Great Managers Are Always Nice by Chip Averwater

Chapter 3

Always Nice?

Most managers can be pleasant when things are running smoothly, when everyone is doing their jobs, or when results are good.

But isn’t it understandable to be frustrated by dumb mistakes, repeated errors, and poor results—especially if we really care about our work and goals?

Yes, of course. Occasional frustration is inherent in a manager’s job.

But we don’t have to show it!

“A word in anger is never forgotten” applies especially to managers. Our team members take our words seriously and remember them long after we’ve forgotten them. A moment of frustration and unguarded emotion can permanently scar a relationship. Nothing we say or do can take our words back or make up for them.

Even when our anger isn’t directed at them, the scene is etched into their memories and reappears as a possibility in every interaction they have with us. They can never trust us not to do it again. We become like a potentially deadly bomb—regardless of how careful they may be not to set it off, the consequences of an explosion are too great to risk. So they keep their distance.

A manager who is always nice, however, teaches his people that they can trust him to respond calmly and respectfully. Team members are more comfortable interacting with him because they know what to expect.

They appreciate their manager’s patience as they learn new skills, and they know their mistakes will be met with understanding. They recognize that their manager supports them and encourages their growth and improvement. And they’re eager to help their manager and team achieve their goals.

 

I hired you and I believe in you. Work with me and I’ll help you succeed. Together we can accomplish great things.

—Mike Mitchell

So why aren’t more managers nice? Is it because…

…they’ve experienced authoritarian leadership from their teachers and managers?

…they’ve learned from their managers that a frustrating situation calls for a frustrated response?

…they feel their team members expect occasional unpleasantness from the manager?

…they’re insecure in their authority and think it’s helpful to show it occasionally?

…they believe an occasional display of unpleasantness proves their seriousness of purpose?

Or is it because they don’t know how to be nice in every situation? They’ve simply never seen it done.