You can’t please all the people, all the time. Business leaders, managers and politicians learn this lesson the hard way. But what if you didn’t want to just ‘please’ people? If you want 2023 to be the year you finally get respected, admired and adored…then radical action is required. Warning: This might get you fired.
If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.
Trying to be ‘nice’, avoiding conflict, keeping your head down and appealing to everyone is a fast track to a career that’s less than you deserve.
Warning: I am a reformed ‘nice guy’. For decades, I believed the path to success in my business and relationships was paved with phrases like “let’s find a win-win situation” and “if you’re happy, I’m happy”.
I wasn’t aware at the time, but I was committing career suicide. Why? Because my desire to be ‘nice’ was preventing me from achieving my true potential.
No more Mr Nice Guy
Let’s get one thing straight: I am not claiming the secret to business success is to be rude, cruel, unprofessional or unethical. Quite the opposite, in fact.
But too many CEOs and their employees are sharing a common – yet flawed – script. It goes something like this:
“If I am ‘good’ and do everything ‘right’, clients and customers will want to work with me, I will be recognised, I’ll hit all my career goals and have a problem-free life.”
Why do we believe this? These thought patterns are formed in childhood (another thing to blame the parents for), and reinforced in adulthood: Tall poppies get cut down to size, but ‘nice’ poppies make wonderful wallflowers.
I told myself I should bend over backwards to accommodate the needs of others. So far backwards, I became a doormat. The more I got walked over, the nicer I would become. After all, niceness is the key to success…isn’t it?
Truth is, the opposite happens. We get overlooked, ignored, humiliated and passed over for the sales, promotions, relationships and rewards we tried so hard to achieve.
In fact, in your desire to be nice and be admired…you’re actually increasing your chances of getting fired.
Naughty but nice
How often have you met someone who went above and beyond to convince you how ‘nice’ they were…only to discover the opposite was true.
Everyone suffering from ‘Nice employee syndrome’’ will be unique, but they will probably display at least one of the following symptoms:
- Public acts of rescue: If a colleague is angry or sad, then the overly ‘Nice’ person will step in and try to fix the problem…usually very publicly and without being asked.
- Seek approval from others: Every action will be calculated to seek approval (or avoid disapproval) from a boss, employee or partner.
- Hide their flaws and mistakes: It will be the fault of the customer, supplier, colleague, teacher, child or careless driver on State Highway 2…but never their fault. They’re too ‘nice’ to be in the wrong.
- Struggle to put themselves first: The thought of doing something purely and indulgently for themselves will make the nice individual feel overly ‘selfish’.
- Put others at their emotional centre: Does “I’ll go with whatever you decide” or “you choose, I’ll just follow your lead” sound familiar?
“But what’s wrong with being nice?” you might ask.
People who are obsessive about being seen as ‘nice’ are dishonest, secretive, manipulative, terrible at setting boundaries, experts in giving gifts with strings attached, and passive-agressive…
…and, all of a sudden, they don’t seem so ‘nice’ any more.
The issue here isn’t the behaviour itself – being a ‘nice’ person isn’t a crime. But the cracks appear when the desire to be ‘nice’ becomes a core belief system about how they’re seen, and how they see the world around them.
The solution? It’s time to STOP being nice…and START being great.
Nice work…if you can get it
No one likes perfection. If you can embrace and share your flaws and rough edges, you will build true business and personal connections, not walk a tightrope of ‘pretending’ to be a successful leader, partner, friend or parent.
Tackle fears and issues head on. Remind yourself you got this far – so you can handle whatever comes your way today. You needn’t resort to the familiar fallbacks of asking for someone else’s permission. And yes, maybe you will screw up, but better to fail spectacularly than suffer in a purgatory of niceness.
Create a set of personal rules that you will not break under any circumstances. Boundaries help you stop feeling helpless and at the mercy of others. Let no-one overstep them.
And finally, put yourself first for once. It’s healthy to have needs, so start making life decisions as an individual, rather than by committee
‘Nice’ individuals don’t finish last. They languish in middle management, constantly confused as to why they aren’t hitting the heights they know they are capable of achieving, despite being so ‘nice’ to everyone.
By losing your desire to be seen as ‘nice’, you gain a whole lot more: You win more, enjoy deeper relationships, gain confidence, become more productive, feel more in control of your life, and accept yourself for the person you are.
Remember: There is no ‘key’ to a smooth existence. Being ‘good’ or doing it ‘right’ does not insulate you from other people’s behaviours, or the chaotic, ever-changing realities of life.
2023 is almost here. You can either make changes now, or ignore this advice and see how another year of being ‘nice’ works out.
I’m just trying to be nice.