignore your opinions. So take the initiative whenever possible. After all, there won’t be a company-wide vote when it comes time for your annual review.
  3. The Apologist Sorry to tell you this, but you may be apologizing too much. When you apologize for issues you didn’t create (Oh, I’m sorry it’s so rainy today), you come across as easily flustered, or lacking in self-confidence. Instead of leading with an apology, practice leading with a solution (Let’s have our meeting lunch delivered, instead of going out in this weather). You’ll garner more respect, and you’ll conserve the value of your apologies, should they ever become truly necessary.
  4. The Philanthropist By definition, nice people are generous. When a colleague is faltering, your charitable instinct is to give up your time, and help out. Unfortunately, there’s no tax credit for donated clock hours. Over time, you’ll wind up feeling unappreciated and over-worked. So instead of constantly giving, take back occasionally. Specifically, take credit for all the projects you facilitate – whether they were originally assigned to you or not.
  5. The BFF At a ninth grade sleepover, sharing secrets is “nice.” At a place of employment, it’s just a bad idea. There’s nothing wrong with socializing, but dishing major dirt puts you in a vulnerable position. Gossip travels quickly. Your crazy weekend in Vegas, your shoplifting anecdotes, your fling with the Poland Springs delivery man: these admissions can compromise your reputation – especially in the eyes of bosses and clients.
    All told, “niceness” is often a defensive reflex. If you’re not confident in your knowledge base or your skill set, you might overcompensate with excessive smiles, favors, or apologies around the office. Instead of getting mean, get educated. Online certificates in business and IT, for example, can reorient your career and help you to feel competitive, instead of threatened.