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.
Sloan School of Management