Aug. 31 (UPI) -- According to a new survey of personality traits and career success, being a jerk isn't the secret to climbing the corporate ladder.
For the study, published Monday in the journal PNAS, researchers tracked the career achievements of individuals who participated in a personality survey 14 years earlier.
The results showed "disagreeable" participants -- college and graduate school students, at the time of the survey -- weren't more likely to have achieved success than their more agreeable counterparts almost a decade-and-a-half later.
"Disagreeableness is a personality dimension that involves the tendency to behave in quarrelsome, cold, callous and selfish ways," lead study author Cameron Anderson told UPI in an email.
"In short, it involves being a jerk," said Anderson, associate professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.
In news media and popular culture, the amplification of some of the crueler personality traits of successful CEOs, such as Steve Jobs, have lent credence to the idea that "nice people finish last."
But Anderson and his colleagues found disagreeable people were not more likely to rise to positions of power within their respective organizations, regardless of the work environment -- whether at a law firm, hedge fund or insurance agency.
"The main takeaway is that being a jerk -- being nasty, selfish and bullying -- did not help people attain power," Anderson said. "The most surprising [finding] was the consistency of this null effect."
"Being disagreeable did not help people attain power in any context, including in organizations where you think it might help them, such as more combative organizational cultures that are competitive and cutthroat," he said.
Researchers found that as a personality trait, disagreeableness is quite stable -- jerks today are likely to be jerks tomorrow.
Anderson said personality questionnaires don't ask people to out themselves as jerks, but they can identify disagreeable personalities by asking survey participants whether they agree or disagree with statements like: "I am sometimes rude to others" and "I start quarrels with others."
More disagreeable people tend to disagree with statements like "I am generally trusting" and "I am considerate and kind to almost everyone."
Previous studies have shown that people identified as disagreeable in personal surveys are, in fact, disagreeable in real life scenarios. The latest research confirmed the accuracy of personality surveys.
"We asked their coworkers to rate their behavior and found that, indeed, people who answered questions indicating they were disagreeable behaved like jerks in the eyes of their coworkers," Anderson said.
Anderson said he hopes the research will dispel the myth that being a jerk can help people achieve professional success. It's a lesson that's just as applicable to those in charge of hiring and leadership structures as it is to jobseekers and leadership candidates.
While being a jerk isn't an advantage, all things being equal, plenty of jerks still end up and positions of power. According to Anderson, that's a problem, as jerks can do considerable damage to an organization.
"They abuse those who work for them, create cultures of corruption, make decisions that benefit themselves over the good of their group, and fail at higher rates as leaders," he said. "I don't think organizations understand the damage that jerks can do when they attain power."
For every Steve Jobs, there are countless jerks-turned-failed leaders.
"I would consider agreeableness as a major criteria for leadership and positions of authority," Anderson said. "Just as organizations care about competence, they should also care about character."