Our Joint Managing Director, Karen Ovenden, recently shared her thoughts on why she thinks we need ‘nice’ in business in a piece originally published on LinkedIn.

What does the word nice mean? In the business world I think ‘nice’ is a word that we need to bring back – not reinvent, not re-brand, not even change its essence. We just need to be better at understanding the strength of the word ‘nice’. To me, nice means operating in a fair and considerate manner, displaying integrity, being open and honest. Good manners in business are often lacking and they need to return.

We would potentially solve problems and find resolutions more quickly if we all become just a little more approachable and willing to develop our business manners.  I don’t just mean being nice on the surface. I think we should all attempt to demonstrate fair and nice attitudes to one another, nice habits both in front of our colleagues but as important behind the scenes. We could get so much more done in this world and achieve our goals more easily if we were all willing to adapt a ‘nicer’ way of behaving.

Unfortunately, from time to time, I have experienced rude, blunt, difficult and unpleasant experiences and exchanges. I would not be human if the pressure valve didn’t rise and anger begin to creep in, but I believe that reacting in a similar way does not really achieve very much.

As an employer, I try to practice what I preach. Here are three straightforward examples of how I do this:

Invest time in your people:

Sincerely caring about your staff is one of the most valuable things you can do. Taking the time to get to know them, taking an interest in their lives and understanding what makes them tick is so worthwhile. Learn about skills you never knew they had. Personal circumstances that might impact their work. Find out about their career goals and aspirations and how you can help them achieve them.

Here, my office door is always open, and the team know that I’m there for a chat and a cup of tea when they need me.

Say yes (when possible!):

Whether it’s flexible working, taking additional leave or a change of roles – I try to say yes, rather than think of reasons to say no. We offer flexible working to all employees – and many utilise it. When a colleague called me from his holiday asking to extend his leave for a once in a lifetime opportunity to climb a mountain, I agreed. Another team member takes time out every week to leave early for yoga.

Staff have moved roles internally and transitioned into different teams – and are thriving in their new positions. Being ‘nice’ enables me to say yes and come up with a solution, rather than construct barriers. I always try to take a 360-degree perspective. This approach rewards me with more loyal, happy staff and a ‘give and take’ approach, based on trust and flexibility – all rather ‘nice’ words!

Be firm but fair:

Demonstrating good manners and being ‘nice’ is a great quality. This is the same in our professional lives. Being considerate in the business world is essential and it doesn’t mean being a doormat. It doesn’t mean that I roll over just to keep the peace, it also doesn’t mean that I’m a yes person! It simply means that I believe we should all be considered, polite and demonstrate empathy. I will give measured feedback and it will be delivered in the right way.

We should all place a higher value on simply being ‘nice’. Being nice isn’t a weakness. And it certainly is something we ought to encourage – from our staff, and towards each other.

Thanks to Karen for this thought provoking piece! We hope it has given some inspiration in the kind of person you’d like to be in the workplace.

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Meet the Hireserve team

Find out about Karen and the Hireserve story

Read more about Karen’s recent change of role

About the author

Tristan Potter

From recruitment into central government, to financial services and the charitable sector, Leah has worked across many industries in her wide ranging career! Now working as Hireserve's Senior Marketing Executive, Leah covers all things marketing - from maintaining our social media channels to managing logistics for events across the country.