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A viral theory on TikTok says nice people don’t get promoted. But experts disagree.

Is being nice holding you back at work?

One viral TikTok has young workers up in arms about the perils of being pleasant in the workplace.

A TikToker who goes by the name Jacqueline recently posted a TikTok video where she claimed that people who are “a pleasure to work with” will “never get promoted.”

The video has struck a nerve and has now racked up 8 million views and 900,000 likes.

Jacqueline says in the video that executives “will never allow an employee who is both good at doing the work and good at keeping a smile on their face while doing the work move up the ladder, because they know they can keep serving you sh-t on a platter and you’ll eat it with a smile.”

She added: “You will never be promoted out of a hardworking more junior position where a lot of the hard work exists … If you are in an executive suite, you do not have to be a pleasure to work with or good at your job.”

TikTok users in the comment section largely agreed with Jacqueline and put a name to her theory called “performance punishment” where good workers are assigned more tasks as a consequence of being reliable and effective.

Although the stereotype that jerks are more successful has long persisted, evidence suggests otherwise.

A 2020 study by Cameron Anderson, a professor of organizational behavior at the Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley, found that people with disagreeable personalities do not progress any faster in the workplace than agreeable people.

The study used results from a personality test taken by college students and graduates 14 years prior and how their careers turned out after.

It found that disagreeable people had two distinct traits that canceled out any career gains. This is that they were dominant and assertive which helped them attain power, but they were also more selfish and less communal which is a trait viewed negatively by coworkers.

You can reap certain benefits by being pleasant at work, especially if you can make your colleagues’ lives easier, according to Andrew Brodsky, a management professor at the University of Texas at the McCombs School of Business.

Helping other people and being other-oriented can give you the benefit that people trust you more, which means access to a variety of resources, like information that not everyone in the organization has access to,” Brodsky said to CNBC Make It.

“You can also gain status by being seen as someone who’s useful to everyone and others like to reward those who they feel like are deserving. There’s a lot of benefits to being other-oriented like we like nice people and we do nice things for those people,” he added.

A 2022 study by researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the University of Iowa and Purdue University looked at the outcomes of prosocial motivation in the workplace — meaning people who like to help others.

It found through an analysis of 200 studies that workers with high levels of prosocial motivations experience greater wellbeing, career advancement, and job performance.

Although there’s a popular view that most CEOs are narcissists, Ryan Vogel, an associate professor at the Fox School of Business and Management at Temple University, said this isn’t necessarily true.

People who do things for others and are open to the idea of reciprocating good things “do better for themselves in their careers,” Vogel told CNBC Make It. “People want to be associated with those kinds of people.”

“Narcissists are quite good at pulling the wool over people’s eyes momentarily but eventually people catch on,” he added. “Yes, there are a lot of CEOs that are narcissists but there’s a lot of CEOs that are not narcissists as well. Not every narcissist wins the tournament and ends up as a CEO.”

However, there are some caveats to being too nice.

In Jacqueline’s TikTok video, she conflates having a pleasant personality with being a pushover, according to Vogel. 

“A pushover would be like anchoring the far end of the scales of high agreeableness,” Vogel said. “I would say, pleasant is not necessarily as high on agreeableness. Pleasant people don’t bend over backwards. They’re not necessarily people pleasers but they treat people civilly.”

Brodsky agrees with this view and says that being too “other-oriented” can sometimes backfire because you lose focus on your own self-interests.

“When that happens, you might not fight for your self-interest as much as you need which at times can be necessary in organizations.”

Part of the reason the video has been such a hit on social media is that people’s expectations of corporate loyalty has been violated in recent years and workers have become much more critical of leaders as a result, according to Brodsky.

“The work relationship has changed over the past number of decades. It used to be you work 40 years at an organization, you get a gold watch or whatever and then you retire. Now, there isn’t very much corporate loyalty and especially right now, in the time of layoffs,” Brodsky says.

“When you have organizations that aren’t loyal to their employees, you would expect that employees become less loyal to their organizations.”

This post appeared first on NBC NEWS

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