3 Traits of Being an A**hole That Give You Surprising Financial Benefits

Ryan Ong



Not long ago, we learned that many CEOs have traits in common with psychopaths. So there’s some grounds for the belief that being an unfeeling asshat works out pretty well, money wise. And just to rub it in, three Universities now have studies that seem to support it:

The first argument that pops to mind is: “Maybe the disagreeable people just seem disagreeable because they make more money. It’s natural to get jealous of those who earn more.

Which might be true, but here’s the kicker: in most of the surveys, even the bosses of those disagreeable people didn’t like them. Income jealousy clearly wasn’t the issue there.

What we should note is that these asshats made more money, and often got promotions, even when their bosses didn’t like them personally. And the reason boils down to a few key traits:

  • Criminal Creativity
  • Narcissism
  • Risk-Taking Behaviour


1. Criminal Creativity

We like to praise creative, out of the box thinking. Unfortunately, the same mindset that leads to breakthroughs also often leads to breakouts (of prison, that is).

Let me give you an example of creative ass-hattery in action:

In the early 00s, I was working in a (now defunct) IT company. Part of what they did was install internet kiosks in malls. The boss was a walking con-job: charming, but with the ethical standards of a starving hyena.

Out of the 20 kiosks he made us install, maybe three had actual internet access. The rest ran programmes that made it look as though they were online; but after a while they’d hang.

On opening day, when the kiosks were to be presented, we just took turns patrolling and resetting the frozen terminals. And when I quit over the incident, he told another hiring manager that he’d fired me because I was a “bad fit” for their corporate culture.

As much as I hate his guts, that asshat’s solution was a creative, out-of-the box one. And while I’m not endorsing it, it does explain how he made a ton of cash before closing his company and running.

(PS: I am not endorsing such behaviour. I’m just pointing out how creative ass-hattery has an unfortunate financial upside.)

2. Narcissism

Apparently, corporate environments match your income to your ego.

I spoke to Human Resource Manager Tony Cheung, who’s worked in the United States and Canada as well as Singapore:

The ones with huge egos don’t let others forget their accomplishments. They talk about it all the time, and they talk about it loudly. When they make proposals, they refer to their own success stories. So they tend to stick out, when there’s an opportunity for promotion.

Also, self-confidence is a very infectious thing. When you radiate confidence, people feel as if things will be alright when they stick by you. They may also feel that you’re the point man, the one ready to accept responsibility for whatever goes wrong.

So people will stick by the loud guy, and to bosses that looks like leadership.”

Wait, looks “like” leadership? So it’s not real?

In times of crisis, people like the guy with a rock star persona. The loud one who yells that he can make things happen. They prefer that over the real, quiet thinkers. It’s easy to mistake such people as good leaders, and it’s a problem.”

But until the narcissist has run everything to the ground, he’s probably going to be the “leader” who earns more.


3. Risk Taking Behaviour

Every company has one: a YOLO moron, with the mental capacity and skin quality of a charging rhinoceros.

When confronted with a decision, these types jump straight in – they don’t care who has to put out the fires afterward. These are the salesmen who make impossible promises to clients, which they leave to the product team to fulfill. Or managers who green light multi-million dollar operations first, and then seek approval later.

They will justify their actions with phrases like “I’m a doer”, and “I have initiative”. In the off chance that their high risk behaviour pays off, they’ll crow about their intelligence and decisiveness (see point 2).

In the event of spectacular failure, they’ll chalk it up to bad luck. Or even worse, blame you for their mess.

And the sad part is, there’s often a huge payoff to behaving this way. When huge risks pay off, these people get all the credit – everyone else looks like a sniveling coward by comparison. Bosses often forget the downside risk (the consequences of failure) when the failure never happened.

Risk taking behaviour also has financial upsides in the stock market. Yes, it’s true that putting all your money into junk bonds is high risk – but sometimes, that risk does pay off.  And it does so in a big way.

What annoying qualities can make you money? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.