MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXVII No. 2
November / December 2014
Issues in Considering the Future
of MIT Education
Four New Members Elected to
FNL Editorial Board
The Future of MIT Education
Preventing and Addressing Sexual Misconduct at MIT: A Faculty Primer
Reflecting on "All Doors Open"
Are We Moving Toward a Two-Class
Research-Education Society at MIT?
8.02 TEAL+x: Students Say "Yes"
to MITx in 8.02 TEAL
Addressing Student Mental Health Issues
at MIT
Advising Undergraduates or Teaching a
CI-H/HW Subject? New Enrollment Tools Can Help
Transforming Student Information Systems
The A2 Problem Set in
Undergraduate Education
Work-Life Center Announces Senior Planning Benefit and Seminar Series
The Alumni Class Funds Seek Proposals for Teaching and Education Enhancement
Being "Nice" at MIT
from the 2014 survey "Community Attitudes on Sexual Assault"
from the 2014 survey "Community Attitudes on Sexual Assault"
Printable Version


Being "Nice" at MIT


To The Faculty Newsletter:

I was intrigued by the article in the September/October Faculty Newsletter, “Can We Make Smart = Nice?”, because I am working the same issue in another context. I am a retired Professor in Organizational Studies from the Sloan School and still very active writing about relationships at work and in general. In my recent book, Humble Inquiry, I note that we are an individualistic, pragmatic, task driven culture in which being nice is strictly secondary to getting the job done, being professional, keeping your role distance, etc., etc., etc. We tell, we don’t ask.

Not being nice to visitors is certainly one aspect of this problem, but a more serious aspect is that this same cultural attitude prevents subordinates from telling their bosses when things are going wrong, when there are safety problems, when quality is declining, when collaboration is more necessary as work gets more complex. I think U.S. management (and maybe engineering) is still stuck on individual accountability and hasn’t learned that being nice is no longer the nice thing to do, but absolutely necessary to establish mutual trust and open communication – or the job doesn’t get done properly.

Ed Schein
Professor Emeritus
Sloan School of Management

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