Stop Being Nice

Don't be nice to your employees.

Just don't.

I wonder what you thought about when reading those two short lines. It doesn't sound very positive, does it? 

The word nice can mean so many things. One dictionary listing defines it as "Pleasing and agreeable in nature." Well, I can tell you I was raised to be pleasing and agreeable to a fault and it hasn't served me very well as a boss or as a human in regular life. Another listing defines it as "Exhibiting courtesy and politeness." This one is better. For everyone, and for bosses. 

Time and again I've heard from leaders that they finally let someone go after giving the person many, many chances. They tried so hard to keep the person employed, find a role that would work when other roles didn't, etc etc. I've heard more than once, "I guess I was too nice." Yup. 

Sometimes that niceness results in a complaint after the termination, rubbing salt into the wound.

I have a friend who is in the same pickle, at great personal and financial cost, wanting to be "nice." Not hurt any feelings, not be mean or rude. I don't need to go on for this point to be clear. 

Keeping the focus on business, let's make sure your boss-staff relationship is crisp, courteous, productive, respectful, and healthy. You don't have to be "nice" any more than you have to be mean or harsh. Just be constructive. 

*Be clear about what's expected in the job and what good looks like. 

*Be clear and collaborative about how good performance can and should be measured. There's usually a more concrete way to measure performance than how the boss feels about it.

*When good performance happens, acknowledge it with an example (forget that "Good Job!" vagueness or worse, "I like how you did that."), and when there's a problem in performance, state the observation (not all your feelings and assumptions about it) and have a dialogue with the person to solve it.

*Listen to what they say even if you don't agree. You might learn that there's been a misunderstanding or even that you're wrong. This all helps solve problems and build positive relationships. Listening is not a soft skill. It's hard work that good leaders need to do.

*If you've given someone a few good-faith chances to improve and it's not working, tell them it's not working and that the problem could cost them their job. Sometimes this is the first time an employee really gets the message! You might be able to do more problem solving and help turn it around. But if you can't, twisting yourself into a pretzel to try to keep them anyway because you feel bad is a terrible management strategy.

Ha, "No more mister nice guy" takes on a new meaning. 

Don't be mean, don't be nice, just be courteous, constructive, respectful, and professional. 


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