Three Reasons Nice People Finish First

March 13, 2018
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race-695303_1920The old adage, ‘Nice guys finish last,’ isn’t always true. If we could classify every single ‘giver’ and ‘taker,’ and study their career paths over time, we would witness that nice, compassionate people really do finish first. Here are three reasons why.

  1. ‘Givers’ tend to be more influential. As opposed to ‘takers,’ ‘givers’ in leadership roles consistently apply Dale Carnegie’s 28th Human Relations principle, ‘Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.’ They’re willing to coach others to success. They view obstacles as opportunities from which to learn, and then teach others. They thrive when helping people.

In his best-selling book, Give and Take, Wharton professor Adam Grant explains that while compassionate leaders do lose out at times, at the very top of the success ladder, more ‘givers’ than ‘takers’ are represented. He and his team concluded that, “people who care about others’ well-being and look out for their colleagues and employees…are more liked and appreciated, and therefore become more influential.” So although sometimes it feels like nice guys finish first, it’s most likely only in the short-term. ‘Givers’ who don’t allow others to take advantage of them establish strong relationships and trust, making it easier to compel others to take action, while ‘takers’ typically can only motivate people by preying on their fears—which isn’t a successful or sustainable long-term strategy.

  1. People prefer to work with ‘givers.’ Dale Carnegie said, “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.” While ‘takers’ usually look out only for themselves, ‘givers’ who have learned strategies to prevent others from profiting from their ‘nice-ness’ typically succeed above and beyond anyone else. One reason for this is that people prefer working with compassionate, trustworthy people, so they choose ‘givers’ over ‘takers’ which ultimately results in more opportunities for the givers. Likewise, employees will opt to work for a compassionate manager over a ‘taker.’
  2. The brain’s stress reactivity is enflamed by ‘takers.’ Brain-imaging studies show that the brain’s stress response is reduced when social relationships feel safe. This is why its reactivity is significantly reduced when we observe kind behavior, and enflamed when we observe threatening behavior.

If a ‘taker’ leader responds to an employee in a highly critical or angry manner, the employee will be less likely to ask for help, take risks and trust his or her boss. A ‘giver’ leader, on the other hand, understands how important it is to minimize the negative consequences of making mistakes, e.g. Mr. Carnegie’s 23rd principle, ‘Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.’ The ‘giver’ gently provides constructive criticism which preserves the relationship—and healthy brain waves, so the next time the employee needs help, she won’t be afraid to ask. She’ll also be more inclined to provide a raving review of her boss should the organization conduct 360-reviews, which will increase the chances of promotion—finishing first!

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