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How to Work with a Boss Who’s Too Nice

May 8, 2014

Great Managers What The Office TV show is telling usPeople want a supervisor who is kind, encouraging of new ideas, and interested in their careers. This kind of boss shouldn’t be confused with one who’s too nice – who shies away from conflict, avoids sharing negative feedback, and gives in too easily. Conflict-averse managers can hurt your performance and career, so you must mitigate the potential damage.

  • Establish the right focus.  Make clear what you need and be concrete. Approach your manager from their perspective – what is their agenda? Describe the current state, ask your boss what the priorities are and what their immediate goal is for this task/work. Express concern if you don’t have the resources you need. Ask for insight if your boss is being too hands off, and make it easy for him to give feedback. Identify the costs of inaction or avoidance. Make the downsides evident, so your boss can weight the pros and cons of changing his/her behavior. Point to direct evidence, such as a team member’s disengagement.
  • Discuss Possibilities. Ask your boss what the best desired outcome is for him/her and what are some ways you and/or your boss can handle the situation. There is always more than one way to skin the cat! If you don’t see alignment, ask what is being left out, what is missing from the situation.
  • Discuss and Recap Actions Agreed Upon. As actions are identified and agreed upon, look for barriers to successful execution. Eliminate as many barriers to success as possible. Recap the final set of action items and who is doing them and when. Agree to follow up at a scheduled time (put in on both calendars.

Carl Nielson is an organizational development professional with expertise in building high performing teams, assessing talent for job fit and coaching high potentials and leaders and building manager skills that impact the bottom  line. He can be reached at 972.346.292. His website is

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