Are You Being Too Nice for Your Own Good?

being too nice

I was looking back at the topics I’ve covered here on Small Business Trends recently and had to laugh. Based on what I’ve written about management issues, you might think I’m a total softy. Well, that’s kind of because I am. But I also recognize that being too nice as a business owner or manager can backfire on your company.

Are you in danger of being too nice?

There are many reasons behind “nice girl/nice guy” syndrome. Maybe you’re too nice because you want everyone to like you. (I have a feeling women business owners are more likely to fall prey to this syndrome than men are.) Maybe you felt faceless as an employee at a big corporation and part of wanting to start your own business was creating a place where everyone had close personal relationships. Maybe you hated how your last boss treated you and vowed that your employees would feel “like family.” Or maybe you just aren’t confrontational, so you give in with a smile, rather than face up to problematic employees.

Unfortunately, being too nice can have many negative consequences for your business.

Some employees will take advantage of you and stop pulling their weight or doing their jobs. That means your business isn’t as profitable and productive as it can be. Worse, when employees see others getting away with things, it snowballs and leads to either poor behavior (as everyone starts flaking off) or poor attitudes (as the employees picking up the slack resent the others who they see as getting special treatment).

Ultimately, you could end up facing a lawsuit. Not to mention, if you’re the one picking up the slack, you’ll start feeling resentful yourself and eventually burn out—and that’s not good for anyone.

So how can you stop being Mr./Ms. Nice Guy?


Take a step back and assess whether your policies, decisions and attitudes are negatively affecting your business. You might need to enlist an outside party, like your significant other or an advisor, or another manager in your business to give you their unvarnished opinion.

If your customer service manager says something like, “Yeah, you always give people time off when they ask without checking the schedule first and it really messes us up,” then you might have a problem.

Put the Business First

It’s great to let employees have flexibility and it also helps attract and retain new employees. But be sure you know where to draw the line so that business doesn’t suffer.

If you’re struggling to make this shift, remind yourself that keeping your business healthy and thriving is what pays your employee’s salaries. So ultimately, you’re doing them no favors when you weaken the company by being overly nice.

Set New Rules

I know many of you chafe at “rules,” and I’m not saying employees need to fill out a form in triplicate to go to a doctor’s appointment. It’s just that there needs to be some type of system other than, “Go ask the boss who always says yes.”

Maybe only X number of people can work at home on any given day (rotate days among the staff so everyone gets a fair shot). Or maybe people need to ask a few days ahead if they can leave work early to see their kid’s school play (rather than informing you as they run out the door).

Know What Really Matters

There’s a difference between the employee asking to take a long lunch to go to an exercise class and the one asking to work at home so she can take care of her dying mother.

Know when to bend the rules, even if it puts your business in a bind. Employees will never forget it.

Doormat Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

3 Reactions
  1. But remember that a balance must be achieved. Nobody wants to be like the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO where he feels so strongly about his business and “what matters” that he chooses to be a mean guy.