“Nice guys finish last.” That well-worn statement was attributed more than 60 years ago to major league baseball manager Leo (The Lip) Durocher, the inference being that a nasty, ruthless approach is more likely to succeed than a gentler one.
Durocher claimed he was misquoted, but no matter, the words have endured, and are still used to describe an attitude commonly found in many situations, whether on the sports field or the workplace. And it is something all managers and supervisors should consider carefully.
For one thing, nice guys, and gals, don’t always finish last. And nasty ones most certainly don’t always finish first. Being nice doesn’t necessarily mean being meek or too willing to try and please everyone. Indeed, there’s a solid body of opinion that those who are assertive as well as good-natured, are much more likely to inspire employee productivity and loyalty.
Assertiveness is one of three general styles of communication and behaviour, the others being aggressiveness and passiveness.
The passive person is perhaps the most prone to managerial failure. He or she will try to avoid confrontation, and although polite and a good listener, often does not instill a lot of confidence among subordinates.
The aggressive personality, meanwhile, is forceful, domineering, and frequently, loud.
Since good supervision is, in large measure, about good attitude, the aim should be assertiveness without belligerence or inflexibility.
There are times, of course, when being aggressive is necessary, and the line between its positive and negative aspects is not always clear. Here are some negative aspects of an aggressive attitude:
• Eye contact often consists of glaring or staring.
• Controls conversations, paying little heed to the opinions of others.
• Intimidates through gestures and other forms of body language.
• Insists that things be done his or her way.
• Has difficulty keeping temper in check.
Being passionate about your job is admirable, but getting it done properly can require tempering that passion, especially if it depends on how well others perform their jobs.
Assertive managers or supervisors will be very clear about their opinions and expectations. However, they will express them politely and listen objectively to what others have to say.
They expect nothing less than the best from employees, but are willing to consider sincere explanations when things do not measure up. They look for solutions, not someone to blame. And they are not afraid to admit having made a faulty decision.
The assertive individual knows (or learns fairly quickly) how to compromise without caving in, how to show confidence, not hostility, and how to be persistent, but not obnoxious.
All of this might seem quite obvious. Frequently though, we do not see ourselves as others do. What may seem to be a very firm and positive approach on your part could well be perceived as overbearing and insensitive.
Aggression is not just a basic personality trait, nor is it always bad. It can result from stress, frustration and dissatisfaction. If you feel you might indeed be overly aggressive, consider the possible causes and look for ways to channel or control your aggressive impulses.
You’re more likely to finish first by earning respect than by demanding it.