The Danger of Being Too Nice
Most of us have grown up with the Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated. Parents, teachers, and even society tell us that being polite and “nice” is the best way to behave. However, a recent study proves that “being too nice can deter your career progress and muddle your effectiveness as a leader.” CNN claims that it hurts your career for one reason: “People with this natural personality trait may be less likely to face confrontation or other difficulties at work.” A leader has to be able to do challenging things that don’t always fall under the cooperation genre. A strong leader has to be willing to rock the boat.
As you climb the corporate ladder or venture out on your own, the struggle for power becomes real. You have to know how to stand your ground, be assertive, and make a firm commitment to your beliefs. You also have to be able to manage conflicts, make difficult decisions, and be assertive when asking for a raise or promotions. If you don’t, you risk being labeled a pushover, or worse, are never taken as seriously as your more decisive peers.
According to another study conducted by professors at the Kellogg School of Management, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, nice men and women run the risk of being overlooked for positions of power. “Being selfish makes you seem more dominant and being dominant makes you seem more attractive as a leader, especially when there’s competition,” Robert Livingston, a co-author of the study tells NBC News. “As humans we are wired to respond to dominance. On a subconscious level this is the conclusion people are coming to: Kindness equals weakness.”
Jeffrey Pfeffer, a business professor at Stanford, has found that while we publically praise modesty and niceness, those qualities do not predict success. “We believe we want people who are modest, authentic, and all the things we rate positively to be our leaders,” Pfeffer tells The Atlantic. “But we find it’s all the things we rate negatively—like immodesty—that are the best predictors of higher salaries or getting chosen for a leadership position.” Pfeffer voices concern about his MBA students, as well: “Most of my students have a problem because they’re way too nice.”
In the boardroom, we advise you to evoke your inner Sheryl Sandberg and embrace your bossiness. Sandberg has publically called the word bossy “the other B-word” because of its negative connotation for females. “Behind the negative connotations lie deep-rooted stereotypes about gender,” writes Sandberg in The Wall Street Journal. “Boys are expected to be assertive, confident and opinionated, while girls should be kind, nurturing, and compassionate.” Let’s get rid of the binary divide between assertive, confident men and nice, compassionate women. You don’t need to be a jerk to get ahead; however, you don’t need to hide your true opinions and thoughts in order to be well liked. The science confirms being too nice is a sure way to avoid leadership roles.
Embrace your bossiness with a few of our favorite books below.
Who do you respect more: co-workers who are nice or those who are assertive? Share with us in the comments!