Have you ever been sat in a work meeting or in the process of employing someone when the phrase, ” but he/she is too nice” has been thrown out. When this is mentioned it usually means there will be a problem. Being “too nice” is seen particularly in television as a weakness. In order to succeed you need to be tough, ruthless and determined, but can’t you succeed and be a thoroughly nice decent human being too? Are they mutually exclusive? When people are “too nice” it’s often felt that they would be walked over, taken advantage of, not taken seriously. Well actually teams in my experience tend to respond better to honesty, kindness, openness and knowing what they can and can’t do. Being “too nice” doesn’t mean letting people run riot but actually pointing it out to them when they do and explaining how they will be perceived and how that will affect their career.
What is “nice” anyway that’s the question. To a lot of people in the workplace it’s about being pleasant, respectable and fun. It can often be misconstrued for bland. I’ve often heard people say “nice” is the worst thing you can say about someone. We never say “oh that person is kind” why not? In a self obsessed world surely kindness is the most important thing.
Watch people in your office, watch people at all levels and see how they treat people. Particularly people that can not do anything to further their career. I’ve seen runners behave with such venom and rudeness to other runners and security and reception staff. I’ve seen heads of department behave in exactly the same way. It’s something I coined to a friend the “downton abbey” syndrome. You know where there is an upstairs/downstairs divide in the office that makes people treat people like servants. Although Lady Mary who could barely raise a smile treated her servants better than the way I’ve seen some people be treated.
I’ve had friends who’ve been told “why are you talking to the cleaner” as apparatenly you are only supposed to bark at someone and tell them what needs cleaning rather than actually engage and have a conversation.
Have you also been sat in an office and someone gets bad news, starts crying or is obviously not in a good place. Do you look and see how many people notice this, who offers help. Maybe it’s that stiff upper lip British thing of repressing emotion which is exasperated in a work environment. I remember a colleague received some bad news about a family member, my instinct was just to go up to him and give him a hug. That felt the only right thing to do, you know sometimes words are not enough. I was the only person to do that though. I’m not saying I’m holier than thou, but I do think if you see someone upset offer kindness and an ear to listen. Don’t let work be a place where as someone once said to me, “everyone cries at work, they just go to the toilet to go and cry privately”. Surely there is something wrong with the industry if that becomes the accepted norm?
So looking out for people and being kind is not going to damage your career. You know what people remember when in their darkest times someone reaches out to them. They also remember when someone doesn’t or when someone exasperates a situation further by being either cruel or cold or both. I know work can get busy, you are ambitious and driven, but that’s no excuse for rudeness or throwing someone under the bus. Maintain your dignity, remember karma’s a bitch.