In her Forbes’ article, “Women in the Workplace are Just Too Nice“, Colette Martin explains how women are more susceptible to being…well…too nice (way to state the obvious). It was interesting to learn that a woman’s social expectations and upbringing, which traditionally push for the development of care-giving characteristics such as selflessness and motherly support, can promote a woman’s desire, need, or pressure to be nice at all times. Of course, a woman’s personality can either facilitate such behavior or suffocate it, depending on if she’s insecure or confident, reserved or outgoing. Whatever the cause may be, being too nice is a feature one will want to nip in the bud (immediately), for the sake of their long-term happiness and growth, both personal and professional.

How do you know if you’re being too nice at work?

For you to find out, look back at past interactions with co-workers. Analyze the type of relationships you’ve built with them. Do your colleagues respect your opinions or trample over them? Do they constantly ask you for help or understand the extent of your workload and back off? The following warning signs will help you tell if you are, in fact, too nice at work:

  • People perceive you as boring or bland making you feel overlooked. 
  • People don’t listen to you, or talk over you – they don’t respect you. 
  • People take advantage of you, and your time. 
  • People have higher expectations of you.
  • People perceive you as suspicious.

Not convinced yet? Forbes recommends you take Dr. Lois Frankel’s self-assessment test; she’s the co-author of Nice Girls Don’t get it, a self-help book teaching readers to be more assertive in the workplace. The test (and the book) are designed to help you pin-point the behaviors that hold you back from achieving your goals, and fix them.Check it out!

How does being too nice impact one’s professional growth? 

Being polite and nice are qualities in the workplace, but being too polite or too compliant can quickly become a flaw. Agreeing with your co-workers 100% of the time will give them the feeling that you neither have personality nor strong values – you’ll seem passive, and uninterested. They’ll no longer rely on you for real advice or truthful opinions, because they’ll expect you to approve everything they say. They might even start talking over you, or overlook the times you actually do have new ideas and constructive input, because they’ll expect a bland answer from you, anyway. As a result, your professional growth will be stalled, and your added-value to the team questioned. 

Not only that, being too nice incites people to take advantage of you. Being the yes man on the team ( purely to avoid confrontation) will give people the confidence to coax you into doing (their) extra work. Knowing you’ll say yes, they’ll look to you as a guaranteed source of help – even when your hands are full. And once you become the work “dump”, you’ll struggle to keep your head above surface. Look out, is that a burnout I see coming? 

Finally, people will start suspecting your intentions: is she being too nice to get something out of me? Is she being too nice to get away from doing work? Your co-workers or even boss will start doubting your trustworthiness, and keep their guard-up. Colleagues won’t confide in you, or keep you updated on that huge project you’re working on – all because you’re too nice. As unfortunate as it is, it’s the reality we live in. As social beings, evolution comes with verbal disagreements, debates, different ideas and opinions, diversity in thoughts etc. The more varied a team’s views are, the greater the output the team will produce. Therefore, being too nice and non-confrontational simply won’t cut it. 

How can one stop being too nice at work?

If you feel like a lot of the above experiences apply to you, the following tips and tricks will help you be more assertive and expressive in the workplace:

  • Be direct about what you want. Don’t sugar-coat your ideas, or opinions. Say them as they come to you. Don’t overthink them; if you do, you’ll probably trash them all-together. 

  • Be firm – keep in mind, that’s very different from being mean. This will show your co-workers that you respect yourself, and no they’ll no longer trample over you. In other words, let your assertion be known.

  • Come to a meeting prepared. Outline your thoughts and ideas before a meeting, you’ll feel more confident speaking about them by knowing how to back them up. 

  • Collaborate, don’t combat. Being too nice can stem from the fear of confrontation; one can comply to avoid disagreement. However, in the workplace different ideas are used to collaborate in creating the best version of a product. That being said, don’t think of confrontation as a combat but more so as a collaboration.

  • Let your personality shine and be confident. Opening up to your team members and being proud of your (sometimes different) ideas will show them that you are a genuine and motivated person. And that’s all it really takes – good luck!