In a dog-eat-dog world, being nice takes a back seat to looking out for number one. But do you really have to be a jerk to get ahead?

Not according to researchers. Believe it or not, being nice can set you on the fast track to success in business — and in life.

Being Nice Is Good for Business

Conventional wisdom paints successful business leaders as tough, unyielding autocrats who have no patience for their workers’ feelings or concerns. But a 2014 study published in the Harvard Business Review showed that the most effective leaders make a habit of being nice to their employees.

Mean leaders cause stress and stressed workers are crappy workers. 

Stressful workplaces have 46 percent higher healthcare expenditures than less stressful work environments. Sick workers take sick days and sick days disrupt normal workflows, resulting in lost productivity. The ironic thing? Workplace stress is usually caused by a leader who is trying to increase productivity by placing unrealistic demands on workers.

Fairness matters to employees and helps them become team players. 

Fairness makes a difference in workplace productivity. A study conducted by NYU’s Stern School of Business showed that when employees are treated fairly, they are more loyal, committed and productive — especially when their leaders prioritize teamwork and the needs of individual team members.

Happy employees are satisfied employees.

Companies spend big bucks to improve workplace satisfaction and reduce employee turnover. But it turns out that one of the best ways to make happier employees is by simply being nice. According to Gallup research, employees overwhelmingly prefer happiness to high pay, and a healthcare industry study demonstrated that a kind work culture improves employees’ well being, health outcomes and overall satisfaction.

There are limits to being nice in the workplace. Business leaders who let themselves be taken advantage of are ineffective because they lose the respect of their workers. But the big takeaway is that being nice is good business.

How to Get Ahead in Life by Being Nice

Being nice benefits your career by making you a better leader. But it can also help you get ahead in your personal life. It’s not rocket science — whether they’re in the workplace or kicking back a few beers at the neighborhood block party, people generally prefer to be treated with kindness rather than indifference or animosity.

  • Give respect to get respect. Reciprocity is an unwritten law of the universe. When push comes to shove, no one respects the guy who walks around town with a stick up his butt. If you want the respect of your friends and neighbors, you have to learn to show respect by being kind, compassionate and altruistic.
  • Play the long game. In the short term, nice guys sometimes finish last. Although it’s admirable to give your elderly neighbor the last of loaf of bread, you’ll have to live without turkey sandwiches for a while. But over time, kindness and compassion form character and create personality traits that make you more appealing to friends, family and even strangers.
  • Focus on the big picture. Maintain perspective and remember that in the scope of your life, minor irritants are just that – minor. Some of the nicest people I know are big picture thinkers who recognize that being kind is a lot more important than the annoyances of the moment.