New research by Activia Training suggests that, far from the workplace being a cut-throat place where employees would willingly stab each other in the back for a pay rise or promotion, most people go out of their way to be helpful to colleagues.
The survey took data anonymously from more than 1,600 workers, and as many as 84% of the respondents said that their friends and colleagues came to them for advice. 70% said that they would offer assistance to a struggling friend or colleague.
But is this actually a good thing? While being kind and friendly can certainly help you in your professional and personal life, it can also be a disadvantage if you don’t set boundaries at work. Check our list below to see how being ‘too nice’ is holding your career back– and learn how to strike the right balance between niceness and professionalism.
1. You’re considered dispensable
You might think that nice people would be considered more valuable than their more difficult and demanding colleagues because of their helpful nature. Unfortunately, even highly trained managers don’t always recognise the value of things that are easily available to them – and when asked to make tough decisions, may choose the easiest path that’s open to them, as business coach Zena Everett explains: “In my experience, ‘nice’ people may be passed over for promotion or even let go more readily than difficult colleagues, because the boss knows they’re not going to be given a hard time about it,” she says.
What to do: Understand the value of your time and efforts and make sure your friends and colleagues understand it as well. Offer help at your convenience and don’t do their job for them unless it’s completely unavoidable. Set firm boundaries and maintain professional relationships – and a professional distance, if necessary – between you and your colleagues.
2. You’re exploited
If you’re regularly working longer hours than your colleagues and are your boss’s go-to person every time he needs someone to work late or take on extra responsibilities, you need to take an objective look at the situation. Is your boss asking you to do this because you’re the best person for the job – or is he or she simply taking advantage of your good nature?
It might not be your boss – you might find yourself giving up your own time to help out colleagues, or even just listen to their woes and offer advice.
The problem is that kind and willing people are easy to exploit. Friends and colleagues will come to you with a long list of compelling excuses, asking for your time and energy – and if you give in too often, they will recognise it and attempt to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, people who are ‘too nice’ often hesitate to protest and bear the added load silently.
What to do: If you notice a pattern and feel like you’re wasting your time and energy needlessly, put a stop to it. A polite, “I’m sorry but I already have too much on my plate,” is enough to limit the amount of favours people ask from you. It’s important to not let people fall into the habit of relying on your assistance as that has a negative impact on you as well as the person you’re trying to help. If they continue to rely on you, they won’t learn how to get things done on their own and that can hamper their progress at work too.
3. You get the worst jobs
Your inability to say “no” or voice your opinion will also have an impact on the types of tasks you’re asked to do. If you’re considered the “nice guy”, your colleagues and superiors will be more inclined to dump you with the jobs that no one else wants to do.
If you’re the “office mum” who regularly finds yourself stacking the dishwasher with everyone else’s coffee cups long after they’ve left for the day, you definitely need to take stock!
It’s true that everyone has to perform tasks they don’t enjoy at times, but most professionals also work on projects that engage their interest and provide a challenge. If you’re constantly stuck performing tasks that you don’t find appealing, you’ll start to find your work stressful.
What to do: The best way to avoid being saddled with the rubbish jobs is to stay in the competition for interesting projects. Make sure your voice is heard, and that you’re putting yourself forward for the things you want to do. Appeal to management when you believe your skills will be useful in a particular project. Step forward and volunteer when job assignments are discussed in meetings. If you actively participate in the discussions, you’ll be more likely to get the job.
4. You end up cleaning others’ mess
Research shows that happy, positive people are often problem solvers. If you love to help others in crisis, and are good at offering last minute solutions, you may find you’re the go-to person when there’s a problem at work or if a colleague makes a mistake.
These problems are almost always urgent and arrive at the last minute so you’re forced to set aside your own work to offer help. That can prove to be disadvantageous and can compromise your career.
What to do: Prioritise your own work over others’ even if their situation is more urgent – your boss won’t thank you for doing your colleagues’ jobs instead of your own and in fact, by doing so, you could be jeopardising your own work and career.
If you’re still struggling to say “no,” instead of setting aside what you’re working on immediately, inform your colleague that you’ll wrap up your work as quickly as you can and then help them. This keeps your priorities straight and ensures your colleagues value your time and efforts more.
5. You’re underpaid but overworked
Nice people don’t say “no” often. If you’re taking on projects and accepting tasks even when you have a very tight schedule, it won’t be long before you find yourself giving up most of your free time and even sacrificing weekends. Giving work away for free also diminishes the value of your efforts and time, and may have a negative knock-on effect on your salary reviews and pay rises.
What to do: Be honest: are you being fairly remunerated for what you do? If not, you either need to speak to your boss about a pay rise, or look for a new job where your salary is an accurate reflection of your work. If you’re sacrificing your free time to help a colleague, you’re certainly not being fairly remunerated for your work. Don’t fall into this trap because it will eventually lead to a burnout and cause health problems. If you can’t get the task done during work hours, don’t take it up unless it’s unavoidable.
6. You come across as inauthentic
People appreciate honesty more than they appreciate nicety. If you give your opinions in a polite but firm manner, you’ll be more respected by your friends and colleagues than if keep appeasing people around you, even if you don’t agree with them. Unfortunately, ‘too nice’ is often read as ‘completely insincere.’
What to do: If you want to be respected in the workplace, don’t hesitate to offer your opinions, criticisms, and advice. Be polite without being silent. However, you must also be open to receiving criticism and advice. That will help you build and maintain a good reputation in your workplace.
As you can see, being too nice can have negative consequences, compromising your reputation and career. If you struggle with finding a good balance between being nice and being a doormat, it might be a good idea to consider some therapy or training to help you become more assertive. Once you’ve got a handle on this, your career will blossom – it’s all about finding that perfect balance!