Can your boss be too nice?

Managers in the latter category don’t give tough feedback, shy away from going to bat for their teams, and give in too easily to demands. If this sounds like your boss, your career may be at risk says HBR.

Here’s how to mitigate the potential damage of a boss who is too nice.

Be empathetic
Having a boss who doesn’t stand up for you is frustrating — but don’t blame him. “New bosses are particularly prone to this. Have a little sympathy that he’s trying to gain credibility with his peers and boss,” says Hill. If you see the situation from his perspective (rather than painting him as the enemy), you’ll be better able to help him.

Directly address the issue
Start by talking to your boss. Make clear what you need — and be as concrete as possible. If you’re not getting the necessary resources for a project, you might say: “This is what we’re supposed to get done and unless we have more people dedicated to the project, we won’t be able to do it. Is there a way we can work on getting more resources?” Or if she’s being too hands off and not giving you enough input, you might say, “I need more insight from you along the way and I’m not sure how to get it.” You can also try to make it easier for her to give feedback.

Make the costs clear
It’s important that you help your boss understand the costs of their behavior. Step into their shoes and try to understand what they really cares about. If you can make the downsides of his conflict-avoidant behavior evident, they may be incented to change. For example, you might explain that by not directly addressing underperformance on your team, he’s alienating the high performers. Point to direct evidence, such as a team member’s disengagement.

Tap your network
In some cases, you may need to go above your boss and use your network to get feedback or resources. But don’t sneak around your boss if possible. Try to include him in those discussions. For example, you might discover that there is some slack in another department and tell your boss about it so he can ask that team leader for additional resources.

Consider leaving if you can
It’s easy to assume that having a conflict-averse manager isn’t really a problem. But there are serious long-term effects. These kinds of bosses may not help you advance your career because they’re afraid to ruffle feathers and get you promoted. Or they may damage your credibility if they are seen as ineffective and others assume those on their teams are too.

Principles to Remember


  • Talk directly with your boss about what you need — and be as concrete as possible
  • Build your network so that you can rely on other people for help and resources
  • Make the costs of her behavior very clear — that’s the only way she’ll change


  • Hesitate to take matters into your own hands
  • Think of your boss as the enemy — he may not be aware of his behavior
  • Let it go on for too long — if possible consider transferring to another department or finding a new job