You don’t have to bully your way to the top.
New research finds that being the Good Guy or Good Gal — or let’s call it the Good Egg — is more than enough to be a great leader. It’ll help you rise up the ranks, too.
Agreeable employees are all the rage now, according to a University of Arkansas study.
And the hotheaded, cutthroat employees who used to demand respect and gather all attention? Their impact on business results is lessening.
The Good Egg moves ahead
Perhaps the pandemic and remote work did it — giving purpose and attention to the Good Eggs. Or maybe people just got sick of toxic cultures.
“The helpful, hard-working employee who never made a big splash during meetings used to get overlooked,” says Wilson. “Bosses paid more attention to the cutthroat employee who grabbed the reins and demanded respect from other employees. But this research shows that the go-getter, independent type of personality is no longer as valued in the workplace.”
So nice people do get ahead.
And even if you don’t consider yourself the nice person, you can double down on Good Egg practices to get ahead at work (and in life), be a better leader and hit goals.
Here’s where to focus:
1. Be more agreeable
You don’t have to nod in agreement to every idea that floats or be the quintessential “yes person” to be seen as an agreeable colleague. But you want to up your agreeable quotient.
“We know this is important — perhaps now more than ever — because agreeableness is the personality trait primarily concerned with helping people and building positive relationships, which is not lost on organizational leaders,” says Michael Wilmot, one of the University of Arkansas researchers.
The first step to being more agreeable: Be more open to different points of view. You don’t have to agree with them in the end, but you want to be willing to listen to colleagues’ opinions and feelings. Then, consider the merits to weigh against what you know and believe otherwise.
Quick tips toward agreeableness:
- Ask more questions, make fewer judgements. Say, “That’s interesting. Why do you feel that way?”
- Keep your thinking in perspective — is an argument really worth it? Ask yourself if you’re headed toward disagreement: “Is this going to help us either way?”
- Challenge yourself and assumptions. When presented with an argument, remind yourself, “I don’t have to prove myself right every time. It’s OK to let this be.”
- Know when to walk away. Some people in the workplace may never become agreeable. And their stubborness can still agitate otherwise agreeable people. So when someone gets riled up, be ready to change the subject or walk away.
2. Be conscientious
When my kids were little, I hoped to raise them to be conscientious people. But you can’t exactly tell six-year-olds to “be conscientious” — I struggle to spell it, much less define it! So I told them, “Think beyond yourself.”
That’s being conscientious — thinking, speaking and behaving in ways that reflect how other people are affected by you.
“Bosses don’t like having to guess about what their workers are doing, especially when they are remote or hybrid,” says Wilson. “Virtual workplaces allow for less accountability, so employers are now seeking workers who hold themselves accountable and have a conscientious personality.”
Kindness in the workplace starts with being conscientious of your work, accountability and others affected by your words and actions.
Practically speaking, keep these tips in mind:
- Be reliable. Say what you’ll do, then do it on time and with top quality.
- Build your work ethic. One way, experts suggest: Get away from multi-tasking. Learning to focus on the top priority helps.
- Be organized and punctual. No further explanation needed.
- Create realistic goals so you don’t disappoint yourself or others. But set the bar a little higher every time.
- Build relationships with colleagues so you support them and vice versa.
3. Be more open
Employees, shareholders and taxpayers alike increasingly demand transparency from companies and government in recent years. Transparency is also a key to being the Good Egg at work.
And it’s never been more important than it is the new world of work.
“The COVID-19 pandemic put stress on the relationship between employee-employer,” says Wilson. “Remote work can leave bosses in the dark. No wonder openness is a desired trait. They want to feel like their workers are sharing their progress and being open during their workdays.”
While you don’t need to share everything, you’ll gain ground with employees and colleagues by sharing appropriate parts of your personal life – interests, hobbies, family news, etc. — and asking about theirs. As far as work, share your expectations for yourself and how you plan to accomplish it all. Plus, share all the information employees need to do their jobs well — everything from best practices and training opportunities to updates from the C-suite and industry changes.
4. Be more extroverted
Even if you aren’t naturally outgoing, it helps to be more extroverted in the office. Reaching out to others, making connections and maintaining relationships helps leaders stay ahead and go further in their careers.
“Call it a Zoom hangover, but bosses want employees who enjoy being around others, social creatures who are happy to meet up for in-person lunches or come into the office a few days a week,” says Wilson.
As a manager, it’s more important that you take the lead on networking for both you and your employees. A few quick tips:
- Lean into small talk. Be willing to ask about weekends, weather and loved ones. Be ready to listen and answer when you’re asked.
- Ask for a heads up on projects, meetings and other work that impacts you and your team. Give updates to anyone who needs them. Expand this by inviting colleagues to update you on personal things they’ve shared — perhaps a building project, family news or educational pursuits.
- Practice social skills you’re already good at. If you prefer to write, send more email, text or even notes to stay in touch. If you’re a talker, make calls or visits — but always preclude them by asking if it’s a good time to chat.