Mean guys finish first, at least in their paychecks

A new study finds behavior that might get you excluded from dinner parties actually pays off in the workplace--especially if you're a man. Men who rate themselves as disagreeable, stubborn and difficult get paid more than their coworkers.

The study, which will be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that men who rated themselves as less nice than average made 18 percent ($9,772) more than men who said they were nice guys. Women who described themselves as less than nice, meanwhile, earned only 5 percent, or $1,828, more than their peers.

But don't feel too bad for the nice guys: Even disagreeable women earned less than agreeable men.

The researchers asked nearly 10,000 participants to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 5 on how agreeable, stubborn and difficult they are. The study controlled for education level, marital status, level of job responsibility and several other factors.

Previous studies have shown that people tend to value how nice a person is more than how competent a person seems to be. But in the workplace, those values are flipped: Employers value perceptions of competence over warmth. And there may be a false perception that people who seem warm and agreeable lack competence, the researchers say. This is true even at companies that say they prize teamwork and a warm environment.

"The problem is, many managers often don't realize they reward disagreeableness," one of the study's authors, Beth Livingston, told The Wall Street Journal. "You can say this is what you value as a company, but your compensation system may not really reflect that, especially if you leave compensation decisions to individual managers."

The researchers hypothesized that nice women are not punished in the marketplace as much as nice men are, because the men are violating stereotypically "masculine" behavior, while the women are reinforcing their culturally sanctioned gender roles. Previous studies have shown that both men and women are punished for violating gender norms in the workplace. (The participants in one study rated successful men in female-dominated jobs as less competent than women in the same jobs or men in "masculine" jobs.)

The researchers' final experiment suggested that the pay gap can't be explained by agreeable men valuing money less than disagreeable men. Business students who were asked to pretend to be hiring consultants for the the experiment consistently snubbed male job candidates who were described as nice, favoring identical resumes from candidates that were not described as nice.

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