The Nice Guy


“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice” was a sign a colleague of mine used to keep on his desk.

What a crock!

I should know… I’ve been labeled as this. Nice! It’s horrible, and normally comes with the word “too” in front of it!

Being known as “nice” doesn’t do ANYTHING for you in your career. Apart from give people he perception that you will do whatever they want. Do nice guys actually finish last?

I see it as kind of like the “You’re a great friend, but not boyfriend material, more like a brother” quote heard in high school. Hmmmm, well give me that pen so I can just stab myself in the eye. It’s nice to have you around, but don’t try anything serious OK!

Are “Nice Guys” taken seriously in the workplace? or in the world in general? A boss of mine once said, I can’t have the most popular sales guy in the world here, the guy who has everyone in his Rolodex (yes I am old) but can’t close.

The smiling, affable guy, who gets things done, without complaint, rarely gets anywhere. They get lumped with more and more work, because they’ll do it and not complain. A doormat if you will.

I’m thinking in cliche’s at the moment. Sorry. When I started dating my wife, way back when I was a skinny 18 year old, she would say, “you’re such a nice boy” and I’d respond with (in jest) “no… I’m a bastard! I’ve read “All men are bastards” and I’m a man, ergo.. I’m a bastard!”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you have to be a total contrary pain in everyone’s behind to be successful (although I know a couple who fit this description), however, I know you cannot be the continuous, affable, jokey, easy going, “no worries, I’ll do it” person either.

You have to be able to say no! You have to have the cojones to push back, to question things, to make things the problem of someone else, to openly disagree in meetings, and passionately defend your point of view, no matter who it is against (P.S also know when to back down 🙂 )

I’m not traditionally a confrontational type of guy, but after some feedback generously given to me from a colleague a number of years ago, I decided to make some changes. She effectively put that mirror in front of me, told me of some perceptions and asked me to have a good hard look at myself with my career goals in mind.

Let’s just say, I didn’t like what I saw and heard. And set out on a course of action to rectify. I began thinking of some of my sporting idols and what made them successful. (You may notice, I like to tie most things back to scenarios I understand) Most looked like nice guys when talking to the public, but once they were on the field or training, they were single minded. They wouldn’t be side tracked or allow someone else to set their moods. Once engaged in the contest, they worked harder, fought harder and achieved for longer that their competitors. My dad says they all have a level of “mongrel in them”, they don’t settle for anything less than what they expect from themselves and others, which is why them win more often that not.

Armed with this new found knowledge and self realisation, I started using the word “no” in meetings, I started putting agenda items in other peoples realm, I challenged, questioned and I made people justify/back up what they said. By doing this I became present in the organisation. Perception, slowly changed and my frustration levels dropped.

So shake off the idea that you need to be liked by everyone. You have to stand for something! You don’t get paid for popularity, you get paid for productivity, effectiveness and solving business problems. Push back if you need to, say “no” if that is decided to be the best course of action, but continue to focus on the business. That will move your career in a positive fashion.

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Posted on September 18, 2009, in career. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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