We all love those overzealous interns in the office who chat everybody up and make jokes and get coffee and will run circles around the office if asked (definitely not talking about myself), but their overzealousness and kindness could actually be trouble for their careers in the long run in a few critical ways.
Being nice at work and not advocating for your own needs won’t pay off long term.
1. You Might Not Be Assertive Enough
Whether it’s “sticking it to the man” and standing up for your own ideas or just having the courage to speak freely with your boss, being assertive is necessary for upward mobility.
If you aren’t passionate enough about what you do to fight for it occasionally, even if you feel like you’re putting your neck out a little, then it will show over time. But it’s a firm balance—you should be able to grab the bull by the horns while also knowing when to back off or compromise with coworkers.
2. You Might Come Off As Weak
Employers want to see your skills improve over time, and that often means being able to give you constructive criticism. If you’re strong aptitude for kindness or not wanting to offend makes you seem hurt during critique, then it might be time to put on your big girl pants.
You want to seem receptive, engaged, and curious during critique—not wounded. Unfortunately, niceness that makes you seem meek or quiet — when in reality you just don’t want to be defensive—could make your employer less willing to give you new and challenging assignments for fear that you couldn’t handle it.
3. You Could Come Off As Being Happy With The Status Quo
Employers or employees that are too nice can sometimes be tentative when it comes to asking their subordinates to take on difficult tasks or work to improve something. Greg McKeown, a strategy consultant to tech companies, described to the BBC a boss he had who employed an overly nice strategy:
“Every time the team became [frustrated] and ready to make the change necessary to get to the next level he would stand up and say sweetly, ‘Oh, I just wanted to remind you all of how far we have come,’” McKeown said.
“And after a few more sentences the spark of aspiration was gone from the room. He unintentionally signaled the status quo was plenty good enough. There was no need to try harder or change how things were going.”
Being able to walk the line between nice and aggressive is difficult, but if you can avoid being Jordan Belfort from The Wolf Of Wall Street while not stepping too close to becoming Cady Heron when she first meets the Plastics in Mean Girls, then you’ve got it.