“You don’t have to be nice to people on the way up if you are not planning to come back down.” – Dan Stone

If you read the wrong career advice, you might conclude that being successful in business is about being tough and aggressive, attacking the competition, and taking care of No.1.

That’s one way you can do it, but it’s not necessary — and it has one significant drawback.

A colleague of mine fits that profile. Macho and assertive, he built a business empire when most of his market was falling apart. He’s self-taught and not ashamed to let it show. In fact, he passes up no opportunity to rub his rough edges against his more refined and privileged business colleagues.

He is boyishly charming when he wants to be, confident to cocky when it suits his purpose. I find myself liking him despite misgivings — when, for example, he publicly belittles an underling, or is near-rude to a colleague.

He does seem to get some ego gratification from such he-man tactics, but I don’t think he engages in them for the pleasure. My feeling is that he treats people the way he does because it gives him the feeling that he is in more in charge of them when he bullies them.

“If you deal with me,” he lets you know, “you have to make certain psychological concessions — and those will be to my advantage.”

I don’t know him well enough to say whether all this aggressiveness has made him a less-than-happy guy (though he seems happy), but I can tell you that he misses business opportunities that he could have otherwise.

Just yesterday, he was complaining about the failure of some business deal I had got him involved in. A very sensible joint venture had gradually gone by the wayside. “There was no reason for it,” he told me. “Everything was working. Someone dropped the ball.”

In fact, his very own people had dropped the ball. But neither they nor the business people I hooked him up with had the desire to tell him so. Rather than drum up the energy to deal with his response to the troubles, both sides of the venture had quietly decided to let it dissipate.

The “me-first, win-lose” philosophy of business has its pluses and minuses. On the positive side, you can quickly become an expert in domination and can push people into doing things they otherwise won’t do. On the downside, you create a lot of fear and/or ill will that can one day work against you.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating here: Intimidation is a short-term tactic that ultimately fails you. People who “yes” you into victory today will slowly but surely “no” you into submission later on. Blessed are the meek in business, for they will inherit the easiest retirements.

Rather than beat up your employees and/or business partners, value them. Smile when you see them. Root for their success. Say how much you admire their strengths and go easy on your criticisms. Gradually, they will come to like and trust you. And on the basis of those good feelings, you will be able to achieve great things.

Remember: Humiliation is visible, but resentment is not. Your visible victories count, but your invisible defeats count more in the long run.

If you’d prefer a Jiu Jitsu analogy: Muscling your opponent works only when he is unworthy and willing to be defeated. When you take on an equal in skills and intelligence, your power moves will work against you.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]

Mark Morgan Ford

Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Wealth Builders Club. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.