Why We Don’t Like Nice People

why we don't like nice people

If real life were like the television show “Survivor,” the people that would be voted off the island first might be the nice guys. New research has revealed as much as we hate the lazy people who don’t contribute much, we equally dislike the nice people that enable the sloths who mooch through life. When it comes to group dynamics, being too nice may lead to backlash.

Initially, the researchers developed a study in the hopes of reconfirming the idea that members of a group would dislike and therefore remove the unproductive members. As part of the study, researchers had college students play a video game which required cooperative team play to win. As predicted, the results showed that “people are generally averse to maintaining inequitable relationships.”  However, they were surprised to discover that subjects also wanted to oust the “benevolent” teammates who were most tolerant of the slackers.  Intrigued by this finding, they conducted three follow-up studies to see if this result would hold up.

Though each of these follow-up studies had its own design, all of the studies were a variation on college students playing a cooperative computer game with unseen group members, two of whom were phony. One fabricated teammate (the lazy teammate) scored significantly lower than everyone else. The other phony player (the nice guy) did well at the game, yet graded the lazy teammate as doing equally well as the other teammates.  At the end, group members rated each other’s performance. Indeed, the subjects repeatedly indicated that they wanted to eject both the lowest contributor and the nice person.

The researchers were also curious to learn the reasons why the nice team member was given poor ratings. 58% said they resented the nice player, because the nice player made them look like the bad guy. Ultimately, since the nice person gave a “good” grade to the slacker, the group turned on the nice guy.

While it is common knowledge that groups will try to weed out the bad apple, it may come as a surprise that the good apple is often targeted as well.  Being a team player means making choices that benefit the group, therefore pushovers and enablers are viewed as detrimental to the team.  Even if your conscience does not allow you to exclude the weak link, it is worth being aware that your compatriots may turn on you, too.

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  • The typos in this article make me feel like I can’t really trust the information being presented. This is also encouraged by the fact that no actual studies, institutions, or frames of time are referenced. Interesting but simply opinion as far as I can see.

  • I think it comes down to loyalty. A woman who is nice to every man will be seen by her husband as disloyal. Someone who is an all-around nice guy will be seen as an “enemy-sympathizer” when his niceness is shown to an enemy.

  • You mean, excepting the link to the actual study quoted? Your lack of ability to read the goddamned article makes me not want to trust your opinion. (hint: click the blue words)

  • It’s a trap.

    WE — comment makers — are taking a test.

    Can we come to a consensus?

    1) The author of this article is a closet nice guy.
    2) Let’s be lazy and come to superficial agreement asap so we can get back to yacking on our ‘pods about absolutely nothing.
    3) 4:40 am is the best time to comment on worthless trash articles
    4) I don’t care about anyone else’s opinion anymore. Two wars for Bush and the best the rest of you could come up with is Group Silliness for an MLK-NOT politician bred in the political sewer of Chicago.
    5) Ain’t That Nice

  • Not true for every group I been in…..If the NICE GUY is doing equally if not more work, or HELL since he/she is nice and you can get them to do most of the work then why the hell would I, or my group reject them? Nice people always offer words of encouragement and always say you are doing a good job which makes my insides tickle with glee. Plus they usually buy the group pizzas and goodies. I’m usually a nice guy in the group, but if shit is hitting the fan then I turn into that evil “You best be doing work or see this rather large can of tuna? Yeah its going to be in the side of your face in a few.” I hate assholes…usually the guys in the group that think they know everything when they don’t. So I vote up for the nice guy and how this research is false.

  • So nice people make others look bad and we need to get rid of the nice ones? How typical. Lets blame others for our weaknesses and make them go away. If everyone was nice, that wouldn’t be the problem.

  • I can understand where this is coming from. However, there’s a difference between being the “nice guy that grades everyone equally” and “the nice guy”. The first one IS annoying because they’re hindering the team. That’s not “nice;” it’s just stupidity. An actual “nice guy” can be a pushover, but not necessarily an enabler. In my group at work, I’m the nice one – “too nice,” in fact. But has that made my team resent me? So far, no, because I’m hard-working, loyal, and trustworthy. Not saying I’m the best person to be around all the time (trust me; I’m not, being “too nice” can get annoying). I just don’t like the fact that this article is implying that “nice” means “enabler.”

  • @blahblahblah

    Exactly. Being an enabler is not the same thing as being nice. I doubt a person who’s nice but isn’t afraid to make a stand for the group’s best interests would do so badly as the “nice” guy in this experiment.

  • I dont see it as being nice or not. I think if members are not performing then we need to call it. Team work suggest that it takes all in the team to work this out. Tolerating anything below par is not going to benefit the team. It is not a personal thing so I don’t see it as being nice or not. Rather I would suggest we make business or team decisions based on what’s best for the team. If you do not perform – you need to improve. If you tolerate and endorse inefficiencies of your team mate because you want to appear nice then you too need to change if your niceness is causing the team to function below par.

  • This study is bunk, they disliked the nice person because in that specific scenario the nice person seemed to be supporting the lazy person and was grading unfairly. That situation applies specifically to this certain video game scenario, and may also apply to a classroom setting in which a teacher grades all her students with A’s even though some studied and some didn’t, but I don’t believe it can be correlated to the group dynamics of general social situations.

  • enablers are nice because they seek approval. that has nothing to do with being truly a nice person. a nice person does what they feel is best and most fair in regards to not only themselves but also the people around them.

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