Can a Corporate Culture Be Too Nice?
At a recent HR Strategy Retreat, the Chief People Officer asked her team, “Is our corporate culture too nice to execute our growth strategy?” She was rightfully concerned that the nice corporate culture would not be able to handle the level of accountability and performance transparency required to increase performance at scale.
While most prefer to work in a culture where employees treat one another with mutual respect, is respecting one another the same as being nice to one another?
Certainly, treating your colleagues politely is a good thing but can you and your workplace culture take “niceness” too far?
The Downside of Being Too Nice at Work
The downside of being too nice at work is that you can sacrifice honest communication, candid feedback, intellectual courage, and accountability. The risk is highest for companies going through major organizational change, facing marketplace disruption, and having a socially beneficial mission like educational institutions, non-profits, and the like; their benevolent purpose is apt to promote an overly benevolent culture.
Why Would an Organization Promote Niceness?
Whether by design or by default, the reasons an organization would seek a “nice” culture are similar to the reasons people seek niceness in social relationships. Here are five of the most common reasons for nice corporate cultures:
Why Should an Organization Seek Kindness rather than Niceness?
Honesty is congruent with kindness but not with niceness. The truth may hurt, but it is ultimately kind as it allows people and employees to learn and grow rather than wallow in honey-flavored mis-truths. Here are some of the negative consequences of a nice corporate culture.
When taken to far, “too nice” a corporate culture can:
What Can You Do?
A too-nice culture is not irretrievable. There are simple steps you as a leader can take to rescue your culture and make it kind but honest:
The Bottom Line
Your strategy must go through your people and your culture to be successfully implemented. If your culture is misaligned or too nice for challenges that you face, your business and your people will not grow and thrive. Have you assessed your corporate culture lately to see if how work gets done and how people behave is putting your people and business ambitions at risk?
To learn more about optimizing your company culture, download The 3 Levels of Culture that Leaders Must Get Right
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