It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone likes nice people: they’re easy to talk to, to get along with, and to work alongside. But, like everything positive, there is a hidden dark side to niceness: sometimes (*thunderclap*) one can be too nice.
Psychologists define the quality of being nice as “agreeableness.” People who are agreeable generally exhibit six traits, briefly: trust, compliance, altruism, cooperation, modesty, and sympathy — at varying levels of intensity. People who exhibit too high a level of one or more of these traits may set off our unconscious alarms about ulterior motives or passive aggression. But a team out of the University of Richmond (VA) now have actually studied how being too agreeable can affect relationships in a real way — and shown how nice is not always the best at work:
“[Researchers] asked 230 senior-level professionals enrolled in an executive Masters of Business Administration (EMBA) program (those with at least a 15-year work history) to participate in a team performance online simulation. […]
The team-related performance behaviors the Kong et al. researchers measured included communication, coordination, conflict resolution, and decision-making. Participants also rated their satisfaction with their team at the outset of the simulation, and completed a questionnaire that measured their own individual levels of agreeableness. […]
The question, then, was whether people who were more satisfied with their team would also perform at a higher level. But this did not emerge from the findings. Instead, team agreeableness became the key factor. Teams low in agreeableness showed a higher relationship between their initial satisfaction and their ultimate performance than did those teams high in agreeableness.”
In short, it seems that having at least one lovable crank on your side at work is helpful in maintaining a sense of perspective on the task at hand, and avoiding innovation-dulling consensus — a sort of “the Emperor has no clothes” situation. As is the case with most human relationships, when it comes to being nice at work, moderation is key; both to interpersonal harmony, and productivity!