You Don’t Have To Be Nice

Nice Girl Career Advice

I saw a post on Instagram this week that said that the best career advice they could give is to “be a fucking pleasure to work with”. I had feelings about this.

Women are taught to be “nice” in the workplace. We try hard to make people like us – much more than we try to do a good job. Sugar and spice and all things nice, is what we’re told to be.

A “nice” worker says yes to more tasks even she knows she already has a full plate. She takes on overtime without complaint. She frets that a colleague might not like her.

I would say that I am a pleasure to work with. I have a folder in my Outlook of praise emails from people who love working with me. But I am not “nice”. Nice girls don’t get the corner office.

Studies have shown that women need to walk a fine line between confident, competent and nice in order to get ahead. Men just need to be competent.

Ladies, it’s time to stop being nice.

I’ve got some tips on how I have worked on being less “nice” at work, leaving room for more confidence.

Stop saying sorry

HOW many times a day do we say sorry when we don’t need to? Every time you say (or type!) “sorry” check in with yourself. Did you need to have apologised? Did you do something wrong? If not, find ways to work around it.

For example, I will rarely say “sorry for the late reply” now, instead I say “thank you for your patience”. It’s not my fault I didn’t reply; I was busy. And small tweaks like this will stop you being nice and instead make you seem stronger.

You might even like to make note of the times you say sorry, and then afterwards see if you could turn it around into something different.

Manage your workload

I’ve absolutely written about this before as it’s one of the things that I have found the most useful.

In previous roles, despite me being very busy myself to the point of struggling to complete tasks, I would take on YET MORE tasks from bosses to help them with their load. The result was that I did none of the tasks very well.

Instead of taking on more, do the things you already have on your plate really well. If you’re asked to do more, say “I can do that, but it would mean that I will have to step away from XYZ for a bit and complete that at a later date”. Being transparent about your workload isn’t a bad thing.

Managing your workload means that you know you can do each task with excellence. Doing ALL the tasks will leave you overworked, stressed, and without time and energy to do well.

Come up with mini goals to stay focused

You don’t have to have massive goals to dominate your sector. You don’t even have to plan your progression.

However, having mini goals that you want to achieve can help you break through nice and onto things you want to get done. When you’re upset that someone has walked over you, talked over you or piled extra work onto you, the fire in you to meet your mini goals will encourage you to stand up for yourself, say no to unnecessary tasks and to cut the crap.

Power dress

Now, I don’t want to be old-fashioned with this. That’s not what this is about, because each workplace is different. You don’t have to wear heels, you don’t have to wear trouser suits.

If you’re trying to break out of Nice Girl Land then you need to not be dressing like a nice girl. Wear things that make you feel more powerful. Wear things that make you stand out. It could be a bright shirt or a jazzy pair of earrings. Some shoes that match your top, or a jacket that has perfect tailoring.

Power dressing is a message to yourself as much as it is to those around you; you mean business. You take no shit and you’re bloody brilliant.


Are you a nice girl at work? Do you have any non-nice girl tips? Let me know in the comments!

how to stop being a nice girl



  1. Getting rid of “sorry” from your vocabulary is a fantastic place to start, I’ve found. It’s amazing how rephrasing the things we’re conditioned to say sorry to – while still being polite and professional! – completely changes your mindset.

    Dressing like a five-year-old has actually worked in my favour in my professional life, it makes me pretty memorable. I guess I’ve adopted the standing out part of your philosophy wholeheartedly!


    • I’m completely for dressing memorably! I started learning to do it when I worked in Japan; I’d wear jewellery with animals on it (I had giraffes, fish, elephants…) to break the ice with the students. Now, I probably only get to see the same students once in a blue moon so I need to stand out and be “cool” so they trust me.
      Sounds like you’re already kicking butt at work! xx

  2. I think being a pleasure to work with is something that *everyone* should aspire to, not just women. And I don’t mean in the sense of being “nice”, taking on all the work, not standing up for yourself, but being polite and friendly to the people you work with. Not taking your bad day out on colleagues who have nothing to do with it. Saying no to extra work but without being rude about it – your example of saying “I can do that, but…” is a good one. Or you could say “If it isn’t urgent I can do it next week”. And if you’re the one who wants somebody to do extra work ask them politely, don’t just expect them to immediately jump for you. I am much more likely to willingly do overtime if a colleague says “Would you mind working a few extra hours this week so we can accept this urgent job” than if they say “I’ve planned this for you, so you’ll have to stay longer today”. I definitely have colleagues who I would not describe as “nice” in the sense of this post… they don’t fret about being liked, are happy to say straight out if they don’t like something, etc. but I find working with them a pleasure because they don’t expect others to do their work for them, treat colleagues with respect, can express their opinion without any name calling or blaming other people…
    Confuzzled Bev recently posted…Recent doings #41My Profile

    • I completely agree. I think we should be getting men to look over how pleasant they go about interacting with their colleagues. Very few people are taught how to engage properly and I see people around me all the time speaking with people in a way that gets their backs up.

  3. I think the biggest thing is, take up space while being a delight. If you think “being a pleasure to work with” means “make yourself and your contributions seem smaller” you’re coming at it from the wrong angle (because the allocishet white patriarchy telling you so). Being a pleasure to work with to me has always meant:
    – Be good at your job (and find ways to get better if you aren’t)
    – Contribute to the best of your ability (which also means having an opinion and asserting it)
    – Be someone who solves problems rather than creates them where none exist
    – Be respectful and demand your due respect so there are no uncomfortable power imbalances where none should exist.
    – Connect with the people you work with.

    I think it’s easy to feel like the most “pleasant” version of ourselves is the smallest, the quietest, the most compliant, especially if you are a woman or of any marginalized identities. There are definitely downsides to “stepping into your power” and claiming your right to take up space so I get why people don’t do it. But I also think “Be a pleasure to work with” is sound advice depending on how you read it.

  4. I agree! Nice means people think you’re a pushover. Setting your boundaries means people will respect you and not take you for granted. As well as removing sorry from emails, I took ‘just’ out a little while ago. “I’m just getting in touch…” sounds like you are apologising for taking up space. Removing it makes you instantly more assertive. And you can still use please and thank you 👍

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