Whether you are a business leader, entrepreneur in the making or an apprentice or office assistant, it’s highly likely you have first-hand experience contributing to the success of assholes. Can you remember a time you’ve wandered (purposefully or not) into a high-end store, in perhaps your not most convincing attire, and been given the once over look of disapproval by the salesperson? What was your next step? Did you
a) Slump, make an embarrassed nod of agreement and shuffle yourself out of the store or;
b) Stand taller, think ‘watch this’ and proceed to purchase items you were surprised didn’t decline at check out
If you’re anything like me the answer was b and buyers remorse became b section one followed by an unsettling recognition that you had essentially paid someone to be an asshole. This is not just my opinion by experience; the stats back me up displaying that condescending sales assistants at high-end stores perform much better than their more agreeable colleagues. Additionally, semi-obnoxious behaviour can make someone more powerful and confident as the image they are projecting is being perceived to be true by colleagues and people begin to associate this behaviour with leadership.
We seem to be living in a paradox whereby we think we admire people who are honest, authentic and all the ‘good stuff’ when it’s actually the traits we claim to dislike such as immodesty that actually accelerate people up the leadership, success and salary ladder.
Looking kind of glum right? If you’re not an asshole that is, if you are you may be rejoicing right now… But wait I’m about to bring you down that peg you’ve jumped up to. Turns out being an asshole is a huge risk and the success may come back to bite you. Studies assessing narcissist and overall ‘asshole’ behaviour showed that the higher you rated on these traits the more likely you are to exist at the higher end of success but also on the lower end of success. Additionally being a successful asshole comes with a bunch of conditions being:
- You’re a man…figures
- You only have the opportunity to screw someone over once
- Your success also benefits others
- You rarely make a mistake
- You’re charismatic
Even if you do manage to be at the higher end of success from being an asshole it is likely to fail you long term and Jeffrey Pfeffer, a business professor at Stanford, states that ‘while narcissism and the associated behaviours may indeed help people ascend into leadership roles, as recent experience suggests, narcissistic individuals also contain the seeds of their own (self)-destruction’… One can only hope that’s the case for Trump.
So in conclusion and humble opinion don’t be a pushover, take initiative, be opinionated and stand up for what you believe in, challenge ideas but don’t disarm the people that put them forth and as beautifully stated by Jim Vesterman ‘Be tough, as long as you’re not toxic’.