Be careful of the meaningless ‘Yes’ and the Hidden ‘No’
“She is one of our best employees because she never says, ‘No’ when we ask her to do things.”
“The boss likes it when we agree with him all the time.”
Oh, the number of times I have heard these lines ever since I entered the working world.
According to Merriam-Webster, a yes-man is simply someone who agrees with everything that is said especially: one who endorses or supports without criticism every opinion or proposal of an associate or superior.
Saying “yes” to every task or agreeing with bosses while quietly seething with frustration encourages employee disengagement.
While last minute projects, clients or workloads are unavoidable, what about the times when we can actually control the situation at hand?
As leaders, how can one manage time and planning to prevent employees from the malady of “Malaysian timing” or “last-minute syndrome”?
Should we even have this “last-minute” mentality to start with or is it merely an excuse to laugh off poor time management or poor planning skills?
In university, critical thinking was a subject and we had to actually learn how to think critically and make sound judgement.
It is not that we don’t know how to think for ourselves but because the concept of speaking up, sharing your opinion with the class, or maybe even having an opinion was often shot down while we were in school.
According to the Asia Pacific global research group, the west practises a low context environment, where focus is placed on the way of communication rather than the context.
Clarity is key, which in turn, means brevity and direct communication. This means, messages are prompt, clear and concise.
But here in the east, we practise a high context environment, where we focus on the way we communicate as we pay more attention to relationships, emotions, gestures and other verbal and non-verbal cues.
In simpler terms, our messages are more indirect and long-winded.
Why is the way we communicate a problem if it’s just “culturally ingrained”?
If a company has cultivated a yes-man culture, they have unwittingly bred a culture of people who are either too afraid to say anything or just shut up and collect their pay cheques. A corporate landscape and a leader that does not welcome some opposition and moreover collaboration, is doom to be stuck and risk the business being bogged down.
When employees stop opening up to employers, perhaps they have been beaten into submission by their behaviour.
The more employees shut down, the more the company risks running a mechanical business akin to having a set of robots perform their duties without any form of attachment or sense of belonging.
How to avoid being a Yes-man
1. Remember that you always have a choice.
The first step is to recognise that you have a choice.
Often, we become yes-men for fear that we may lose our jobs, or that the bosses may think we are incompetent or not “hardworking” enough. You may feel trapped.
Recognise that no matter what situation, the power of choice is in your hands. Ask yourself, “If I say no to this for a good reason, what is the worst possible outcome that could occur?”
2. Know your priorities.
What are the most important things on your plate right now?
Are you capable of taking on more work?
Sometimes, we take on more than we can handle because we think that we can push ourselves.
But it really ends up doing more harm than good as you end up stretching yourself too thin.
3. Remember that honesty is a characteristic to be praised.
Completing tasks assigned to you with perfection, is great. At times, knowing where and when to draw the line is the difficult part. Remember that open communication is vital as a team player.
And so is true listening – being open enough to listen to what your employees or teammates are saying and feeling (and maybe not blatantly telling you) before it’s too late.
I don’t want yes-men around me. I want everyone to tell the truth. Even if it costs them their jobs. —Samuel Goldwyn
Tamara was previously an assistant editor and writer with Leaderonomics. She loves thought-provoking conversations over cups of tea. If she is not writing, you might find her hiking up a mountain in search of a new waterfall to explore.
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