The Danger of Keeping Yes Men in Your Inner Circle

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It’s nice to be agreed with, to be right, to be validated. Most employees would rather not face opinions that differ from their own. It’s human nature. But at what cost? How does that agreement harm you in the long run? And how much should you fear hiring “yes men” to work with you?

Yes men are common in all types of businesses and organizations. They ingratiate themselves into offices, sales floors, and boardrooms, climbing up the corporate ladder, one yes at a time. And it’s easy to be a yes man. They don’t rock the boat, do most of what they’re told, and take exactly what you’ll let them take, from benefits to lunch hours. But they won’t challenge you and you won’t grow from their collaboration. Yes men don’t actually collaborate.

The Harm in the Yes Man

Corporate culture tends to reward agreement and punish differences of opinion. This mentality extends into small and medium sized businesses as well. The size of the organization doesn’t do much to change human nature, both of executives and those who work under them.

At the outset it is easy to be a yes man. Agreement and passivity are simple enough concepts to master. Co-workers and supervisors tend to respond positively. No harm, no foul. But the longer these yes men spend in your business the more damage they can do.

The work life of a yes man is quite simple and follows a common trajectory. The yes man accepts work as a means to an end. He still has financial goals and a desired career path, but has figured out that they will come largely without additional effort. He nods agreement in meetings and to assignments, and plods along with a smile. As his position grants him more responsibility he continues responding yes to senior staff. This causes a problem as some of the things he agrees to are not the right decisions or are not entirely possible in scope or timeline.

The tenets of the yes man are that he executes tasks blindly, doesn’t think about the big picture, and ultimately stops caring about the company. So long as the paychecks keep coming the nuts and bolts of his workday are largely unimportant. When the buck does need to stop somewhere he is hard pressed to take responsibility, as he can reside in the fact that he was just doing what he was told. He is, in effect, a robot, but one you are required to provide benefits to.

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