Does It Pay More to Be Nice or Mean in Hollywood?

How many times have we all heard the phrase, "Nice guys finish last?" I've always been an introvert and it took acting and writing to help me crawl out of my shell. So many people have told me that if I ever went to Hollywood, they would "eat me alive." There is a bit of truth there -- successful people usually have assertive personalities. Those who are too timid often are crushed by the competition. However, I don't equate being confident and outgoing with being rude or meanspirited. Public feuds by those in power (or seeking power) tend to become nasty and ugly. One example is Deadline Hollywood vs. The Wrap, each redefining show biz journalism in the digital age. I don't choose sides, I'm just watching the bloodsport from the sidelines.

The two figures at the head of each, Nikki Finke and Sharon Waxman, have a belligerent history as they've tried to out-scoop each other. Finke has built a reputation as someone not to be crossed as her no-holds-barred personality brings fear to the masses. That didn't stop Waxman from reporting that Finke was fired by her boss, Jay Penske, for her intimidating behavior. Denials of Finke's termination were quickly made, but as of this writing it was still unclear whether or not Finke was permanently leaving the popular Web site that she founded, instead of just going on a summer vacation. What makes all this fascinating for me are the glimpses of cutthroat conduct that we see. 

I suppose when the individuals involved are dealing with investigative reporting, gossip, unnamed sources, and so on, and the goal is big, splashy headlines and exclusive news before the competitors get it, such actions are a necessity. This isn't just isolated to Hollywood and the multi-gazillion-dollar entertainment industry, it's also indicative of any high-stakes corporate culture.

Yet, this all raises important questions for me. To succeed, do leaders need to make others fear them? Are threats, backstabbing, and character assassination part of the game, and if you choose not to engage in that level of conflict, will you end up on the losing end?  Our society is starting to denounce bullying on a peer-to-peer level, but can it ever be erradicated on the business side, when those in power hold the cards, or is that bravado style needed to achieve success? If someone delivers what we want, do we ignore the way it's delivered -- the angry outbursts and the mean-spirited attacks? Is the only way to quell such nonsense by stooping to their level with similar threats and name-calling? Can we only earn respect by being tough and vanquishing those who stand in our way, proving that we're in the right because we are the final victor?

I am reminded of what Ralph Kramden once said, "Be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you'll meet the same people on the way down."