Nice Guys Finish Last

Nice Guys Finish Last

Or Do They?

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)

I recently came across a TED Talk on “Why being respectful to your coworkers is good for business.” The message was originally titled “The Emotional & Financial Cost of Working with Jerks,” which definitely describes the general sentiment and much of the data used in this well-delivered talk.

In her 15-minute message, Christine Porath, researcher and Associate Professor of Management at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, delivers well-tested research about the destructive impact of disrespectful, rude, unkind and problematic people in the workplace.

Christine tackles head-on the general misconception that being genuinely “nice” does not get you very far, and that nice guys (or gals) usually finish last.

The cost of rudeness in the workplace

What Christine Porath discovered during her research is that even though in the short term “jerks” may get an upper hand in climbing the corporate ladder, in the long run “genuinely nice” people actually end up becoming better and more effective leaders. Research from the Center for Creative Leadership supports Christine’s findings and shows that the #1 reason for executive failure is insensitive, abrasive or bullying style.

Christine states that incivility and rudeness affect our emotions, motivation, performance and how we treat others. She compares incivility to a contagious bug that not only affects those directly impacted by someone’s poor conduct, but also those who witness it. Her research found that of those affected by incivility:

-  66% cut back their efforts

-  80% lost work time

-  12% left their jobs

Incivility is costing our organizations more than we realize!

Incivility is costing our organizations more than we realize!

Civility, respect and the bottom line

So, does civility actually pay? Yes, it does!

Those who were civil in the workplace were twice as likely to be viewed as leaders, and their performance was ranked 13% higher than average.

As it turns out, being nice and kind to those we work with not only increases our personal productivity, but it also positions us as positive influencers.

During her research Christine also asked the following question: What do people want most in leaders? The answer was simple: RESPECT!

Those who felt respected by their leaders were 56% physically healthier, 92% more focused and 55% more engaged!

Leaders who cultivate an environment of respect, kindness and civility in their organizations will reap the benefits of higher productivity, higher engagement and greater creativity. Leaders who allow incivility, rudeness and disrespect will eventually reap the emotional and financial consequences.

What do people want most in leaders? It's simple: RESPECT!

Going back to the beginning

The research and data compiled by Christine Porath is extremely useful, and it only reinforces what God’s Word has been telling us for ages.

In Proverbs 11:25, King Solomon says: “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered (ESV).”  When we encourage, show kindness, refresh and water others, we will ultimately be refreshed as well!

Jesus tells us in Luke 6:35 (ESV) that being kind even to those who are ungrateful and evil, will be rewarded: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

And in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV), the apostle Paul admonishes us to “… encourage one another and build one another up ...”

Kindness, respect, civility, refreshing and building up others around us is the model God set for us, and Jesus, the greatest leader of all time, modeled it perfectly!

What can I do?

What can we do to show genuine respect to those we work with? As it turns out, the small things we do on a regular basis are what project RESPECT. Here are some ideas:

  • Don’t check your phone while talking to someone
  • Listen without interruption
  • Smile, say hello
  • When you ask a question, patiently listen for an answer
  • Create an environment where opposing points of views are not only allowed but encouraged
  • Write appreciation notes just because
  • Affirm and compliment (as long as it’s genuine)
  • Use people’s ideas to improve the workplace
  • Cultivate an open-door policy where those you lead feel like they can step into your space/office
  • Don’t show favoritism among employees
  • When you catch an error or a mistake, don’t publicly announce it. Rather, deal with it privately   
  • Pray for others

In today’s cutthroat, passive-aggressive work culture, one can get weary being the “nice guy.” Seeing the proverbial “jerk” get promoted, favored and given a pass can be draining. Let’s once again remember what God’s Word tells us in Galatians 6:9 (ESV): “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

After all, sound research and God’s Word agree: the nice guy does NOT finish last!

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Megan Pacheco

Megan Pacheco

Megan Pacheco is the Chief Learning Officer at Lead Like Jesus. Born and raised in Poland, Megan moved to the U.S. at 17 and after finishing her studies, she started work in the faith-based sector, where she has served for over 13 years. She comes with years of experience in product development, marketing and alliances and is passionate about using her God-given talents to advance the cause of Christ. Megan is a writer, and her content on issues like personal finances, money and marriage and  raisingchildren have been published by More Living, Yahoo Finance, AllParenting, FoxBusiness, DailyFinance, and Crosswalk. Megan is married to David and they have two sons, Joshua and Daniel.