Companies promoting a 'culture of niceness' could actually be doing employees a disservice, one NYU professor said.
Workers can't progress if their colleagues are too nice to speak about their weaknesses.
Loyalty and niceness at work are becoming outdated as companies lay off thousands.
Most people are looking for a "nice" workplace culture as a bare minimum when they're job hunting, but one professor warned that too much niceness might actually be an indicator of toxicity.
Tessa West, a psychology professor at New York University, told CNBC Make It that in recent years there's been a huge push towards a culture of "well-being and niceness at work," likely fueled by the pandemic as workers no longer want to put up with toxic environments and were emboldened to quit.
However, some companies are taking this too far by prioritizing politeness over constructive criticism, according to West.
"What ends up happening is, we've somehow pitted niceness against clear communication and confrontation, even when it's necessary," she explained to CNBC. "There's this false dichotomy of: If you're critical, that means you are toxic. Positive feedback? That's what people want."
She added: "Nice isn't always better. Sometimes nice is a cop-out."
One of the "biggest red flags for a culture of niceness" is when there's no "psychological safety" to speak about people's strengths and weaknesses, West said.
Generic, friendly remarks like "they're lovely" about colleagues could suggest that there isn't room for honesty and candidness, according to West.
This atmosphere of niceness is akin to companies who say workers are like family, which is commonly viewed as toxic because it promotes the mindset of sacrificing your well-being for your job.
As major companies in the US have laid off thousands of employees in the past year, workers have become disenchanted with the idea of loyalty toward organizations.
Being too nice or loyal at work can actually backfire as seen by the layoffs, but also because a lack of boundaries may infringe on your mental health and wellbeing.
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