There is something of an epidemic plaguing businesses in the Pacific Northwest called Northwest Nice (NW Nice).  NW Nice is an affliction whereby a business professional will smile and speak collaboratively about an issue or a person in a public forum but later, will attack and/or undermine the very same issue or person behind closed doors.  

The problem with this disease is that the afflicted rarely believe they have the ailment. They deny their behaviors and imply that “others” are to blame when issues or people fail to succeed i.e., “I knew it (he) was no good from the start!” The worst offenders go so far as to befriend their colleagues openly, only to decimate them professionally behind closed doors.  Not cool.

The cause of the ailment is simple; NW Nice afflicted professionals don’t know how to disagree publicly about an issue and stay in dialogue to move the issue forward. Instead, they agree to issues publicly, and share their true dissenting thoughts elsewhere – where they are of no use to the organization. Waiting to share dissenting information behind closed doors is detrimental to every organization and handicaps the leader’s ability to make good and successful decisions.

Several weeks ago, we wrote a post about how to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable.  To be an effective professional (indeed, an effective human), one must learn how to bring disagreement to the table without shutting down the conversation, and then be able to negotiate a way forward.   Disagreeing effectively is the first step to being an effective professional (check out our post if you missed it), and negotiating effectively is the next. 

Effectively negotiating within a conversation requires the ability to influence with facts, perspective and compassion.  It requires knowing who is sitting in the room with you and understanding their view of the situation.  With this perspective, you can look for a shared solution that will move the organization forward.  (To be clear, knowing who is in the room doesn’t mean you need to be friends, it means you have to know how they think, what they have at stake, and what they stand to lose.) Negotiation isn’t about winning; it’s about finding the greatest good possible with the variables at hand.

This week, we would like you to think about whether you are suffering from Northwest Nice, (regardless of where you are living geographically.)  As you are in meetings or conversations, be curious about what you are not saying. Then challenge yourself to get better at working through the tension that can come from disagreement and find your way to a negotiated resolution. We would also like you to be on the watch for co-workers who are afflicted – they are the ones who were quiet in the meeting but will come in your office afterward to tell you all that is wrong.  Do them a favor and forward them this post, and let them know you want them to be a more effective professional going forward.