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Research shows why ‘jerks’ always seem to succeed

We’ve all heard tales of high-profile bosses being difficult to agree with. The late Steve Jobs, for instance, had a reputation for being a bit of a jerk to his employees. So why is it that people with a disagreeable personality always seem to land on top?

It’s easy to assume that famous names such as Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs made it big because they were creative geniuses who just happened to be jerks. But new research by Samuel Hunter and Lily Cushenberry suggests a strong personality has more to do with it than good ideas.

In the study, the researchers asked more than 200 university students to hash out ideas for a marketing campaign for their school’s online campus. They worked together in groups to present their ideas and measure their personalities and ability to find unusual uses for everyday objects.

The researchers found that a student with a high level of disagreeableness – those who were more argumentative, egotistical, aggressive, headstrong and hostile – didn’t necessarily have the most creative ideas. However, their opinion was more likely to be accepted or heard out by the rest of the group.

A second study put another 300 students and their ideas into groups of three, with two of the members being assistants for the researchers who would deliberately give positive or negative feedback. The results were much the same as the first party of the study.

In the final stage, students were put into teams and asked to come up with ideas as a group. Again, those with disagreeable personalities usually came out on top because they were more willing to share their thoughts with the others.

So the next time you hold back your opinion in fear of sounding like a jerk, remember that a strong personality may actually be an advantage in certain situations.

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