Being Nice Isn’t Enough: For Workplace Success, You Also Need to Be Intelligent

By: Marie Donlon

It isn’t enough to just be a nice person to get ahead in the workplace. You also need to be intelligent, says research from the Universities of Bristol, Minnesota and Heidelberg.

Researchers found, through a series of games designed to determine what factors led to cooperative behavior in social and workplace situations, that those with higher IQs showed “significantly” higher levels of cooperation, which consequently earned them more money while playing the game.

The reason, researchers concluded, had to do with individuals with lower intelligence failing to follow a consistent strategy and predict future outcomes of their actions.

Professor Eugenio Proto, from the Department of Economics at the University of Bristol, said: “We wanted to explore what factors make us effective social animals. In other words, what enables us to behave optimally in situations when cooperation is potentially beneficial not only to us, but to our neighbors, people in the same country or who share the same planet.”

"People might naturally presume that people who are nice, conscientious and generous are automatically more cooperative,” Proto continued. “But, through our research, we find overwhelming support for the idea that intelligence is the primary condition for a socially cohesive, cooperative society. A good heart and good behavior have an effect too but it's transitory and small.”

"An additional benefit of higher intelligence in our experiment, and likely in real life, is the ability to process information faster, hence to accumulate more extensive experience, and to learn from it. This scenario can be applied to the workplace, where it's likely that intelligent people who see the bigger picture and work cooperatively, will ultimately be promoted and financially rewarded."

For more on the study, go to the Journal of Political Economy.