Careers

How to be a 'nice girl' at work without being a pushover

"Nice is your superpower, not your weakness." It's a phrase not heard often in the business world, but according to one author, it should be your mantra.

Successful start-up investor and media executive Fran Hauser wants to change the perception of the word "nice." In her new book, "The Myth of the Nice Girl," Hauser breaks down some of the word's misconceptions, which she thinks can be harmful to upwardly mobile professional women.

"The myth of the nice girl, especially at work, is that she's a pushover, she's passive, and she's weak — and I don't buy that. I think that there's so much strength in being nice at work," Hauser told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview.

She added: "I think we're all craving a more human style of leadership, especially considering everything that's been in the news over the last year."

In the book, Hauser laid out strategies to effectively use kindness in different workplace situations, including pay and professional feedback.

When asking for a raise, "it starts with knowing what your market rate is, and making sure you have people in your network like recruiters and peers at other companies that can share that data with you," Hauser said.

Knowing this data gives the employee who's negotiating much more confidence, she added.

While doing research for her book, Hauser found that women negotiate more effectively when they negotiate for someone else.

"So what I say is channel that to yourself," Hauser said. "Be objective about the value that you add, and care enough about yourself that you're going to give it your best shot."

In the workplace, Hauser said it's also possible for managers to give effective feedback in a way that's direct — but also kind. First, the author said you should start the conversation in a positive light.

"You don't want to do it in a way that's threatening to them, because then that's going to elicit a 'fight or flight' response," Hauser said. Instead, she suggested a manager express herself in a way that the employee knows you are on their side.

"If you start the conversation by saying something like, 'I'm your biggest champion, I'm a fan, I'm here to support you, I want to see you be successful,' that creates a psychologically safe environment," Hauser told CNBC. In that way, "the person can actually receive the feedback and engage."

Finally, Hauser said how you end the conversation is also important: You should have next steps for that employee to take and explain "how specifically you're going to help that person address the feedback."

On the Money airs on CNBC Saturdays at 5:30 a.m. ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.

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