Recently my colleague Tom sent through a link to an online news article titled ‘Being nice is the most underrated trait in business’. As a team we had only recently been talking about the importance of nice people to creating healthy environments that inspire engagement. We were reflecting on the sad relatedly that so many leaders compromise the ‘niceness’ of their team for the sake of technical competence.
While we appreciate some people think the word ‘nice’ undervalues what follows it we believe it describes well the qualities prevalent in a healthy workplace culture. In a ‘nice’ culture people are typically considerate, empathetic, compassionate, and agreeable. Nice captures all of the words that mean being pleasant toward other people. As a gauge of your own team culture consider for a moment the extent to which it is true to say people in your business are nice.
In what turned out to be a fantastic article, Peter Hoare shares what it has been like negotiating a screenplay sale and why the experience has led him to believe being nice matters as much as it does. He writes about observing negotiations bringing out the worst in people. Describing vicious emails between producers, managers, agents and lawyers Peter shares one rather nasty example of not so very nice behaviour. The perpetrator wrote:
“You don’t warrant a response. You’re a nobody and always will be.”
I love how Peter describes his reaction to this comment – so have shared it here:
“Holy crap, right? That email wasn’t directed at me personally, but still … holy crap! That’s a blatant visceral reaction. That’s real. The brevity. The passion. It’s a very genuine gut reaction. Imagine someone sending you an email like that. Someone delivered information this guy didn’t like, and that was the response. And I can assure you the email, which provoked the awful response, was all business. There was absolutely nothing personal about it. Yet this exec responded by, in not so many words, telling another adult that he’s never amounted to anything in life and never will. That’s a line right out of an intense movie scene — a line that’d surely come from a villain. But guess what? This isn’t a movie. This is real life! And if you ask me, I think anyone capable of firing off such a succinct but venomous email is, quite simply, a bad person.”
The perplexity in Peters tone draws our attention to how ridiculous it is that anyone should be subjected to such behavior in the workplace. Far too many people are subjected to behaviors that any reasonable person would consider inappropriate and most certainly not nice. To change this reality we all need to take responsibility for the environments we create at work. We need to take responsibility for our own behavior and the impact we have on other people. We need to look out for one another and take a stand against the disrespectful or unkind way some people choose to behave.
We all need to be nice! As Peter suggests being nice is simply the right thing to do. My experience has taught me being nice also matters to the standard of performance achieved by a team. Not only does working in a nice environment feel good – it energizes our spirit and inspires many people to behave in ways that enable success of themselves and other people around them.
Here’s another snippet from Peter’s fabulous article. I love his call to action for all of us to have a good hard look at ourselves and ask if we are an a***hole.
“I think having character is immeasurably important — we should be doing or being good if for no other reason than the fact that it’s the right thing to do. It’s the true measure of a person. Doing what’s right because it’s right, consciously not insulting someone because you take into account the effect it may have on their feelings — on their psyche. I’ve had the displeasure of working alongside some profoundly awful people in my time — gargantuan a***holes. And I’ve also seen karma bite some of them — deservedly so. Are you an a***hole? I’m being serious. Ask yourself that question. Internalise for a moment here. Are you that guy? The sender of that email is, for all intents and purposes, a Hollywood douche — a character right out of Entourage. But are you of the same ilk? Have you spewed venom at an undeserving victim? Have you cut someone down without thinking of how deep the wound may actually be?”