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The Power of Nice

The Power of Nice

This past weekend a rough looking middle-aged woman deliberately threw a rather large plastic cup full of soda out of her car window onto a retail store parking lot as we walked by. Realizing the unkempt woman littered on purpose, my wife said to her, “you dropped your cup.”  In a very hateful tone the litterbug shot back, “come over here and pick it up!”  A trash can was simply four or five steps away from the rude woman’s car door but she refused to do the right thing, trashed our environment with her uncleanliness and her unsightly rudeness.

What has happened to basic courtesy? When did it become okay to simply throw your trash out the car window while driving down the highway. When did it become okay to yell, scream and curse at other drivers on the road?  This same lack of courtesy has crept into the workplace as well.

Why do some managers find it acceptable to yell or curse at employees?  Why do some organizations allow fear and intimidation to be used as a management tool? Even non-profit groups, churches and Christian organizations have not been immune to the disease of mean.

One time I observed a blustery executive respond to a subordinate who simply asked a good question, “I am not telling you again because I didn’t stutter the first time,” the impatient executive stated to the employee who was visibly shaken by the rude response.  How creative and innovative do you think that supervisor’s employees were?

A majority of professionals will display trust, dignity and respect among subordinates, peers and leaders.  However, there are those difficult ones who create toxic work environments due to their refusal to treat people nicely.  They litter the workplace with their toxic behavioral trash. Their behavior and demeanor smells and makes people sick.

The Power of Nice is a great book written by advertising executives Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval showing “how to conquer the business world with kindness.”  I highly recommend the brief 119 page book to all my clients, leaders and future leaders. We have all heard the adage “nice guys finish last.” Actually, this is far from the truth.  Sure, mean managers get significant press time.  But according to the authors, “The Power of Nice shows that ‘nice’ companies have lower employee turnover, lower recruitment costs, and higher productivity.  Nice people live longer, are healthier, and make more money.”

The authors Thaler and Koval go on to say, “companies and people with a reputation for cooperation and fair play forge the kind of relationships that lead to bigger and better opportunities, both in business and life.  But nice doesn’t mean acting wimpy. In fact, nice may be the toughest four-letter word you’ll ever experience,” say the authors.

Building great workplaces is not complicated work. Treating employees with dignity, trust and respect is not rocket science. Being nice, respectful and caring is powerful. These qualities are not the tools of a wimpy leader.  These are the qualities of a focused and successful leader who does not need to ruin lives while climbing the corporate ladder or building a successful company.

Will you join The People Group in making a commitment to create a trusting, respectful and caring work environment where you work?  It makes sense.  It’s the right thing to do.  And you will be financially better for it.

Kevin Kennemer is founder of The People Group based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Kevin is driven by his passion for company owners and their need to earn a profit, employees' desire for a positive and fulfilling work experience, and the community that benefits when both groups do well.


  1. Audrina 16 years ago

    As a friend of mine once said, “You attract more flies with honey.” Even though we have a tightening job market, the truth of the matter is that highly skilled, well-rounded and educated individuals still have a multitude of choices out there in the market place. It costs nothing to treat individuals with dignity, respect and decency no matter what their occupation and pays in handsome dividends in the long run. The most effective leaders and individuals I work with practice “The Power of Nice”. Great article.

  2. Bryan 16 years ago

    I was in a McDonald’s a couple of days ago. The service was beyond awful, and as I approached the counter, I quickly discovered why. The girl at the register smiled but looked as though she would rather be anywhere else – so did everyone else. The manager lady then yelled at her, “Why don’t you just tend to your register and leave the fries alone?!” and then proceeded to ask the rest of her staff, “I mean, come on! What’s wrong with all of you people?” Real classy, I thought.

    I think the differences in managers and leaders is just that. I think any idiot can manage a place, run a fierce competition with other branches/competitors/churches/etc. I think real leaders are those who will go beyond competition and really create their workplaces. Competitive workplaces will always have high turnover rates; creative workplaces – those that make safe and advancement-ready environments for employees – will always have an abundance of happy workers.

    Great blog, and I’ll give the book a read.

  3. Kevin 16 years ago

    Audrina, I really enjoyed your comments. If you want people to be loyal to your company, your vision, your cause, your mission, treat them well. It is not a sign of weakness to be nice. Weakness is losing control of your emotions so much that employees have to guess each morning which boss is going to show up each day; the good boss or evil boss. Good bosses who treat people fairly are the winners in the long run. Thanks for participating.

  4. Thank you so much for your kind words about The Power of Nice. We’re always glad to hear such positive feedback and to see that it resonates with other people.

    Stay nice!

    Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

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