5 Ways Being Nice at Work Can Payoff

by Ben Edwards on 1 September 2011 1 comment
Photo: deanm1974

Several years ago, the Harvard Business Review published an essay about jerks at work that the author eventually turned into a book called The No A**hole Rule. I’ve never read the book, but it talks about how to avoid being a jerk at work and how to deal with people who are acting like jerks.

Treating co-workers poorly isn’t the best career move. But we’ve all had bad days (or weeks), and sometimes the stress of the job can get to us. If you find yourself hating a co-worker or wanting to yell over the cube wall in frustration, just keep in mind these five ways that being nice at work can payoff. (See also: The Dos and Don'ts of Handling a Coworker You Hate via Currency)

1. It Helps Score Good Projects

No matter what industry you work in, there are always certain projects that are more desirable than others. Sometimes these types of projects require specialized skills that only certain people have. However, in some instances, multiple people are qualified to handle that type of work, and how your boss assigns projects can be subjective. If you’re easy to work with and get along with a variety of personalities, then your boss may be more likely to pick you since you may help the project go more smoothly.

2. It Helps Extend Your Reputation

If you have a history of working well with other people, then you may be assigned projects that require extensive integration and interaction within your organization or with outside clients. Although coordinating schedules and getting people to agree and work together can frustrating, it can also pay off. A major benefit of being in this role is that you build relationships and networks all around your organization and externally as well.

For example, in a former job one of our big clients was a major online brokerage, and we worked extensively with one lady in their organization. She was great to work with, so when the brokerage made some big changes and she lost her job, we hired her to work for us.

3. It Earns Future Referrals

If you find yourself unexpectedly out of work, it’s much easier to get a quick reference from a former co-worker if they have fond memories of working with you. Or if it's a pre-meditated job change, you can fish out some of the goodwill while you’re still there.

Before I left an old job, I sent out an “exit survey” of my own, asking co-workers for feedback on my time working with them. I asked for things I could improve on as well as areas where they thought I did a great job. Their answers were great material for a resume and referrals.

4. It Opens Networking Options

Nice people get invited to happy hours; grouchy people don’t. Some of the best networking opportunities you’ll have are outside of work. Whether it’s catching a baseball game, meeting for dinner, or going to a co-worker’s holiday party, your chances of getting an invitation to mingle are much higher if you’re nice to the people you work with.

5. It Makes Your Job Easier

Being nice to other people can make your job easier. How many times have you been told something will take three days, but when you call your buddy in that department they're able to slip it through in an afternoon? Building social capital by being nice can help get you around the chain of command and policies and procedures.

One key to being seen as a nice person is to be a good listener. Don’t spend the whole meeting, phone call, or work break talking about yourself. In general, people like to talk about themselves, their needs, and the situations they’re in. Let them talk. People often feel better after they’ve said their piece and gotten confirmation that you’ve heard what they’ve had to say. Not only will they feel better, but the things you learn while letting them talk can turn out to be valuable pieces of information down the road.

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Meg Favreau's picture

I'm always amazed when I see people burn bridges with former employers. I know that it might feel satisfying, but good referrals and references can be so important.

Does anybody have any other reasons to be nice at work -- or to not be nice?