How To Be Nice At Work Without Being a Doormat

How To Be Nice At Work Without Being a Doormat

Dear Classy Career Girl,

Do you have any advice on how to adjust your coworkers’ perception of you? Over the past few years I have been working hard to “upgrade” my professional persona – i.e. be less of a doormat, more assertive and confident, etc. Since then I’ve gotten a promotion and professionally I’m doing well.

However – we just did one of those personality activities at work, and apparently my coworkers put me in that “relationship-focused, ideologue, wishy-washy” category. I was crushed. That’s not how I see myself at all, and not at all how I want to be viewed at work. I’m well-liked, I’m a nice person and pretty positive most of the time, and I won’t be mean to people, it’s not my nature. How do I maintain my general “nice” personality without being seen as emotional/wishy-washy/etc? Thank you in advance!


Nice But Not a Doormat

Dear Nice,

Congrats on the promotion! Good question. I get this question a lot. I think being more aware of how you want to be seen as is a great thing to be thinking about! Put a reminder note on your desk and just constantly remember how you want to come across- more assertive and more confident. I am like you – I have a nice personality but I have learned with time to be assertive when I have to otherwise I would get walked all over. For me, it took a lot of practice and putting myself into situations that I was scared of. I faced my fears head on.

I wouldn’t try to change anything about your nice personality but go after more opportunities that are tough that you are really scared about. And make sure you are always speaking your opinion. Maybe right now you go along with what everyone else says a lot? I would ask other people why they think you would be in that wishy-washy category. Ask for some honest feedback or send out a confidential survey so everyone can feel free to be honest and speak their mind. Just don’t get defensive if the responses are not what you wanted to hear. After you have done your information gathering, make a plan. You can ask someone to hold you accountable and tell you when you are appearing wishy washy at work. The more you practice, the easier it will become.  In my experience, the first time I spoke up and really shared my opinion and thoughts is when everything changed for me.

And remember there is NOTHING wrong about being relationship focused! That is actually one of the categories that women do really well at and some men and women prefer to have women managers just because they have those great relationship skills.  So think twice about some of those results coming off as negative and think about how they actually are positive instead. You may just be being too hard on yourself.

I hope these tips help you. Good luck!

Classy Career Girl

What are your tips for Nice But Not a Doormat?  How can she change her co-workers’ perception of her?

P.S. My neighbor really has the “I am not your doormat” doormat.  It still makes me smile everyday I walk past it….



About Anna Runyan

Anna Runyan has been helping women get their careers unstuck since 2008. She is known for “The Love Your Career Formula” which helps women find new careers they LOVE in 90 days or less and “The Corporate Rescue Plan” which helps women ditch their day jobs and start profitable, freedom-based online businesses in 90 days. Make sure you sign up for her Free ‘CHEAT SHEET’– 7 proven steps to get out of a job you hate and into a career you love.


  1. This is a great question and great response! I am the same way :( I feel like people don’t take me very seriously for this reason, but I work hard and try to find new opportunities. I am horrible at speaking up though because most of my coworkers have been here for at least 5 years whereas I have only been here for a little over a year. Is it okay to speak your mind all the time if you haven’t been here very long?

  2. Hi Nice but not doormat,
    I’d like to chip in my two cents. We get HBDI test for each our employees in my company. It helps us understand our strengths and weaknesses in thinking and help us understand each other. It sounds as if you might be Red and Yellow brain dominant which is OK. Most Red dominant people are more people and relationship oriented and Yellow dominant people tends to think future, big picture and can have great out of the box ideas. If this is you, please leverage your strengths! Depending on the field, this type of people is what is more common or not. If not, then definitely leverage it to bring different perspective in things. Sometimes, it is all in the articulation. There are always pros and cons and I agree with Anna, that all we need to do is identify and work on in.
    Hi Rachel, I have to admit I am one of those that could not shut up once I have a question or an opinion. While I do not push it, I definitely make someone aware (gently, on the side, depends on question and situation) of it so that I can have a better understanding and perspective within the company. That is, I believe, how you learn and grow in a company. Using that spirit, I was promoted twice in 2 years (of course, there are movements in department staff, but they won’t have given me the roles if they think I cannot do it). So yes, speak your mind and please do it humbly, subtly, vulnerably and NOT arrogantly.

  3. I am a freshman at Hampton University, and I am a very respectable and serious young lady. I ran across your blog and I fell in love. I have just recently started blogging, specifically for the younger girls(peer pressure, confidence,etc.) but when I came across your blog it was like a cold splash to the face. I love it

  4. Say no alot. NO. NO. NO thank you. NO. Most americans are doormats, passive aggressive, and too afraid to be politely blunt. NO. If you do not value yourself, no one will. Just say NO.

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