WORKING ABROAD / FEB. 26, 2014
version 4, draft 4

Obsolete Business Proverbs #4 – “Nice Guys Finish Last”

To neatly wrap up my little four part series seeking to banish the relevance and influence of some unforgivingly out-of-date business-oriented proverbs that have enjoyed far too long at the forefront of the universal corporate psyche, I have opted to discuss the very well known saying “Nice Guys Finish Last”. Perhaps the most well-known of the four (previous: “Grow or Die”, “The Customer is Always Right”, “Failure is not an Option”), I believe this proverb to have being doing some serious damage in business circles of late.

Essentially acting to set a division between those in business who are ‘good’ and those who are ‘bad’, the term is misleading to those working within profit-making organisations and mis-interpretive to those communicating with them from the outside. Everyone has the capacity to be nice, just as everyone has the capacity not to be nice. Just what is meant by the (terribly bland, as my English teacher once assured me) word in this context is as follows: pleasant to customers and associates alike; also sensitive to the needs and desires of both.

“But, Being Nice Impedes Results!”

This is the rallying cry of business men and women past who sought to make sure that positive human nature was excluded from competitive business at all cost. In the current context, being nice does not (or at least should not) encumber your achievements or projections in any way at all. In fact, it should do quite the opposite- this is a world of convenience and mass availability/communication after all.

This phrase is so well known on account of the fact that it is applied to more than just one area of life. Made relevant to the male struggle with the fairer sex just as it is to career-based pursuit and progress, the essence of “nice guys finish last” is fundamentally damaging. It actively encourages people to be, well, whatever the opposite of nice is. As after all, who likes finishing last?

Unpleasant People Hurt

The bottom line here is that unpleasantness is likely to do more to damage a business, organisation or individual operating in the modern market- simply because reputation counts for a whole lot more now than it ever has in the past. Given the fact that we all live, work and will ultimately die in what is a networked world; we should care a little more about the way others perceive us –don’t you think?

Unpleasantness does more than hurt the feelings (or perhaps more relevantly the egos) of people in the business world. It acts to damage the bonds and ties between entire organisations, which in a world off mass convenience, outsourcing and instant communication, could cost a business dearly.

Displaying generosity in exchange for likeability is far more important than to be callous in exchange for efficiency, loyalty or anything else. In this spirit, I propose that our new proverb be something a little less tenacious than its predecessor. How does “Nice Guys Get the Job Done” sit with you lot?

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