"It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice" was a sign a colleague of mine used to keep on his desk.

What a crock!

I should know... I've been labeled as this. Nice! It's horrible, and normally comes with the word "too" in front of it!

Being known as "nice" doesn't do ANYTHING for you in your career. Apart from give people he perception that you will do whatever they want. Do nice guys actually finish last?

I see it as kind of like the "You're a great friend, but not boyfriend material, more like a brother" quote heard in high school. Hmmmm, well give me that pen so I can just stab myself in the eye. It's nice to have you around, but don't try anything serious OK!

Are "Nice Guys" taken seriously in the workplace? or in the world in general? A boss of mine once said, I can't have the most popular sales guy in the world here, the guy who has everyone in his Rolodex (yes I am old) but can't close.

The smiling, affable guy, who gets things done, without complaint, rarely gets anywhere. They get lumped with more and more work, because they'll do it and not complain. A doormat if you will.

I'm thinking in cliche's at the moment. Sorry. When I started dating my wife, way back when I was a skinny 18 year old, she would say, "you're such a nice boy" and I'd respond with (in jest) "no... I'm a bastard! I've read "All men are bastards" and I'm a man, ergo.. I'm a bastard!"

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you have to be a total contrary pain in everyone's behind to be successful (although I know a couple who fit this description), however, I know you cannot be the continuous, affable, jokey, easy going, "no worries, I'll do it" person either.

You have to be able to say no! You have to have the cojones to push back, to question things, to make things the problem of someone else, to openly disagree in meetings, and passionately defend your point of view, no matter who it is against (P.S also know when to back down :) )

I'm not traditionally a confrontational type of guy, but after some feedback generously given to me from a colleague a number of years ago, I decided to make some changes. She effectively put that mirror in front of me, told me of some perceptions and asked me to have a good hard look at myself with my career goals in mind.

Let's just say, I didn't like what I saw and heard. And set out on a course of action to rectify. I began thinking of some of my sporting idols and what made them successful. (You may notice, I like to tie most things back to scenarios I understand) Most looked like nice guys when talking to the public, but once they were on the field or training, they were single minded. They wouldn't be side tracked or allow someone else to set their moods. Once engaged in the contest, they worked harder, fought harder and achieved for longer that their competitors. My dad says they all have a level of "mongrel in them", they don't settle for anything less than what they expect from themselves and others, which is why them win more often that not.

Armed with this new found knowledge and self realisation, I started using the word "no" in meetings, I started putting agenda items in other peoples realm, I challenged, questioned and I made people justify/back up what they said. By doing this I became present in the organisation. Perception, slowly changed and my frustration levels dropped.

So shake off the idea that you need to be liked by everyone. You have to stand for something! You don't get paid for popularity, you get paid for productivity, effectiveness and solving business problems. Push back if you need to, say "no" if that is decided to be the best course of action, but continue to focus on the business. That will move your career in a positive fashion.

Views: 134

Comment by Trevor Smith on September 21, 2009 at 1:46pm
Great post. I agree, being "professional" and being "nice" are very different sometimes. Giving correct feedback to candidates and clients can only help your status and productivity as a recruiter. Nobody wants to work with a recruiter that never has anything but positive "warm-fuzzy" feedback - when they aren't getting jobs or interviews.
Thanks Dan.
Comment by Karla Porter on September 21, 2009 at 7:05pm
This is a great candid post Dan. It shows how effectively you took your frustrations, coupled with feedback from an obviously caring colleague and worked on self improvement. Personally, I do think you're nice in a very healthy, professional way. No one likes to be told "no" by an aggressive ass.
Comment by Joe Goss on September 22, 2009 at 2:57pm
I think you were looking for a different word here: "...the kahunas to push back"

kahuna: "Hawaiian priest or minister, expert or wise man"

cojones: n "courage"
Comment by Denis M. Sweeney on September 22, 2009 at 4:31pm
Dan, your post hits home for me. I have worn that title of "too nice" and I share your frustration. I added "no to my vocabulary some time ago. Now to track down a mirror for some additional self-reflection.
Comment by Ross Clennett on September 22, 2009 at 7:42pm
Excellent post Dan. I was also 'afflicted' with the 'too nice' tag in my early recruitment career. After one candidate too many let me down I let rip to her over the phone and after the call finished you could have heard a pin drop in the office. I decided that was the impact I wanted to have so I decided, in that moment, to stand up for everything that I believed in, without being a jerk about it. The journey since then has been emotionally challenging at times, but much more satisfying and I have made far more career/life progress as a result.
Comment by Charles Van Heerden on September 22, 2009 at 8:25pm
Hi Dan, excellent story. I think nice gets you in the door but then it is far too easy for others to take advantage. Recently I had a LinkedIn recommendation using the words "nice" and I requested it to be changed, as I think it could me misinterpreted. I still believe you ought to treat others the way you want to be treated. As Sandra said - "No!" with a smile can be very effective.
Comment by Dan Nuroo on September 22, 2009 at 9:38pm
Thanks all, and thanks for the pick up Joe... now changed :)
Comment by Jim Canto on September 24, 2009 at 10:00am
Oh boy.. this one hits home. Thanks, Dan. I always have, and still am considered; "Too nice & Too Honest" ... just to adding one of my own there (too honest just cracks me up.) But I have developed an edge over the years... and I'm probably not the person one wants working against them. (Sounds tough, eh?) :-) But, let me add something to the mix here....

It's great to "stand up" for yourself, your beliefs, etc. But there's always a risk. And, if, in the end, the risk of consequence outweighs your immediate need to maintain your dignity (if only for a moment) then compromise is upon you. Seriously, would you be willing to lose your job over a particular point?

I've been in that situation a number of times...hence my self employment. LOL In all reality, there were several occasions where something needed to be said...and I did not say it because I feared it would cost me my job. And, in those moments, "roof over-head" and "food on table" far outweighed right or wrong in the discussion. So.. well, I'm sure y'all get it.

That brings me to one of my points; real freedom to be yourself, and stand up for yourself, comes, in part, from being in a position to "afford" to stand up for what you believe. I did not make this reality....it's just real. It's the same on the street. Ask yourself what conflicts you turn (the other cheek) away from for fear of physical harm or death. That's real too.. just watch the news.

"Too nice" is a tricky dynamic to navigate in life. And, I don't have the answers... just a couple of points to add. The second one being; If one becomes an ass to overcome being "too nice", well, they've "sold out" and are now just another ass...IMHO. So.. where's the line?

If you stand up, solid and firm, for what you believe, can that not be "perceived" by some as you being an arrogant ass?

Ohy! As I said; I don't have the answers... But, obviously, I contemplate this issue frequently. I think it's part of maturing and becoming who you are...which, in my opinion, is a never ending process. Sometimes a bona-fide dilemma.

Peace.
Comment by Martien de Jong on September 29, 2009 at 4:42am
I think there is no absolute 'best attitude' and it all depends on the situation.
In my head I compare it to a poker game.
If the other players are playing loose (ie. passive) then it is often better to put in a little bit of aggression.
However, if other persons are also acting aggressive, it might be better to cool down a bit, since it might cost you the game (or like Jim said, your job)

Nice post overall.

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