Being a Good Person Can Benefit You in the Workplace

Published on August 17th, 2010 | by

It’s not hard for many of us to think back on our careers (no matter how long or short they may be) and remember that jerk of a boss that swore at people or failed to consider input other than his own. Fortunately for me, the experiences haven’t been too bad, but for those that have experienced this problem, it is rare that the boss ultimately has a change of heart and comes around, like they do in the movies (thinking Christmas Vacation when Chevy Chase’s miserable boss finally gives him the bonus he had cut).

Well there is some good news for all those people who feel that doing right is the only way to go. Jonah Lehrer of the Wall Street Journal consulted a number of recent studies done through Northwestern, Emory and Haas Business School, which basically found that those who treated others poorly or who acted unethically or impulsively were not highly regarded by their peers. Rather authority is granted to people based on their treatment of others and perhaps their charisma.

Unfortunately, there is a catch. In many cases it wasn’t the rudeness and boorish behavior that got people in power to that position in the first place, rather they worked their way up to such a position and then became a person that people did not care for. Not only may power be consolidated in a company or organization but it turns out in a leader’s head as well. These studies also have shown that people become less compassionate and more likely to stereotype once in a position of power.

Surely some toughness is needed at the top of any company as tough decisions must be made on a regular basis, but it is clear that toughness can go too far. In terms of CEO’s and the like that have acted unethically and sometimes unlawfully, many have been caught (Enron, Worldcom, Tyco etc.) and many others most likely have not. However ultimately, unlike the old belief that one must be a tyrant to be successful at the top, it seems as though power without respect is a pretty tough sell to the workforce in this day and age.

Image Credit by Eugene via Flickr under a CC license


About the Author

Jonathan has worked in both journalism and various facets of small business development over the past eight years. Most recently, he graduated from the Monterey Institute of International Studies (graduate school of Middlebury College) in 2010 with an MBA and an MA in International Development Policy. His interests include SME development and its role in economic growth, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as how CSR/Sustainability measures impact both business operations and the communities in which businesses operate. While at MIIS he worked as a summer fellow involved in small business consulting in Accra, Ghana and was an active member of the MIIS Net Impact chapter. As a life long traveler, Jonathan has been fortunate to have lived in, worked in or visited over 20 countries on 5 continents and he truly hopes that he will be able to continue this trend.