ClockShark Blog

You Can Have Boundaries and Still Be Nice

June 19, 2018

Are you too nice? This may seem a strange question.

Especially in construction.

Being nice is nice, but here’s what you have to watch out for.

I was watching a business program the other night in which a mentor was helping a struggling small business. After watching the owner serve customers, the mentor noticed that the owner was spending an inordinate amount of time chatting with customers. Even after the transaction had been concluded.

The owner felt that they were being nice to customers. Which was true. But while they were chatting with the customer, other customers were left unattended, eventually leaving the store without purchasing anything.

This reminded me of one of my project managers. He was a really nice guy. Too nice. He was always willing to chat, even to people who would call his cell phone by mistake. Sales representatives got several minutes or more of his time. This often meant that he spent valuable time talking to people – time that could be better spent on the project. The time that he had to later catch-up after hours.

We have an electrician that does repairs for us. They are forever talking to my wife, and the job always seems to take longer than it should. The electrician probably thinks they’re being nice. My wife wants to get on with her work so is frustrated by the chitchat. I’m annoyed because I know we’re probably being billed by the hour!

I’ve also encountered project managers who have accepted unreasonable deadlines from their client, or have agreed to discount their prices at the insistence of the client. They are too scared to say no to the client, or they are too nice and want to be helpful. Unfortunately, many of these deadlines can’t be met, so the client is disappointed – more upset than if they’d been told no in the first place. Those discounted prices often end up being too low and the contractor loses money.

At the end of the day will the client appreciate that you were nice to them and agreed to their unreasonable schedule or lower price? Probably not – they may be thinking that you were a pushover, or that your price was in fact too high anyway and you were only out to rip them off!


You shouldn’t be rude to clients and others, but you need to learn to say no sometimes. The contract is a set of rules to administer the project. If you claim what’s right in terms of the contract, you aren’t doing anything wrong. You may think you’re being nice not to always say yes, but really you aren’t doing them a favour.

Project managers are always short of time so need to spend time where it’s most needed. You don’t want to be known as that nice person, always happy for a chat, but someone who doesn’t get their projects finished on time. You don’t want to be nice to some while inconveniencing others. Construction isn’t a politeness contest. It’s about acting professionally in terms of the contract and getting projects delivered on time. If money is due to you, ask for it. Sure, if possible give the client advance warning so they can take steps to rectify the situation, but if they don’t, it’s your money and your time to claim.

Be nice, but not too nice. Rather, act professionally.

Author: Paul Netscher

Paul Netscher is an experienced construction professional who managed over 120 projects in 6 countries over 28 years. Paul writes for the ClockShark blog and is the author of five books on construction project management.

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