Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Does "Niceness" Belong in the Workplace?

Does it pay to be nice at work?

In the "Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness," authors Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval contend that it does. They worked their way to the top of the advertising industry by being nice, and shunned the dog-eats-dog mentality many of us associate with rising in the ranks, they say.

Of course, one of the ironies is that in a review of the book on Amazon, Donald Trump is quoted: "For my money, I would always rather make a deal with people I like who treat me well. If you want to discover the surprising power of nice, read this book. Memorize it. Use it. You’ll be glad you did.”

No matter your politics, there is often much disagreement about whether it pays to be nice at work. Some say that if you're nice, others will take advantage of you and you'll never get ahead. Others argue that being nice is what will get you ahead, and nice people always finish first.

I think probably the key to striking the right balance between being a doormat at work and being a close cousin to Attila the Hun is follow the Golden Rule. It may sound trite, but it often works wonders in your career.

Want some ideas of how to be nice in the workplace without others taking advantage of you?

How about:

  • Having a one-on-one face-to-face conversation. Go to lunch or to coffee, or even chat with someone in the breakroom. But put down your smartphone and distance yourself from technology to simply ask someone how they're doing. Then, listen. Really listen to what the person says. Don't interrupt or try to offer some silly platitude if they reveal themselves to be vulnerable. Think about how you would like someone to respond.
  • Treating everyone as an individual. What works with one person won't work with the next, and trying to shove a conversation down someone's throat will never be received well. If the person is an introvert, then try for an email or text with a friendly note: "How was your weekend?" Someone else may need to be invited for a walk outside when you notice the person is carrying a lot of stress. Niceness needs to be genuine, and any false attempts are can be seen as, well, mean.
  • Being nice to yourself. If someone rebuffs your efforts for conversation, don't tell yourself it's because you've done something wrong. Any attempt to be nice should make you feel good about yourself. Don't go overboard in being nice ("Can I pick up your dry cleaning? Wash your car?"), or you'll end up feeling bad about the whole experience. Again, simply think about how you would like to be treated.
Do you think "niceness" has a place at work and do you practice it?

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