Don't Be the Office Sweetheart


You’ve heard it before: “nice guys” finish last.


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But is this the case in the corporate world? It can seem like being the office sweetie doesn’t always pay off. Pardon me for this cynical view – let’s just say I’m looking out for all of you!
The truth is: it’s crucial to be able to say “no” every now and then. Find out why, when and how to say “no” and watch your career take a positive spin.
“No” can be tough
Many of us have trouble saying no, both in our personal and professional lives. You might think you’re doing yourself and everyone a service by being accommodating, agreeable you – of course it’s important to show that you’re a team player who wants to help others and you don’t want to get on anyone’s bad side. After all, getting ahead in your career is also about knowing how to make and foster relationships, network and create and maintain contacts, especially when it comes time to moving on to another company or position. But if you’re perceived as someone who only aims to please, you can end up looking like a pushover.
Newsflash: There are no rewards for being the office sweetie! In fact, it can hinder your chances of getting a promotion.Being a good leader isn’t about aiming to please, it’s about leading a team with a headstrong attitude, being a good mentor, and knowing how to make others shine and stay motivated.
Here are some instances when saying no can be important:
  • When you want to challenge popular opinion: it’s good to get people thinking about other points of view and perspectives. Don’t be afraid to play devil’s advocate every now and then when you’re not sure about a proposed suggestion.
  • When a co-worker wants you to do something you don’t agree with: follow your gut if you don’t agree with something and speak up
  • When a co-worker asks you to do something ASAP, but you have absolutely no time. Whether you’re in back-to-back meetings are have a hard deadline for your manager, you’re better off saying no then agreeing to do something that is impossible to complete in a given time frame.

Why can “yes” be harmful to your career?

1) Co-workers might try to take advantage of you: If you’re known as a “yes person,” you might become a dumping ground for tasks. It's one thing if your manager asks you to take on a project; it’s quite another if you feel you’re being taken advantage of as the office “gofer”. This becomes a problem when you start to feel like a dumping ground as this can impact your own productivity and affect how you manage your workload.
How to deal: If you feel like your co-workers are delegating tasks to you unfairly, speak up. Say that you won’t have time to take on said task in the time frame requested as you have a list of other priorities to tend to first – but that you’d be happy to take them on once you’ve completed your own work. Or run it by your manager and ask your co-worker to make the request via email and to put your manager on copy (CC) – this way your manager knows how your time is being allocated. The important thing is to not say “yes” automatically, as it could lead to you digging a hole where you can’t manage your own workload.
2) You might not gain the respect you deserve: Being perceived as the office sweetheart might win you friends, but it won’t necessarily win you respect. Of course it's important to be a team player – you just want to ensure your compliant nature still makes you look like a positive leader.
How to deal: Be kind and courteous at the office – just make sure to speak your mind when necessary. Attitude speaks volumes and you want to ensure that you emit self-assuredness and positivity among your co-workers (it’s infectious).
3) You might be seen as a social butterfly rather than a workhorse: Making friends at the office is important, but you want to veer away from looking like you’re socializing too much. Perception can be everything and if your managers think you're chatting too much at the water cooler rather than getting work done, it could be a problem.
How to deal: Say hello in the morning and make small talk, just know when to stop the conversation and get back to your work. You don’t need to go for an hour-long lunch with your co-workers every day – you’re there to get the job done and be efficient, not win a popularity contest.
4) You could be passed up for a promotion: It’s nice to be liked and admired, but some great leaders should also be feared.
How to deal: Be sincere with your compliments and positive feedback, and make sure it’s earned; this way when you do give positive feedback, it’s credible. You want to make sure you don’t look like you’re pandering for anyone’s acceptance or approval – emit confidence, work with integrity and stand with your head high! If you’re too much of a softie, you might not be viewed as an effective manager.
There’s no doubt that the social aspect of any workplace is an integral part of job satisfaction and at the end of the day, you want to be cheered more than cursed. Making valuable contacts is also an important element of your career, especially when it comes time to move on to another job within your company or elsewhere.
Just keep in mind that it’s more important to earn respect than to win over friends by being too nice.


By: Karin Eldor

This article first appeared in Monster.