Relationships are difficult to navigate in any arena of our lives. Professional relationships can be especially complex. Sometimes, it seems impossible to tread the line between nice and right. You want to maintain professionalism, but it’s also critical to get your work done and keep the workplace running smoothly, no matter what your role or level.
There are some situations where it’s better to be right than nice — and others where a “nicer” approach is the best route.
Negotiating for a promotion or raise demands a take-charge attitude. There’s no space for demurring and downplaying your accomplishments — instead, this is a time to uplift yourself and, yes, brag a little (or a lot).
That’s because you need to demonstrate that you have confidence and aren’t willing to settle for a role or salary that isn’t up to what you deserve.
Always, always speak up when something you know is wrong is taking place in your workplace. If you witness harassment, discrimination, bullying or other misdeeds, don’t be nice — call out the behavior. The alternative is letting others be victimized by the people who aren’t just being “not nice” but exhibiting bad behavior.
Even in smaller-scale situations, where you simply disagree with the way someone is behaving or the things they’re saying, it’s okay — encouraged, even — to articulate your perspective and skip over the not-wanting-to-rock-the-boast attitude.
If you or your employer are being accused of a misdeed that you did not commit or are otherwise contending with damage to your reputation, this is not a time for niceties. With a firm hand, you need to make sure others know who’s in charge (that’s you) and that they understand the truth behind the matter. This goes for situations in which you feel like others are attempting to take advantage of you.
Again, this is about confidence and resilience — as well as leadership. You can’t control the way others act, but you can control who takes advantage of you, in terms of how susceptible you are to manipulation and malicious gossip.
Personal, political and other conflicts that have nothing to do with work do have a tendency to creep into the workplace. Sometimes, a manager or leader can shut these down before they escalate. But if they do find their way into an office environment, taking sides is, well, the wrong side to be on. These are usually delicate situations, and insisting on a “right” perspective — when it has nothing to do with your work — will only cause the conflict to become even more of a problem. Instead, do your best to diffuse and deescalate it.
We all make mistakes. Good leaders, and workers in general, recognize when they don't need to dwell on a coworker's hiccup — especially if that individual apologizes and demonstrates that they are truly remorseful. In a case like this, you don't need to come down too hard on them; compassion and empathy is the better approach.