- Do people in “do good” occupations have to be nice?
This may seem at first glance a quite silly question, doesn’t it? Yet, after encountering throughout the years my fair share of people engaged in occupations that are meant to help others and improve lives, I have never ceased to be curious why some of these people are – how shall I put it – not nice (and occasionally, real as$h%^$s). Whether you are talking about NGOs, social enterprises, foundations or impact investors, these people pop up here and there, wherever you go. Who hasn’t met the occasional do-good employer during an interview who seemed arrogant and conceited? Who hasn’t seen the occasional ugliness between two members of the same nonprofit board? Who hasn’t seen philanthropists occasionally disparaged by investors?
Why do I find this curious? After-all, I’ve worked among other places also on Wall Street before, where not being nice registers just about on the bottom of improvement areas someone could have on their annual evaluations, to put it mildly. After-all, doesn’t the saying go something like “bad apples grow just about on every tree”? That is certainly true and it remains just as much a matter of fact like the sky being blue and grass being green. The impatient among you may cry right out: it’s nothing you can change, no matter where you work, so why care about it?
Yet, for some reason, there seems to me something profoundly odd and particularly offending about people in the “do-good” or social sector behaving like this, almost to the point where I would like to think that even if it might be this way… it should not. In this post, allow me to carefully argue that if you want to genuinely serve in a do-good job, I would expect you not only to be a “good” person, but also a “nice” person, and that something significant is at stake by your being so. Let me explain.