3 Reasons to Stop Being Nice at Work

At the age of six, between playing hopscotch, riding bikes, and drawing pictures, I learned an important lesson about how teams work based on the story of The Three Little Pigs, where an industrious farm animal and his two brothers built houses made of various materials. Each dwelling looked sturdy from the outside, but only one offered adequate protection when danger arrived.

The lesson? When you build, use something strong enough to shield you from danger.


When managers build teams, they typically utilize nice. They hire nice people and encourage nice interactions, cordial pleasantries, and polite exchanges. Since the house looks pretty good from the outside, they’re baffled by how quickly a couple of huffs and puffs from stress, conflict, and adversity blow the whole thing down, leaving poor retention rates and an unengaged workforce in its wake.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, nice just isn’t enough. In light of trends in the current landscape such as the Great Resignation and a troubling labor shortage, it’s time to reimagine our approach to work and the environments we create. To accomplish this feat, we’ll need Nice’s wiser, more mature older sibling: Kindness.

Research conducted by the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (APEX) found that teams in a respectful, kind environment express 36% more satisfaction with their jobs and are 44% more committed to their organizations.

But aren’t nice and kind the same thing? Not quite. Though similar, kindness is the clear front runner, with the power to motivate teams, boost productivity and foster a culture that attracts and retains top talent.


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