You can’t help it, deep down you’re a good person. You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it – people like you.

Be careful.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of situations where “nice” is completely warranted. But as a manager of people….don’t let “nice” blind your judgment. There are at least 3 specific situations where nice guys really do complicate matters:

1. Performance Reviews – No surprise here, I’m sure. It’s the end of the year, reviews are due, the Holidays are quickly approaching…who wants to ruin someone’s Christmas break? It’s amazing how many bets are hedged at year-end. Our memory becomes more selective, we become sentimental, and suddenly “Fully Meets Expectations” seems to be a perfectly reasonable rating for an employee whose performance was anything but acceptable. This, of course, leads to the natural consequence of….

2. Merit Increases – Nothing indicates the objectivity of a manager more than his/her respective spread in merit increases. Ratings, schmatings, if you want to modify behavior, use your carrots. Unfortunately, too many managers convince themselves that a merit increase is synonymous with “cost of living adjustment.” Merit increases are rewards – thus, they are most effectively used as a reward for your key performers. The dread some managers feel about the reaction of their poor performers can oftentimes result in an entirely different message to your top performers, i.e. “Everyone gets the same raise, performance doesn’t matter.” Don’t expect that message to be tolerated for too long.

3. Promotions – This one gets really tricky. How many times have you seen this situation play out? Internal candidates vying for an open management position (or otherwise elevated in title/scope/pay), a choice is made to offer someone a “chance” at the position rather than hire the most talented candidate? “Chuck’s been here 15 years, he’s bid on every management position, if we don’t give him this one, he’s probably going to leave.” From a 3rd-party perspective, it’s easy to see the faulty logic ~ you’ve just decided to promote someone based on a negative reaction they may have to being passed-over. Meanwhile the hot-shot HiPo candidate is rejected so the hiring manager can sleep better at night. (SPOILER ALERT: This decision will not only be bad for the promoted individual, it may impact the hiring manager’s future as well.)

It’s a real pickle, isn’t it? Nice, likable people are the fabric of successful teams, companies, and families. This isn’t a call to be less “nice.” It’s a call for leaders to make decisions that are fair to the people who may be more deserving. If a manager continues to confuse “nice” with “guilt-avoidance,” the end result will not be so………….nice?