Get more of the work you love by building relationships of common purpose.

By Carolyn Campbell

Many businesses and organizations that downsized are now feeling the strain and hiring again. Many individuals who put off Self care are reaching out and seeking services that will help them get back on track.

The good news: The number of exciting opportunities for job seekers, consultants, and self-employed service providers is steadily increasing.

The challenge: Many people are trying too hard to please their prospective employer or client by presenting an overly-polite attitude of accommodation, rather than creating a relationship of equality and shared mission. Curiously, this is the worst time to be too nice.


People want to make sure they spend their dollars wisely. They want to ensure that the person they hire (in whatever form) will truly serve them. When people are too ‘nice’, it doesn’t generate confidence and trust in their ability to lead, assess or assert when needed.

Whether we know it or not, we associate overly nice with compliant. When someone seems eager to “go along” and politely agree, it gives the impression that he or she will be reluctant to address important questions or challenges or provide substantive, valuable contributions.

The business world is steadily moving away from the hierarchical corporate model. Everyone within an organization or in a business relationship can play an innovative role in contributing to change and growth. What’s important (whether you are applying for a position or offering your services) is that you demonstrate your ability to understand a need and offer potential solutions. The challenge for many—both career seekers and business owners—is that they are still mired in employee mind.

What is ‘employee mind’?

‘Employee mind’ is the value system that tells us to hold a careful, cautious position and convey an obedient attitude. We display employee mind when we politely agree with others then figure out how to accommodate their position. I’ve noticed that most cover letters, consulting inquiries and preliminary consultations are far too polite and, well, nice.

When I asked a client about her cover letter, she commented, “I don’t want to not ‘fit’ what they’re looking for, so instead I stay vague and timid.” As we began to compose a more assertive, ‘bragging’ version, she exclaimed, “I can’t write this! They’ll think I’m nuts.”

Ah! When I hear the words, “They’ll think I’m nuts”, I know that we are about to take on some core beliefs.

“Hmmm…” was my response. “Which version is most honest about what you really want?” A few days later I received her rewrite. Eureka! She wrote with clarity and conviction and engaged them with her keen perceptions and interest. Within a day she received a response from the department manager wanting to arrange an interview.

My client was stunned. Her response: “Wow! This is so much easier than being so nice.”

We have been so conditioned to beat around the bush and be ‘nice’ that being direct and transparent is a refreshing change for all concerned. And not to worry—I’m not suggesting that you change your personality. Not at all. In fact, I find that people who have been ‘nice’ because they believed they had to be are really relieved to find a different way. The starting place is owning what you do and why you do it—not being afraid to claim your strengths, and also not being afraid to say if something isn’t a good fit (rather than attempting to mold every response to accommodate the other person).

Whether you are a career seeker or a business owner (or, well, anyone), if you aren’t getting the work (or the ‘gigs’) you want, you might ask yourself,

Where am I:

  1. Beating around the bush?
  2. Being too nice, cautious and careful?
  3. Being passive and submissive rather than creating a connection of common purpose?
  4. Afraid that if I say what I really know to be true they will be offended?

I’ve found that once overly ‘nice’ people step into their personal truth and leadership, they are some of the best connectors! Their achievements begin to soar. And they always say…really, it’s so easy.

Yes. It is.

Carolyn Campbell has more than 30 years’ experience working with non-profit and for-profit businesses. In creative and connecting ways, Carolyn melds her expertise in community outreach, education and business development to help clients expand their reach and increase their impact…using their unique approach to life. Her areas of specialty include leadership, visioning, outreach and community building.