Nice Women Win: Why Being Nice is a Business Strength
While attending a networking event, I met a young woman who hoped to transition from her position as a journalist to a career in business. We exchanged business cards and she promptly reached out asking to meet for coffee and some advice. She asked insightful questions, her resume was well-formatted and contained great content, and she was competent, polished, and friendly. While considering why she hadn’t landed a new position yet, she surprised me with a question I’ve never been asked before: “Do you think I’m too nice?”
My gut reaction was frustration. I doubted this would have been a concern if she were a man. I paused and told her with utmost certainty, “No. It’s good to be nice in business.” Although most people are socialized to associate being nice with being weak or accommodating, niceness is actually a powerful tool for achieving your professional goals.
Nice People Are Likable
People want to work with people they like. Now more than ever, “cultural fit” is a key factor in many organizations’ hiring decisions. Nice workers get along with their team members, take the time to mentor junior employees and promote positive attitudes in the workplace. Assuming equal qualifications, I’d hire a nice candidate over an unpleasant one any day. Wouldn’t you?
Nice People Say 'Thank You'
Saying thank you builds businesses. Having worked in the recognition industry for much of my career, I’ve seen first hand the power of a simple 'thank you' gesture in strengthening relationships, encouraging repeat business and increasing sales. In fact, sending thank you notes is one of my first suggestions when asked how to improve a sales team’s performance.
Nice People Work Better In Teams
The ability to work well within a team is critical for success in today’s workplace. Employers value diversity within the workforce, but to harness the competitive advantage of diverse viewpoints and backgrounds, team members must feel comfortable sharing their strengths and opinions. Nice people are quick to give credit for good work, contribute positivity to the team dynamic, and “play well with others,” allowing the team to function efficiently and accomplish more.
Nice People Build Rapport
Any sales manager will stress the talent of building rapport as a key skill required of top sales professionals, but the ability to build rapport can drive success in customer service, human resources, and executive leadership roles as well. Nice people genuinely care about others, listen to their needs, and instinctively want to meet those needs, which, in turn, forms the foundation of trust for successful business relationships.
Nice People Make Better Managers
Perhaps you’ve heard the popular saying: “People don’t leave their companies. People leave their managers.” As it turns out, nicer managers have more engaged employees. Included in Gallup’s Q12 assessment of employee engagement are questions such as “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work” and “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.” Nice managers care about their staff, notice their contributions, and are quick to praise good work. In turn, companies with engaged employees have better productivity, profitability and customer ratings, and lower rates of turnover, absenteeism and quality issues.
Is There Such Thing As Being Too Nice?
In the wake of recent discourse surrounding the overuse of “I’m sorry”, women are even more aware of how our words and actions influence perception in the corporate world. Niceness, however, does not need to mean weakness. It’s possible to eliminate self-defeating language while still being nice.
Being nice is not incompatible with maintaining boundaries. Nice people can voice their opinions, stand up for their beliefs, and even disagree, but nice people do so with kindness and grace. Nice does not mean answering “yes” to all requests. Rather, nice means turning down the requests you cannot meet respectfully.
Have you ever met for the first time a businesswoman you admire, and been surprised at how nice she was? Next time consider whether she’s nice in addition to her other impressive accomplishments, or whether her niceness helped her to achieve success in the first place.
Kathryn Kerns is an expert in employee engagement, sales management, and business development for startups and small businesses. She is currently serving as Director of the Corporate Division at the New York-based flower delivery service Ode à la Rose.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Director, Corporate Division
Ode à la ROSE
In 2007, just out of college at the University of Michigan, I joined a handful of employees at a company providing corporate gifts to investment banking clients called Altrum Honors. A year later we decided to expand overseas, and I was responsible for growing our international business from almost nothing to roughly 40% of the company’s revenue within two years. I went on to open offices in London, Montreal, Hong Kong, and Sydney, and managed... Continue Reading
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