Don’t let nice people fool you

Voltage Warning SignBaseball legend Leo Durocher, wrote that “nice guys finish last.” That doesn’t have to be the case and any responsible manager can do something about it.

You probably work with some “nice people.” They’re the people who work hard, always seem to be positive and try to not bother you even if they have a problem.
As a manager, there are many benefits to having nice people on your team but here’s some advice: while they may not show it, even nice people get pissed off, so don’t take advantage of them.
It’s easy to take advantage of nice people at work:

  • Boss them around (they’ll happily oblige you)
  • Frequently criticize them or their work (they’ll take it)
  • Ignore them as you spend time developing other team members (they’ll keep quiet)

“Cultural fit” plays an important role in most recruiting processes. You want to be sure that no matter how smart, bright, or quirky the candidate is that they’re going to not only get along with the team members, but that they’ll work really well together. Nice people usually pass the cultural fit test but be careful: don’t hire a nice person if you’re going to piss them off. That’s a waste of everyone’s time and your money.

You need to be good at feedback if you’re going to hire a nice person

Voltage Warning SignA recent study (“What Predicts Executive Success“) found that “that conventional wisdom is wrong — and that leaders who possess strong soft skills perform better at driving hard results.” Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan found that leaders who follow-up frequently are more effective.

You may already do this and there may be members of your team who require more attention. That’s all good – just don’t forget about the nice people.
You need to engage them proactively, even in times of plenty. Just because they’re nice doesn’t mean they wouldn’t appreciate a little recognition for a job well done.

Just because they’re nice doesn’t mean you’ve got license to inundate them with “constructive” feedback – or worse, take your frustration out on them. That’s bad feedback and a poor communication strategy. It’s called bullying.
Of course, nice people do very much want to learn and grow. You need to engage them with constructive feedback and proactively share advice.

Nice people are just like the rest of us

They want that promotion just as much as the %@!$ in the cube next door. They want to learn, grow and contribute a ton. If you don’t help them get what they want, they’ll disengage, be less effective contributors, and eventually they’ll leave.

Here’s how you can make nice people happy:

  • Proactively share tips, feedback and recognition with them
  • Ask what they’re working on (attention is a huge motivator according to McKinsey)
  • Don’t engage with them only in times of crisis or panic
  • Don’t take their awesome attitude for granted

You might think all’s good because the nice person is always cheery and gets his work done on time. But don’t be fooled. If you take nice people for granted, spending your time firefighting elsewhere and not engaging them on an ongoing basis, they’ll get pissed. They’ll spend more time than they should thinking about what’s going on in your head. They’ll be distracted by the lack of communication and attention – and by the fact that other of their teammates are getting more of it.

I’m not suggesting you steer clear of conflict: avoiding disagreements and leaving things unsaid creates unnecessary complexity and needless anxiety (HBR). You need to ask the difficult questions, you need to get things done. Just don’t take the nice people for granted in the process.

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Photo of Voltage Warning Sign by oskay Licensed under CC. Photo of 3D character with question mark by o5com. Licensed under CC.

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