I learned this week that mean, attractive people are more successful, or at least, make more money -- according to TIME and the Wall Street Journal. First, I read “Here’s Looking at You. What you see in the mirror may be deciding your paycheck” in the August 22, 2011 issue of TIME magazine. Apparently, University of Texaseconomist Daniel Hamermesh just published a book Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People are More Successful and claims good-looking workers will make $230,000 more over a lifetime. Above-average men earn 17% more and above-average women earn 12% more than their below-average counterparts. TIME’s photos of George Clooney and Anne Hathaway prove the point, and I guess the same goes for kids when the good-looking jock and prom queen were the most popular.
When raving to a coworker about how Ghandi and Mother Teresa were hardly super models but made a huge global impact -- though they were perhaps not successful in terms of salary (and when did that become the only measure of success?) -- she mentioned she’d just read an article that it pays to be mean in the workplace. All I said was, “Don’t show our boss.”
In “Hey, You! Mean People Earn More, Study Finds” the Wall Street Journal reviews "Do Nice Guys—and Gals—Really Finish Last?" by University of Notre Dame and the University of Western Ontario. People who were more agreeable, especially men, tended not to get the great job or negotiate salary as aggressively.
This reminds me of a book my dad gave me last year: Why Good Girls Don't Get Ahead... But Gutsy Girls Do: Nine Secrets Every Career Woman Must Know. This book temporarily gave me a small complex (dad, are you saying I’m not successful!? I work for a nonprofit for crying out loud; I am not Miss America, a corporate CEO or U.S. President) and – for a few days – made me more aggressive at work trying to follow someone else’s supposed “secrets” for getting ahead, asking for what you want, etc.
That is, until I realized, my goal is not to maximize salary and climb the corporate ladder at all costs (presumably clambering over people I killed or maimed). My goals:
love my job and do meaningful work that makes a difference
use my abilities (writing, communications, creativity, relationship management, strategy, etc.) and deliver A+ work every day
learn new skills and tackle new challenges (like social media promotion or CSR/creating shared value, which has fascinated me lately)
be the best supervisor I can be to grow and advance my team (be the kind of boss I wish I had at every job)
balance my work with family, faith, friends, volunteer service, etc. -- that means living what I believe and spending time with the people that matter to me
No one can tell you if you are successful or not, because no one but YOU knows what your goals are – and we aren’t all after the same thing. So before you start feeling bad because you’re not the best-looking on the block or try to change your personality so you can be more aggressive and claim that corner office (not that there's anything wrong with that), just stop and think about what you want out of life and what really matters. Because it’s sure not just about the money.
(I was going to title this, "Are beautiful b*tches more successful?")