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Do You Have to be a Jerk to Succeed?

Lily cushenbery
Lily Cushenbery
Assistant Professor Lily Cushenbery

This is the premise for a study in the Journal of Business and Psychology by Lily Cushenbery, an assistant professor of management in Stony Brook’s College of Business, and psychologist Samuel Hunter, an associate professor at Penn State. The article received a 2015 Editor Commendation from the journal and has been getting much media attention. The two researchers were interviewed in Fortune magazine.

For the study, Cushenbery and Hunter watched a group of nearly 500 people with different personalities work together on developing business ideas such as marketing campaigns and strategies. They found that the jerks didn’t have more creative ideas, but they were confident in getting their ideas across.

“The jerks didn’t always win. That same pushy technique actually backfired in supportive environments. In groups that supported new ideas, the jerks were seen as going too far,” Cushenbery said, “and their colleagues didn’t respond well.”

The study is a crossroads for academic research on business leadership. “We know leaders tend to set the tone for how people are acting,” Cushenbery added. “But they can also have an indirect influence by creating a climate.”

Cushenbery is also director of the Leadership and Creativity Research Lab in the College of Business. Her work in leadership, innovation, and conflict applies science-based approaches to practical organizational problems. Prior to joining Stony Brook, she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the International Center for the Study of Terrorism.

In 2015 Cushenbery gave a TEDxSBUWomen talk on what happens when leaders make mistakes.

More Media Coverage

Attention Office Jerks: Back Off! Pacific Standard

Scientists Just Discovered a Key Reason Why ‘Jerks’ Often Succeed at Work, Business Insider

Why Jerks Succeed at Work, According to Science,

The Best and Worst Times to be the Office Jerk, Fast Company

The Secret of Steve Jobs Success? Psychologists Say Being ‘a Jerk’ Can Make People More Creative and Better at Selling Their Ideas to Others, Daily Mail

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