How Selfishness Can Affect Your Salary

The workplace is full of exhortations to be a team player, even if you're more of a solo act. But whatever seems to disprove it, there is a tangible benefit to pitching in more — in fact, it can show up on your bottom line.

New research from the University of Stockholm, the Institute of Future Studies and the University of South Carolina asks the question no one can conclusively answer: Why are we selfless? Scientists and thinkers have been interested in prosocial behavior forever, and there are all kinds of competing and complementary theories about why it came to be. This latest study comes to its own conclusion: It's profitable for us.

"The result is clear in both the American and the European data," said co-author Kimmo Eriksson in a press release. "The most unselfish people have the most children and the moderately unselfish receive the highest salaries." It's important to note that in this instance, having children or not is not a moral judgment, but likely a confluence of many factors, including ability to provide economically.

Of course, "selfishness" is a tricky word with many different meanings for different people. A woman may be called selfish simply for looking out for her mental or financial wellbeing, for example. This study isn't a bludgeon to goad your colleagues into group projects or guilt them into taking on more work. It is a reminder, though, that approaching the world with a cultivated sense of generosity could pay off in material ways and more.