Smart or Nice, a Life Choice

November 29, 2014

I once asked a young man if he would rather be smart or nice. I wasn’t asking him if he would rather be seen as smart or nice; I was asking him if he would rather be smart or nice. It was interesting to see him wrestle with this question. I specifically asked him because of his niceness factor and because of his intelligence.

Perhaps one of the reasons I was so interested in his response is because I have often heard people in power say that in business, you can’t be too nice. You often have to make hard decisions based on facts, and you can’t let your emotions get in the way. This kind of thinking was borne out as soon as the recession hit and businesses were taking huge losses and having to lay off devoted employees who had been with the company all of their working lives.

Not too long ago, there was a study showing that if you want to get ahead in the business world, the ones who got the promotions and pay raises were the ones who made everyone feel comfortable. They were not the ones who performed the best or knew the most about the operation of the business; they were ones who made you feel good about yourself.

There were other studies that showed that people who were very nice, were the first ones to crack under a lot of pressure and make very bad decisions but they didn’t say whether they kept the nice ones on to make them feel good, or they got rid of the nice ones in favor or hiring the smart ones who didn’t crack under pressure and who made good decisions under pressure.

After seeing this young man struggle with my question, I got to thinking about the ramifications of this dilemma and the first thought that came to mind was that if I were a business owner or the CEO of a business, I would not want to be surrounded by people pleasers.

In a business setting, I don’t need people to make me feel good about myself but I do need people who can think for themselves, make good business decisions, and who perform well under pressure.

If they can also be nice, so much the better, but it wouldn’t be the deciding factor.

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