Nice workplace cultures can be easy to work in

If you had a choice between a combatant and aggressive culture where it’s about battling to get your idea or opinion heard, or a culture of agreement and not pushing back – most people would pick the latter. I know this from years of working with teams and workplace cultures. And I get it. Nice is nice. It’s calm, it’s not hurtful.

In fact, there are some obvious benefits of a conflict-avoidant workplace. Increased job satisfaction is one. Because employees perceive the workplace as supportive. There is less stress. We feel comfortable. There are less tensions in teams because of the same group think. So that feels nice. Yet it comes at a cost.

Overly nice cultures typically have less innovation and creativity. They are more focused on being echo chambers to each other’s ideas than pushing back on them. The issues don’t go away, they just remain unresolved. They often start to fester inside. Another impact is that we all stay the same. We are less likely to grow and develop as people when we don’t lean into healthy disagreement.

Artificial harmony is when a group of people are working together yet do not believe it is the best decision for the group. They are not speaking up, leaning into conflict. They are stagnant but nice. I call it passive agreement. 

I finished a one-week intensive at the AICD (Australian Institute of Company Directors) this month. All five of the facilitators were very clear, if not emphatic. That if we lead by doing the same then we will be dead (as in the companies). It’s only a matter of time. The world is changing so quickly. Are we changing with it?

The question is, do you want to pay the cost? For some, the answer is yes. This is completely fine. Some would say nice even. It’s good to be clear about what you want, so you can communicate this to your people. That way, everyone knows what they are up for. That seems fair to me.

Do you or the people you work with, avoid speaking up and play ‘nice’? Do you want to move away from that? Come along to my online session ‘The problem with nice cultures’ you can check it out here