52% Participants Told They Were ‘Too Nice” at Work; 50% Believe Overlooked For It

Madelaine Weiss
4 min readSep 17, 2023

What Can Be Wrong with Being Nice?

Nothing is wrong with being nice unless we are too nice, and then there really can be problems.

Last week, we addressed how normal (and toxic) rudeness has become. But if rudeness is a lack of consideration for other people and niceness is its opposite, i.e., consideration for other people; then how can there ever be too much of this good thing?

Well, there can be too much niceness, otherwise known as Toxic Positivity, and here below from an earlier post is a definition:

Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. It’s a “good vibes only” approach to life. And while there are benefits to being an optimist and engaging in positive thinking, toxic positivity instead rejects difficult emotions in favor of a cheerful, often falsely positive, facade.

Clients have talked about their reluctance to fully confront wrongdoing in their business out of consideration for the feelings of the wrong doer, and reluctance to tell the truth with their boss about what is not right for them at work for fear of being rejected, and potentially making themselves feel even worse.

People want to be liked. This is normal. We are hardwired for this because back in the day when the modern human brain was forming, if people did not like us, then we and our kin might not get fed. So, if it felt then like life and death, that is because it was.

But it isn’t life and death anymore, and operating as if it is can really cause problems, such as:

  • people take advantage of you
  • you end up overloaded with work or involved in irrelevant projects
  • colleagues and managers take credit for your work
  • you find it hard to make decisions that involve hard conversations
  • you may be overlooked for promotion because you’re unable to promote yourself
  • you’re unable to take charge as a leader
  • you can’t manage people efficiently because you’re unable to provide constructive feedback or hold people to account when they don’t deliver
  • people will see you as someone who doesn’t speak up or challenge the status quo, which fosters a lack of respect
  • you don’t offer your best to your company

So, nobody wins. Not the company nor the people in it, and this applies in families and everywhere else humans may be afraid to be authentic about who they are, and what they may think, feel, and need.

And yet a lot of people are ‘Too Nice’ anyway. Why is that?

What Makes People ‘Too Nice’?

One study of 14,000 participants revealed 4 factors linked to the excessive need to please others, or at least to avoid conflict with them. These are:

  1. LACK OF SELF-WORTH: (49% of people who need to be liked consider themselves to be “worthless” and “useless”)
  2. INTENSE FEAR OF REJECTION: (69% of people who need to be liked avoid arguments because they are afraid of being disliked or rejected)
  3. INTENSE NEED FOR APPROVAL: (62% of people who need to be liked change their opinions, personality, or appearance in order to be accepted)
  4. NARCISSISTIC TENDENCIES: (43% of people who need to be liked get angry when others don’t praise their accomplishment)

Again, it is normal to want to like and be liked, why not? But in excess, nicey nice is neither coming from — nor going to — any place good.

What Is a Better Alternative?

Seems to me that what can really help is an awareness that defensive niceness can be just as toxic as outright rudeness, maybe even more so.

After all, a wolf in sheep’s clothing is a lot harder to spot. Likely you’ve heard of passive aggressive behavior, actually some of the most hurtful behavior there is. It might be satisfying for the perpetrator in the moment, but not bringing much real good.

Hiding our own hurt or dissatisfaction under a cloak of nice may not be as good for anyone as finding a way to be both authentic and nice, all at the same time.

I, for one, am a big fan of turning complaints into specific requests for things to be different than they are. But this doesn’t have to be over anyone’s dead body, not theirs nor yours, if things are right with you on the inside.

This can mean asking yourself what’s in the way of your being authentic and nice. Is it lack of self-worth, fear of rejection, need for approval, or something else? Whatever it is, what is the worst that can happen by, nicely, being you?

Well, okay, yes it could turn out that the current environment is not the right place for you. And although that might sting at the time, it is also your ticket to finding one that is.

As per the first Line of Getting to G.R.E.A.T., a great life depends on a great fit between who we are and the environments in which we work and live. Go for it, nicely, and see what you find.

Warm wishes,


Photo by Freepik



Madelaine Weiss

Licensed Psychotherapist, Board Certified Executive, Career, Life Coach. LICSW, MBA, BCC