5 ways to strike the right balance between kindness and getting ahead at work
We can’t all be the top dog.
Last week, Gavel, a young German Shepherd, was fired from the police dog training academy in Queensland, where he’d been training for the past four months to become the next member of the canine force. The reason? He was too nice.
According to the BBC, the “doggy dropout” liked to greet and play games with strangers, rather than attack them. This, the force determined, made him unsuited to chasing after criminals. The social pup “did not display the necessary aptitude for a life on the front line,” they said in a statement.
Being “too nice” isn’t just a problem for pups: It can hold you back at work too. But, of course, most of us want to be at least somewhat likeable at work. So Moneyish talked to experts about how to strike the perfect balance between kindness and getting ahead in your career.
Take the right tone in disagreements. “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” says Katie Bennett, career coach and co-founder of Ama la Vida coaching. Remain calm, try not to raise your voice and listen to the other side, Bennett says. “It’s important to respect the other person’s belief, and not to override it.” But don’t be afraid to stand your ground–in a civil manner. “Proceed really calmly, and confidently express what you believe,” Bennett says.
Determine what’s worth pushing others for at work and what isn’t. To do this, Bennett says you should ask yourself “What are your non-negotiables? What are the most important factors contributing to your fulfillment?” In general, you’ll be happiest if you defend your non-negotiables, whether they be a certain amount of vacation, politeness from your boss, your company’s philosophy, or the direction a certain project should take. (Of course, you may need to back off a bit if your non-negotiable will detract from the goals of your team. “It’s not always about you,” says Bennett. “Your role is to add value to your company.”)
Know when to stand down. One instance: When your coworker is more qualified than you are. A certain degree doesn’t make someone smarter, but “it gives more expertise and experience that others don’t have,” Bennett says. When you allow someone else to take the lead in their area of expertise, “it shows that you respect their knowledge and experience, and makes them more likely to concede on things that you’re knowledgeable about.”
Take a look at why you want things a certain way. “Why do you want to push the issue? Is your ego talking…or do you have a strained relationship with the co-worker and you want to blame, get the better of, or triumph?” These are…totally normal, but reconsider acting on them,” notes Laura MacLeod, founder and CEO of From the Inside Out Project. In the workplace, “it has to be about the work, and how tasks can be accomplished effectively.”
Speak up when you’re being disrespected, or unfairly overlooked. “Often, the people who make the comments and upset us have no idea. When you make them aware, in a non-threatening way, you model a healthy relationship, one that is direct and clear,” says MacLeod. And addressing, rather than avoiding, your office conflicts won’t just help you: It’ll help your whole company. “Healthy conflict improves relationships and communication,” says MacLeod. “When you do it, others will follow. Before you know it, people are honestly and authentically working together.”
And don’t worry about Gavel–he found a new job as Vice Regal Dog at the Queensland Government House.
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