Life Skills

Jeremy in accounts is extremely annoying to talk to and most probably hiding something – no one is that friendly. Ask him one question and commit to 20 minutes of sickly-sweet small talk. Send him an email and he replies within the minute, wishing you a good morning, afternoon or evening. He’s always got time for everyone. He’s just too nice.

And then there’s Sarah who sits on the board and hasn’t got one ‘nice’ bone in her body. She hasn’t got much time for anyone really; her emails are short, sharp and completely lacking warmth. She won’t join in on an office Happy Birthday singalong and replies “good thanks” to your “how are you this morning?” without ever returning the question. She keeps her distance and doesn’t care for niceties.

Dealing with extremes…

The office is a breeding ground for conflicting personality types. Most people tend to sit comfortably in the middle ground between ‘too nice’ and ‘not nice enough’; friendly and personable with a side of straight talking. However, wherever people are involved, there are always going to be extremes and consequences.

…and contradictory messages!

There are so many conflicting messages around about how nice we should be in the workplace. As kids we’re told to “play nicely”, then as we move through our adult years we’re frequently warned that the “nice guys finish last”. In order to be successful, we’ve got to cut the fluff and do away with niceties, but we’ve also got to build strong relationships and get people to like us. So then, what’s worse; being too nice or not nice enough?

‘Too nice’…

While you might think being nice to absolutely everyone all the time is an automatic people-pleaser, there’s a lot of talk about how it can be damaging. Some say being ‘too nice’ might make you seem boring, encourage people to advantage of you and put your motives up for questioning. Needless to say, these perceptions could all be detrimental to your reputation, undermining your ability to form meaningful relationships with other professionals.

… or ‘not nice enough’?

On the other hand, being perceived as ‘not nice enough’ also has the ability to turn people against you. There’s evidence to suggest being really nice to people can actually make you feel happier, less stressed and ultimately more successful – so what does that say about people who don’t even try to be nice? Those who are extremely direct and impersonal might get things done quicker and demand respect across the company, but at what cost?

Do what you want…

It all boils down to the fact that people are naturally going to fall one way or the other; either they’ll err on the side of being ‘too nice’ or become accustomed to being ‘not nice enough’. And that’s fine; at the end of the day there’s no exact science as to how nice you should or shouldn’t be in order to get further ahead in your career.  It’s definitely not black and white, but there is one thing that is non-disputed. Regardless of how ‘nice’ or ‘not nice enough’ you choose to be, there is absolutely no reason to be rude.

… but don’t be rude!

Be direct; be stern if you like. Do away with small talk if you need to. But don’t try to justify to yourself that rudeness is okay, because it’s not.

Showing no remorse for messing someone’s schedule around, being late for meetings or making people wait is unacceptable. Speaking to people in a patronising, aggressive or bitterly sarcastic tone is not okay. Ignoring people or belittling them in front of others – or behind closed doors for that matter – could be considered bullying and can have serious repercussions for you. Completely disregarding the effect of your actions and tone of voice on those around you is extremely careless and something to be ashamed of. Regardless of whether you’re great at your job, if you make other people feel miserable and continually alienate yourself, at the end of the day, no one wins.

You don’t have to be friends with your colleagues (or even want them on your side), but no one is above common courtesy and everyone deserves to be treated with a certain level of respect. What impact is your rudeness having on those around you?

Treat people how you wish to be treated

It’s amazing the effect one person can have on others. Regardless of whether you fall into the ‘too nice’ or ‘not nice enough’ categories, or somewhere in between, assess whether you’d be happy to be on the receiving end of your emails, words or actions. Be as nice as you want, just don’t be rude.

About Phoebe Spinks

Phoebe is the editor of Undercover Recruiter & Senior Account Executive at Link Humans.

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