The Double-Edged Sword of Being Nice in the Workplace

It’s human nature to want to be liked. I get it. You want to fit in and get along with your coworkers. You don’t want to come across as argumentative or uncooperative. From a young age, we’re taught “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it.” However, in an effort to be polite and respectful, we don’t always say what we really think.

Here’s the problem: placing too much emphasis on niceness, you’re likely toning down honesty and constructive criticism. Failure to give authentic feedback blocks innovation and real progress. Needless to say, this strategy won’t help your company and it most certainly won’t help you elevate your career. 

While this may have worked in the past, it isn’t going to work anymore. Feeling confident speaking up is the very thing that is going to help you have a voice in the changes you’d like to see within your organization.

Think about your best coaches and mentors growing up. Chances are they didn’t always tell you what you wanted to hear. They wanted to see you reach your full potential so they told you when you were slacking and when you needed to push harder. While you didn’t always enjoy the times they were hard on you, you definitely appreciated it later on. It made you stronger, more resilient and gave you the thick skin you needed to excel in life. 

Are You too Agreeable?

When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself. – Paulo Coelho

Being too nice and too agreeable often leads to personal unhappiness. If you always aim to please others, you are likely sacrificing your own needs in the process. When you let people walk all over you it’s goodbye, self-esteem. Hello, emotional burnout.

This is not to say you should be combative and search for conflict around every turn. It’s simply about finding a way to respectfully speak your truth. When you don’t agree with someone, speak up and if you do have to deliver negative feedback, you can do it in a way that’s both constructive and compassionate.

During meetings, do you often feel like there are things you want to say but don’t? Or worse, are you dishonest for fear of being judged too harshly? The last thing you want is for everyone to gossip behind your back so you decide to “be nice”. While these worries are normal and completely understandable, it also breeds self-doubt and holds you back from reaching your full potential. 

3 Truths About Being Nice You Need to Read 

Yes, it’s time to brace yourself. I’m here to tell it like it is. (You’ll thank me later)

  1. Confrontation is not something to fear.

While nobody enjoys confrontation, nice people equate it with conflict and avoid it at all costs.

However, confrontation doesn’t have to be negative. On the contrary, it can be incredibly productive, and boost your credibility and respect others have for you.

Most importantly, if you don’t confront an issue, how do you expect to resolve it? The longer you don’t address the problem, the more time you’re wasting. 

  1. Business is competitive. Plain and simple.

In an environment that’s based on performance, success and failure, competition is unavoidable. There’s not always time for niceties. Why do you think many CEOs get the reputation for being direct and tough? Because they have 10 meetings to get to, and they don’t always have time to sugar coat. 

To thrive in a competitive work environment, you need to be assertive and get to the point. Also, remember don’t take things so personally! 

  1. It can damage your credibility.

When professionals are too nice while working on teams, they can do a disservice to their colleagues. In an effort not to hurt feelings, they don’t criticize. But how do you expect your team to respect you if you don’t share your honest opinions? 

As a high achieving professional, your job is to bring out the best in your team even if you don’t have a leadership job title. And in order to do that you need to keep it real.

In order for individuals and companies to reach their full potential and innovate at the highest level it is essential to begin speaking up. Speaking up doesn’t make you not nice when it is done with confidence and curiosity.