Borrowman Baker, LLC
Are you super agreeable at work? Cheerful, helpful, eager to please? Believe it or not, too much of this behavior can be detrimental to your long-term career goals.
It’s no shock that two of the biggest predictors of success in the workplace are conscientiousness and industriousness. It may come as more of a surprise, however, that the trait of agreeableness is negatively linked with success. This seems counterintuitive: we have been socialized to believe that good teamwork and a positive attitude are paramount to moving up in the workplace. Those things have their place. But, if your individual career goals are to excel—to end up at the very top—a certain amount of disagreeableness must be cultivated.
What does “agreeableness” look like? A highly agreeable person is sociable, pleasing, helpful, resolves conflicts and works well with a team.
The downsides: agreeable people need the approval of others and will “go with the flow” to avoid conflict. A manager who is very agreeable may end up making harmful decisions to keep the peace and not be disliked. Agreeable people are unlikely to be innovative, challenge the status quo, or advocate strongly for their own goals.
What does it look like to be disagreeable? It is crucial to note right away that “disagreeable” does NOT equal “unpleasant”! There is no reason to be an aggressive jerk when you disagree, and people who are highly disagreeable are definitely more likely to be fired! The lower you are on the totem pole, the more crucial this is to remember. An effective disagreeable person knows that they can be friendly, outgoing, pleasant, AND disagree when necessary.
The trait of disagreeableness plays out well only insofar as it helps you promote your personal vision which includes: where you want to be, how you want to grow, your plans for accomplishing your goals, together with a solid work ethic. If you lack any of that, being disagreeable won’t be beneficial. But, if you plan to manage others and continue your upward trajectory, you must be willing to ruffle feathers from time to time, occasionally tell people things that they don’t want to hear, and push for timely promotions.
There are plenty of online personality tests that gauge agreeableness. If you find that you score particularly high, and you struggle to give your true opinions at work, it could be helpful to sign up for some assertiveness training. It’s wonderful to be a nice person: you don’t have to let that go. But, if your tendency to agree is holding you back at work, it’s time to adjust your strategy.