LessWrong.com has an interesting article about a study of what skills/tactics correlate with higher salaries. Specifically, the authors analyzed 200 studies of career success and their causes, and tried to figure out what skills have the highest correlation with higher salaries.
According to the article, here is what results in highest chances of success:
- Find managers (or other seniors) who will “sponsor” you (i.e. take an interest in advancing your career)
- Be politically savvy
- Convincing people with rational arguments works better than lying to them
- Flattery works (especially if the target does not realize you’re trying to flatter them; but even when the target realizes it)
- Act modest
- Avoid blatant self-promotion
Here are some interesting excerpts which give interesting data-points and actual numbers from the study:
Ng et al. performed a metastudy of over 200 individual studies of objective and subjective career success. Here are the variables they found best correlated with salary:
Political Knowledge & Skills
Cognitive Ability (as measured by standardized tests)
Training and Skill Development Opportunities
(all significant at p = .05)
(For reference, the “Big 5” personality traits all have a correlation under 0.12.)
Before you get carried away, remember this:
Before we go on, a few caveats: while these correlations are significant and important, none are overwhelming (the authors cite Cohen as saying the range 0.24-0.36 is “medium” and correlations over 0.37 are “large”).
This table gives an idea of which tactics work best for career success. Higher numbers are good. Lower numbers indicate that those tactics don’t really work. Negative numbers indicate that those tactics will actually hurt your chances.
Recently, Higgins et al. reviewed 23 individual studies of these tactics and how they relate to career success. Their results:
Definition (From Higgins et al.)
Using data and information to make a logical argument supporting one’s request
Using behaviors designed to increase the target’s liking of oneself or to make oneself appear friendly in order to get what one wants
Relying on the chain of command, calling in superiors to help get one’s way
Attempting to create an appearance of competence or that you are capable
of completing a task
Using a forceful manner to get what one wants
Making an explicit offer to do something for another in exchange for their doing what
(Only ingratiation and rationality are significant.)
This site has a lot of information on how to make rational appeals, so I will focus on the less-talked-about ingratiation techniques.
So, modesty is good, self-promotion is bad. Here are details of how to present yourself:
Self-presentation is split further:
Weighted Effect Size
Apologizing for poor performance
When the participant is told in generic terms to improve their self-presentation
Nonverbal behavior and name usage
Nonverbal behavior includes things like wearing perfume. Name usage means referring to people by name instead of a pronoun.
And finally some more details about flattery:
If you are talking to your boss, your tactics should be different than if you’re talking to a subordinate. Other-enhancement (flattery) is always the best tactic no matter who you’re talking to, but when talking to superiors it’s by far the best. When talking to those at similar levels to you, opinion conformity comes close to flattery, and the other techniques aren’t far behind.
Unsurprisingly, when the target realizes you’re being ingratiating, the tactic is less effective. (Although effectiveness doesn’t go to zero – even when people realize you’re flattering them just to suck up, they generally still appreciate it.) Also, women are better at being ingratiating than men, and men are more influenced by these ingratiating tactics than women.
Read the full article, it has a bunch of interesting references that the motivated reader is urged to read.