Are You Too Nice?

  • No rush…
  • When you get a chance…
  • Do you think you could…?
  • Are you busy?
  • Would you do me a favor?
  • Sorry about [the short notice, adding to your workload, etc.]
  • …just…
  • …only…

Do you find yourself using these phrases with your staff on a regular basis?

Even (an overused) “please” can sneak up on you, making you look weak, apologetic, and indecisive.

With one supervisor, I fought back against this talk. Did my boss really think I was that incompetent or slow, or was it her own problem? “No problem, right away” was my constant response. I even told her straight out more than once, “I work for you. Not when I get a chance, when you get a chance!”

Most employees won’t be so kind. You think you’re overworking me? Okay! That means I can do less! And you’ve created a productivity-sucking monster. By being “nice.”

“Listen, friend,” I once said, joking with another former boss. He looked at me funny, then very sharply said, “You are not my friend.” At the time, I was offended. I mean, we were kidding around—what a time to go serious! (A few months later I asked him about it. “Remember that time….” Nope. He didn’t recall.)

I never forgot it, and I’ve continued to learn from and teach with that offhand zinger since then. He was right, and I knew it. That’s why it hurt. Your boss is not your friend.

Break free from the Big Suck

So if you’re the boss, how do you get out of this trap?

1. Say it out loud. Here’s the policy, I’ve gotten away from it. You are not my friend.

2. Stop apologizing. You pay folks to do what needs to be done. Period.

3. Grow balls. There’s no other way to say it. If you’re a wimp, your staff will walk all over you, costing your company time and money. It’s human nature to take liberties when we know we can, so end it today. You aren’t running a business to make friends with your staff.

Would you do me a favor? I was wondering if you have “nice” phrases that create a productivity-sucking monster in your workplace? I’m only looking for a comment or two…

UGH! Sound off below. How does “nice”—yours or others’—mess up your productivity? What’s it all about?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

P.S. If you’re a solopreneur thinking “this one’s not about me,” think again. These same phrases come out in your writing and your conversations with friends, family, and suppliers, and they convince people you aren’t headed for the big time. Because you seem to think that about yourself. You are still the head of your growing company, even if you have only you to manage right now. You’ll never need step 1, if you make steps 2 and 3 part of your day now.

P.P.S. “Just.” It’s the one that I have to watch out for. As in, “I just need,” or “I was just thinking.” When Kelly goes wimpy and waffly, “just” is usually close by. Just don’t point it out, okay?