Is Your Culture Suffering from Too Much Niceness?

Back in the day, the people with power in most organizations were white men. We’ve come a long way in just a few decades, with positions of power open to more women and people of color. Deliberate changes in corporate culture have improved the workplace for many employees. But, there’s a big downside to the warm and open culture at many cultures – shared information bias.

Workers want to keep their managers happy and managers want to keep members of the c‑suite happy. On a day-​to-​day basis, they engage in group think, explains Jonah Sachs. “Individuals rightly assume that their survival and advancement is based as much on how nice they can be and how good they make others feel as on the results they produce.”

Your team members may enjoy this type of work environment and be more committed to the organization because of the ‘nice’ factor. In fact, this atmosphere is especially prevalent in the nonprofit sector. In the for-​profit sector, where there's pressure on the bottom line, being too nice can lead to the downfall of the company. We live in a world where the speed of commerce is increasing. The lifecycle of products and services is growing shorter. To stay on top in any sector requires innovative thinking.

All too often, team members may have key information about what a competitor is doing. Or they may have a unique idea for a new product. When you gather them together for an ideation session, these folks may not speak up. Because, they fear being ridiculed or being pushed out of the inner circle for daring to have independent thoughts.

The organization will ultimately suffer because you’ve failed to encourage a culture where team members feel safe enough to risk suggesting their ideas. Instead, everyone tries to support what they think the leaders support. This kind of culture hampers your ability to be agile and adapt to change.

To stop this from happening in the future, keep your opinions to yourself ahead of an ideation session. Encourage the people who don’t often participate to share their ideas first. Give these ideas the same level of discussion as you give to the ones who come from the staff members who usually dominate these meetings. You might just end up with a product idea that can bring your company to the next level.