Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Verdict Is In: I'm "Too Nice"

As you know, I was recently one of two finalists for a Director position at a local non-profit that creates programs designed to decrease bullying and violence and increase kids' social skills. I'd heard from the other finalist (who turned out to be a friend and cohort... and who ultimately turned down the job) that there were 140 candidates for the position. As you can imagine, I was left to wonder, once he turned down the job, why it wasn't offered to me. So I contacted the CEO as well as the executive search firm involved in the recruiting process and requested that they provide me with an honest assessment regarding why they're starting the search process over again rather than offering me the position.

I asked for honesty and I got it. I am, it turns out, "too nice." Apparently people wanted to work with me but felt that I might not be assertive enough in an executive capacity in which I'd be called on to sometimes take an unpopular stance, to reprimand and fire when necessary, and to push staff past their comfort zones on occasion.

I took notes. Here it is:

  • I'm too nice
  • I tend to downplay myself and my skills
  • I'm not assertive enough
  • I "give away my power"
  • I came across stronger and more assertive in my one-on-one with the CEO than with the staff
None of this was a huge surprise. I've heard it before. I do tend to be more of a "one of the team" manager and I try to motivate more through inspiration than intimidation. I left after my six hour interview with the staff feeling that I had projected my true self, so that's good. But obviously that's not what this organization was looking for, and actually I can see why. This will be a very challenging position and the person who fills it will need to be a bit more of a heavy hand than I can muster. So they made the right choice in not offering me the position.

Still, I must admit that it does sting a bit.

So where do I go from here? As I see it, I have two choices: learn to be more "bossy" and executive-like or pursue positions that don't require executive management, but rather call on my project (and people) management skills... and I know those are strong. I can't be anyone I'm not, and maybe I'm just not executive management material.

I'm OK with that. Really, I am.


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Unknown said...

I'm sorry. Being nice can suck, huh?

Dixie said...

Boy. That's sad when being nice is somehow a negative thing.

I'm sorry this has happened.

Anonymous said...

Well, sometimes it's good to be turned down for the not 'just right' jobs so that you're free when the right job comes along.

That's great that you pursued and got an answer to why you weren't offered the job. Otherwise, you'd always wonder. Hopefully, being nice will be an asset in the job you do get.

blackcrag said...

I think I have the same problem. Except I am already in a position where I need to drop a hammer once in a while.

I think we can both be as authoritative as we need to be, when the occasion demands it. But until then, why have your employees quake in fear everytime you walk past them?

Betsy said...

Aww, Carol! It's tough to get turned down for any position, but being nice is not a bad thing!

That's actually one of the things that keeps me coming back to your blog-- in a world of snarky, angry people it's refreshing to read your posts because you seem to really enjoy life and your kids and well, actually, because you're nice! I really like that!

And I'm with Lilly-- sometimes it's good to be turned down for the "not just right" jobs.

Can you imagine going to a job every day where you had to be cutthroat or overly assertive? That would eat you up inside and undermine your self confidence. Or that would happen to me, at least. But then again, maybe I'm too "nice"... ;-)

Anonymous said...

Maybe you're just not cut out for THAT PARTICULAR executive management position. There are leadership positions that require someone who is capable of being "cut-throat" but not all positions require that; if you keep plugging at it you're bound to find a position that fits you.

Rebecca said...

yeah well - sometimes the people who do manage to get those jobs are not really all that nice.

Anonymous said...

I agree with zee - that executive position/place may not have been the perfect fit, but maybe another one will. One that wants someone nice.

I'm glad you're not tempted to become evil to get a job.

And I also think it's an interesting opportunity to reflect on how you can demonstrate/articulate your abilities to take the tough stances, etc. in future interviews for similar positions. Assuming that you'd like to work in a similar position!

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