4 ways to stop being nice inside our nonprofits

What is wrong with being nice?

Nice is keeping us stuck in toxic workplaces, when we don’t name our needs, in the name of being “nice.”

Why do I say this?

Look around! How many burnt out folks do you know?

WHY are they so burnt out?

Why do we see, year after year, people getting out of the nonprofit sector, because of the environment of martyrdom, workaholism, and being selfless to the point of hurting yourself?

This is why we need to stop being nice in our nonprofits. Lane Moore says, burnout doesn't only come from working too much. It can also come from not being fairly compensated, having your efforts go unappreciated, and navigating abuse and exploitation in ur industry.

It’s not just about burnout- “nice” causes a breakdown of trust

Recently I was talking with an executive director who expressed her frustration with people talking behind each other’s backs in her nonprofit.

Why do we do this?

Is it because we think we can’t be “nice” if we’re honest about how we actually feel and what we actually want?

How did we get here?

I would like to quote the late great Anne Schaef (RIP) author of “When Society Becomes an Addict” and say that our nonprofits are run by our addictions. Not our addictions to substances necessarily- but our addictions to toxic coping strategies.

  • Our addictions to work-
  • Our addictions to praise-
  • Our addictions to the various behaviors of codependency.

Is it possible that it’s not just one person’s problem, but that our whole system in North America is condoning these behaviors?

WHY would that be?

Because… addictive relationships are everywhere. They start at home- But they are reinforced by dominance culture and white supremacy.

Here’s where the culture of being nice begins. Let’s break it down.

In dominance culture, it’s all about power and control.

  • The family tries to control the addict,
  • The addict tries to control the family,
  • The spouse tries to control against being controlled,
  • Everyone is involved in some sort of manipulative behavior.

Addictive relationships are founded on the illusion of control.

So love is either controlling or being controlled.

stop being nice. It's not ok if you have to go back to the office. Reasons why your boss wants you to return to the office:  - to control you -that's it that's the list.

Frozen Feelings

In an addictive or abusive environment, the family tries to cater to the needs of the addict or abuser. And childrens needs are ignored. When your needs are routinely ignored, you might have disconnected from your own needs so much that you don’t know what you need or want.

When you don’t know what you want to do, and just wait for others to tell you, you slip into a pattern of frozen feelings-being unaware of how you feel or what you want.

If you grow up knowing something is wrong in your family, and the family continues to pretend everything is fine- suddenly you’re not sure what is real.

If this happens to you, then you gradually come to distrust your own perceptions and feelings. Manipulation becomes normal, and that includes pretending everything is fine. The surface image is more important than the abuse actually happening.

If you’re unconscious of this coping strategy, you are lying to yourself, lying to others and lying to the world under the guise of being NICE.

This leads to codependent behavior- and the culture of “nice” instead of honesty.

Rather than coming right out and saying what they want, codependent people use devious and indirect means. (Like talking behind people’s backs.)

Dishonesty is the norm in an addictive system.

Asking a question when you want to make a statement is just one example.

Asking “What do you want to do?” instead of telling someone “This is what I want to do” is dishonest.

Here are 4 ways that we are NICE inside of our nonprofits:

  1. Dishonesty can be viewed as niceness, righteousness, correctness, or ability to be understanding.
  2. Talk ABOUT a person, not to them.
  3. Avoid facing an issue if at all possible.
  4. Use rumor, innuendo and gossip to manipulate others and cause confusion.

If we do this, when we really need to be direct with our communication- it’s counterproductive for getting anyone’s needs met. The only thing you accomplish is perpetuating a broken system. How do you get beyond this pattern of codependency and addiction?

How do you stop being nice and overcome this codependency?

  1. Next time you WANT to do something, SAY IT instead of asking someone else what they want to do.
  2. Talk TO the person you have the problem with.
  3. FACE the issue head-on, and discuss it NOW, not LATER
  4. Simply walk up to the person you are having the conflict with- and say, HEY. What do you think I could do to build trust with you?

Have you ever noticed a pattern of codependency or too much “NICENESS” in your nonprofit?

Please leave a comment!

Related posts:

Are you trauma-bonded to your job?

What if your nonprofit is the villian?

Why Resisting Work Works

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