Bosses/Employees That Are Too Nice

The BBC had a great article called The Downside of Being Nice at Work. It argues that being too nice in the office could be damaging in the long run. The article is not arguing that employees/employers shouldn’t be nice, but that they should be decisive, take responsibility, and be held accountable for the team. A lot of leaders are lacking these skills, have become ‘yes’ people, and have turned  more into cheerleaders rather than leaders. While it is good to have a boss that encourages and motivates employees, the article says that the environment surrounding these overly nice bosses becomes complacent and – I would add – lazy.

The article says: “One example McKeown gave: “I once worked with just such an executive. He spoke with a soft, quiet voice. He never interrupted anyone… Every time the team became [frustrated] and ready to make the change necessary to get to the next level he would stand up and say sweetly, ‘Oh, I just wanted to remind you all of how far we have come.’ And after a few more sentences the spark of aspiration was gone from the room. He unintentionally signalled the status quo was plenty good enough. There was no need to try harder or change how things were going.”

That attitude can make workers complacent. “The cumulative effect on your career can be dramatic,” McKeown wrote.”

I was reminded of the movie, So I Married an Axe Murderer where the cop employee tells his deputy chief boss that he is too nice and because of that, doesn’t take him seriously. The following video clip shows the employee trying to teach his boss how to be a little tougher: Training the Boss to Be Mean.

I argue that while it is important to maintain a ‘nice’ persona, it is also important to say no. Employers can still play hard ball and be ‘nice.’ Author Sharyl Sandberg addresses the ‘too nice’ in the office factor in her new book highlighted in the article 9 Times Being Nice Will Hold You Back. The article presents a slideshow going through the ‘too nice’ tactics and replaces them with what to do. Some of the ‘too nice tactics includes:

  • Sitting out of the way in order to avoid conflict
  • Sacrifice your time for your client
  • Wave off praise
  • Accept first salary offer
  • Ignore coworkers errors and missteps
  • Wait for feedback
  • etc

There were some I didn’t necessarily agree with, but it is worth the read. Other articles that cover this topic include:

A couple years ago, I had a job interview for a grassroots outreach coordinator position. I remember being excited to work in the education arena and develop strategies to help the community be more involved with education initiatives. By nature, I come across as an over enthusiastic interviewee…something that some organizations like, and something that others don’t. During this particular interview, I touched on the importance of good communication skills, and how important communication is when building a grassroots program. At the end of the interview, the interviewer told me that he was not going to hire someone that was looking to be a prom queen. I asked him to clarify what he meant. He said that he was not looking to hire someone that was in the office to be the most popular.

At first, I thought he was attacking my over enthusiastic personality and/or slighted my communications strategy/comment. However, after reading this article, it makes me wonder if he had dealt with too many ‘nice’ people who were really really nice to work with, but not very effective – an interesting thought for me to ponder.