When is being nice a liability instead of an asset? When it gets in the way of your career. Meredith Lepore at Levo League wrote a recent post about the dangers of being too nice at work — and what to do about it.
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“Women, and I am the first one to say I do this, tend to like people to like them,” writes Lepore. “I still have that middle school mentality where I want the cool girl to also think I am cool. But the problem with that is I become very meek and don’t ask for what I want, need, or deserve. I am more concerned with making sure this person likes me than seeing how they can help my business. I have always had trouble finding the line between strong and tough to deal with.”
In fact, as Lepore points out, a recent study showed that “mean” people make more money. In particular, disagreeable women made 5 percent more than their easier-going counterparts.
Of course, there’s also plenty of evidence that “not-nice” women are penalized at work. Henna Inam at Forbes cites research that “suggests that women get penalized more if they offend others because the expectation of our gender is to be nice, nurturing and collaborative.”
So what should we do?
1. Recognize that “nice” isn’t the same as nice.
You can be a decent person and a thoughtful, team-oriented colleague without succumbing to Nice Girl Syndrome, which is essentially holding your tongue when you feel passionately about something and prioritizing other people’s needs over your own.
2. Speak up.
Break the habit of second-guessing yourself when you have an idea or an opinion. Don’t silence yourself because you fear being wrong. No one’s ideas are gold 100 percent of the time, but if you self-censor, you won’t have a chance to find out which ones work.
3. Remember: “It’s not personal, it’s business.”
Lepore reminds us that not everyone you meet at work will become — or should become — a friend. Remember that conflicts and disagreements at work are professional, not personal. Don’t let it affect your judgment.
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