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It pays to be nice....even when other people screw you over

Stashed in: Influence!, Awesome, HBR, Give and Take, Relationships, @emmaseppala, Give and Take

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But if you’re interacting with someone repeatedly, like in an office environment, it’s in your best interest to be cooperative, Rand says. Usually, colleagues work together for longer than just a few days. People start to realize that if they yield to a co-worker one day, he or she will yield to them the next.

And even if that specific person doesn’t pay the niceness back, someone else might. According to the theory of indirect reciprocity, others might take notice of your kindliness and form a higher opinion of you in general, Rand says. Eventually, you might be able to cash in all that good will in the form of a huge favor or pay raise. It’s worth noting that this works best if bosses highlight their employees’ cooperative behaviors, rather than their sales figures. But the point remains: At work, everyone’s playing a long game—one in which the spoils go to the accommodating.

Of course, Rand says, there are some companies where this understanding of reciprocity does not exist. Instead, the prevailing ethos is “no matter what you do for me today, I will not cooperate with you tomorrow.”

Emma Seppala for the win!

Fred Kiel, head of the executive development firm KRW international, recently studied 84 CEOs and more than 8,000 of their employees over the course of seven years. The results, written up in the Kiel’s recent book Return on Character, found that people worked harder and more happily when they felt valued and respected. So-called “character-driven” CEOs who possess four virtues—integrity, compassion, forgiveness, and accountability—lead companies whose returns on assets are five times larger than those of executives who are more self-centered, he found.

In the  Harvard Business Review, Emma Seppala, the associate director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research, details additional boons for nice bosses:

Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy and her research partners have also shown that leaders who project warmth–even before establishing their competence–are more effective than those who lead with their toughness and skill. Why? One reason is trust. Employees feel greater trust with someone who is kind.

And an interesting study shows that when leaders are fair to the members of their team, the team members display more citizenship behavior and are more productive, both individually and as a team. Jonathan Haidt at New York University Stern School of Business shows in his research that when leaders are self-sacrificing, their employees experience being moved and inspired.

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