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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!

Sincerely,

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 in order to be nice at work without being a doormat. I had to face 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 an “I am not your doormat” doormat. It makes me smile every day I walk past it.

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