Although being nice should be an attribute everyone strives for, it can sometimes backfire for you in the workplace. Here’s why.


A couple of things came to mind when I typed the title of this blog. First was that when my co-workers see that title along with my byline they’re going to rupture some internal organs by laughing so hard. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty friendly, outgoing person, but “too nice” will never enter the list of descriptive terms for me.

Second, I thought about what a bad rap the word “nice” has gotten over the years. If someone describes your blind date to you as “nice,” it usually sets off some internal alarms.

The fact is, being nice is a good thing ,and we can only wish that more people were nice. But as Clea Badion, writing on behalf of Robert Half International, says, being too nice can be a detriment on the job. She says, “The trouble with being too nice is that it often goes hand in hand with other traits, such as being too accommodating, unwilling to speak up for yourself, or hesitant to offer constructive criticism to your colleagues.”

I have to agree. Although you want to be flexible and accommodating at work, you’re asking for trouble if you’re too much so. Even normally empathetic people will be drawn into the temptation of shifting work over to a colleague who is always willing to take on extra duties. It’s like workplace catnip.

And if you’re too nice to want to risk hurting anyone’s feelings, then you’re less likely to speak your mind. But you have to eventually learn that disagreeing with someone’s idea or assessment of a situation is not like calling their mother a name. If done constructively, criticism of another person’s idea just highlights your understanding of the situation. Don’t confuse being direct with being rude. It’s not always the same thing.

Note to readers: We will be featuring a new Friday twist to the Career Management blog. Every Friday, we will present a true-life member-provided career or workplace scenario that needs a resolution. All scenarios will be anonymous and we welcome all feedback. If you have a career or workplace issue you’d like help with, e-mail it by clicking on the Contact button at the top of this page.