There’s a pervasive stereotype that being nice at work means you’re a pushover. If you’re too nice, startup investor and long-time media executive Fran Hauser says people think “you’re a pushover, you’re a people-pleaser, you’re weak.”
But in her new book, “The Myth of the Nice Girl,” Hauser argues that “when you’re nice at work, it’s actually a superpower” because it helps you build relationships, which are the key to career success.
Of course, there’s a big difference between being nice at work and letting your co-workers and boss walk all over you — AKA being a pushover.
Here are seven signs that you might be a pushover at work — and what to do about it.
1. You have a hard time saying “no” to people.
One of the easiest ways to tell if you’re a pushover at work is if “you feel guilty if you say no to a request to do something (or you’re actually unable to say no),” Pong said.
If you try to do too much in order to please everyone, it won’t ultimately turn out well.
You might say ‘yes’ without even realizing that doing so could cause your work to suffer overall, career coach Ashley Stahl said.
“The irony is that this person is the one that will burn out the fastest, and all their temptation to say ‘yes’ could eventually turn into low performance that completely undermines their shine,” Stahl told INSIDER.
2. Your coworkers ask you to help get their work done.
It’s not a good sign if your job feels like a high school group project — where you suddenly find yourself doing all the work while other people slack off.
Pong said if, “you’re the person that everyone goes to at the last minute when they need something done because they know you will sacrifice your time, energy, and other plans to get it done,” it could be an indication that you’re seen as a pushover.
If you continue to take on more than your share of work, you might start to “feel resentful that you’re being asked to do more work than others, that you get stuck with more of the things no one else wants to do,” she said.
Women in particular struggle with this, according to Sweidan.
“There is also a very clear line between being helpful and being subservient,” Sweidan said. “Women (and men) have been socialized into thinking that it’s a woman’s role to take care of everyone. So, if you’re one of the few women in the office, and your male colleagues are looking at you as the one who’s going to get the coffee, and you are obliging when that is not your job, then you have crossed that line.”
3. You’re constantly trying to prove yourself.
Do you feel like you’re constantly working so hard to prove yourself, but you never get any recognition for it?
It might be the case that “you’re always trying to do more to please or ‘prove yourself’ to others at work,” but you “feel like you’re a ‘sucker’ at work and no one respects you or your time,” Pong said.
You might even see coworkers you started with being awarded and promoted ahead of you.
4. You say “sorry” all the time — for no real reason.
This is one many people struggle with, including Hauser.
When she realized how often she said “sorry” for trivial things, Hauser decided to start replacing the word with what she really meant.
“Really what I’ve found is, when I really thought about what I was trying to say, it was really ‘thank you’ in a lot of situations,” Hauser told INSIDER. “It was more like, ‘thank you for inviting me’ or ‘thank you for reaching out’ as opposed to going to, ‘I’m so sorry I can’t make it’ or ‘Sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you.'”
Hauser said she soon found that it was a stronger and more positive way of communicating.
5. You don’t speak up or give your opinion.
Do you avoid giving your opinion because you don’t want to upset anyone? That’s not being “nice” — it’s trying to please everyone by quashing your own valid viewpoints.
“You routinely silence yourself and your opinions because you want people to like you and you avoid confrontation,” Pong said.
6. You only give completely positive feedback.
If you do happen to speak up at work, it doesn’t count if you “sugar coat anything you have to say that could be perceived as critical,” Pong said.
This doesn’t mean you should be constantly criticizing people, but you’re allowed to have an opinion.
7. You take your self-deprecating jokes too far.
Another indication of a pushover is taking humility way too far.
“While it may seem funny and comforting to others in the beginning — as you try and make others not feel threatened by you — you undermine your abilities in order to not sound like a brag or too ambitious,” Sweidan said. “Because then you’ll be perceived as aggressive, and women want to avoid that at all costs.”
Making too many self-deprecating comments can be damaging, she added.
“Others will start to perceive you in the negative light you’re presenting yourself and it can directly impact your performance and relationships at work,” Sweidan said.