It’s Nice to be Important but Is It Important to Be Nice?

You may have heard the saying “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”  I’ve heard that saying a lot over the years.  I began to wonder if success in business really is dependent on being nice or is being nice a liability in business today?  After I looked around at the successful managers I’ve seen, I think I have the answer.  I’m curious what you think.  

One group I saw was managed by an autocratic manager with distinct ideas on what motivates people.  You be the judge.  Remoteness, distance and a dictatorial approach was his preferred style.  He ran his department with no input from his subordinates.  He believed that it was acceptable to be partial to some people over others in the group.  He never said thank you to anyone for anything.  I’m sure he believed that a pay check was sufficient. He never inquired about his subordinates’ career goals, personal interests or any other non-bottom line area.  One subordinate had 25 years of service with the company.  His service award was a beautiful mantle clock.  Instead of awarding it to the employee at a quarterly meeting, the employee got the clock in the mail. There wasn’t even a card in the box.  Simply put, this man was not nice.  His team never trusted him and for many it became tedious to work for him. He never got promoted after that job.  

Another manager introduced himself to a new group by discussing his management style.  He encouraged his new team to call his former subordinates to corroborate that he was not only fair, but he was also a considerate and concerned manager.  In fact, many of the new team members did call members of his former team to check out his statements. These “investigators” reported to the new team that what the manager said was the truth.  The new manager asked the team to provide input for decision making and the manager was open to new ideas.  This manager was successful working with the new team and went on to be promoted several times and work at higher levels of the organization.  

What I’m describing is the difference between two people. One is nice and treats other people with dignity and respect. The other views people as the enemy and treats them accordingly.   If you think you’ll get obedience and earn respect by not being nice, think again.   What you will get at best is the lowest level of cooperation. At worse, you’ll begin to see evidence of sabotage.  In this example, word got out. Customers spoke to upper management and the manager who was not nice was sidelined.  The second manager had customers embrace him and gave him more business. His employees worked harder for him and they far surpassed their revenue goals.  

Why can’t more managers realize that you do get more flies with honey than vinegar?  It is important to be nice.  What’s even more important is that when you are nice, you can be more successful.