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9 Signs Your Company Culture Is Too Nice

Jan 25, 2020

Business team at the office working on a laptop

I never realized a company culture could be too nice—until several years ago when one of my peers said something about being "too blessed to be stressed." No you're not. And cut that out

A happy workplace is wonderful—but a culture of nice spells danger. Here are 9 signs to watch for and tips for how to handle each one.

  1. No one wants to lead—including the leader. When you hear a leader, especially a paid leader, say "I'll just facilitate..." you might want to remind them that leadership is not a dirty word. On the contrary, true leadership is a thing of beauty. Lead, don't dominate. Lead, don't "facilitate." For more about this topic, see The Leadership Lesson Most People Miss.
  2. Peace at any cost. A culture of nice favors false peace over true connection. It dares not confront. The result: No one feels safe rocking the boat, which means problems stay beneath the surface. As the saying goes, "What we bury, grows." Affirm the person but raise the issue.
  3. Entitlement. Entitlement is the enemy of teamwork—it's also the enemy of contentment. Entitlement says "I deserve this whether I've earned it or not." Entitlement says "The rules don't apply to me." Managers, if this describes someone on your team, it's up to you (not the team) to nip it in the bud. 
  4. Boundaries, what boundaries? The co-worker with a hygiene problem. The co-worker who's constantly spilling her guts. Anyone who gossips. All of these things waste time. If not addressed, they drain morale. Get together with your team to discuss "What kind of company culture do we want to have?" and "What are we willing to do to make it happen?" Make this an ongoing conversation rather than a one-and-done.
  5. No accountability. And no consequences. I once had a co-worker who was known to be challenging. The boss agreed. But then he added, "I can't send her to personality camp!" Somewhere between "anything goes" and personality camp is a happy medium. Find it. Focus on the facts and address the person's behavior. 
  6. Feedback is frowned upon. In an effort to appear "nice," some company cultures view almost all feedback as a threat. Again as a result, problems stay stuck beneath the surface. Teach your team how and when to give feedback—teach them how to receive it. And don't worry about looking stern. The best employees want feedback—the best leaders seek it out. If  I can help, please let me know
  7. Blanket praise or blanket criticism. Notice we're not talking about public criticism. That would be unfair, unprofessional and unkind. But when someone deserves praise, for example, it does no good to pretend the whole team pitched in equally. Better: "Join me in congratulating (So-and-So) for organizing last week's well-attended conference." You get the idea. 
  8. Lack of decisiveness. Or lack of urgency. True, no one said leadership was easy. But the true leader knows he or she is not there to be "liked." In the words of Bernie Siegel, MD, "If you need to be liked, you're in trouble." Forget being "liked." Make the hard and timely decisions that will earn you respect and move the organization forward
  9. You and your co-workers are "voluntold." In a culture of nice, saying yes is easy and saying no is next to impossible. Even when you can't give your team a vote, give them a voice. Include them in the decisions that affect them. This is how you turn a culture of nice into a culture of cooperation.

How would you describe your ideal workplace? How would you describe your office culture? Please leave a comment so we can continue the discussion. And for the record? It's entirely possible to be blessed and stressed—the two run on separate tracks 😊


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