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  • Writer's picturethriveinc

Say No! To Nice or Polite!

CrisMarie and I have worked with 100’s of leaders and teams. During a team offsite, the most common team norm tossed out is: “to be respectful in conflict.”

Let me just say right from the jump, “respect” does not have a universal definition. So as a team norm there is already a clarity issue!

Quick example: I like feedback positive or negative in real-time in team meetings. I think that shows respect. When I don’t get real-time feedback, and hear later from my teammate, that I was “rambling” or “ineffective,” I think that is disrespectful.

A teammate, on a board I am on, thinks “real-time” feedback in a meeting is disrespectful. He prefers feedback after the meeting and one-on-one. When he gets feedback during the meeting he thinks I am being disrespectful.

Clearly “respect” is not universal enough, unless of course we simply decide one of us is wrong. Somehow that seems even more “disrespectful.”

So we always ask teams to clarify that answer and define “respect.”

The two most common responses are: (you probably guessed it!!)

  • To be polite

  • To be nice

These are team effectiveness killers!


When teammates are nice or polite, they are usually holding back. That is not helpful for team, and will quickly undermine a team’s performance, as well as, a leader’s effectiveness.

Sure, sometimes the truth stings. However, wouldn’t you prefer getting the feedback from a teammate than say from a client? performance reviewer? or worse a coach brought in from the outside to tell you that your people are struggling with your style? (Yes, too often I have been paid to deliver the message a “nice and polite” team or leader would not!!)

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting “rude and mean” become the alternative.

My suggestion is that teams aim for “real and messy,” with a commitment to clean up the mess!

Don’t let your team fall prey to “nice and polite!” Instead:

  • Step in.

  • Say what’s real and true.

  • Clean it up, if you mess it up!

That is the fastest way to build team trust and have healthy conflict.

Plus, it’s what I think is a great definition of respect!

CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Check out their website: Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.

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