Why Being a 'Yes Person' is Not a Good Idea

By agreeing to things not meant for you, you miss out on the ones perfect for you

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As we sat in a group discussing our upcoming Q2 business plan, I watched all my managers participating, except one. He and I have had our differences in the past, but I knew he was incredibly talented and had a great perspective on business. I watched his behaviour and as it did not change during the meeting, I had a quick chat with him afterward. As we dove into the conversation, it became clear that he disagreed with the direction we were heading towards. His ideas were brilliant, and we ended up incorporating them later to see great success. When I asked him why he did not speak up during the discussion, he said he did not want to create disagreement. He said, "Boss you are the captain of the ship, I let you steer the way." As much as I appreciated his respect, I told him, "If you see me steering for rocks, please raise your hand and say something as you are also on this ship."

People who always agree with everyone lower their value compared to those who express an opinion even when it is in opposition of common belief. Although intuitively it seems that not stirring the pot at work is the best way to get ahead, it is not true. As bosses get away from just managing and moving more towards leading, they look for free thinkers. They want people who can take the initiative, and can also raise their hand when they see a potential problem ahead. Ability to disagree stands true even for when the idea comes from the boss.

This behaviour is not limited to just agreeing with people. Being a "Yes Person" shows up when people are not able to say no to management or peers and end up being overworked. They have 40 hours of schedule slots and being already full they take on five more. If they stick to 40 hours, those five extra hours will have to come out of the existing things they are doing and most likely will cause work that used to be great become average or even sub-par. If they extend their schedule to 45 hours after some time, they will run into burnout, and all their work will suffer, and maybe they will even leave thinking there is a problem with the job.

By saying yes to things not meant for you, you will miss out on the ones perfect for you. You might be thinking you are being a good sport and taking on more responsibility, but if it comes with negative consequences, it may be worth it to say no.

The thought of saying no to a peer is hard enough; saying no to the boss seems like suicide. Here are three tips on how to say no:

Give the why behind the no. Dive into what you are doing right now and list why it requires the amount of time you are giving to the task.

Give an option of taking something off your plate to create room for the next thing. In this instance, a "highly effective schedule" comes in. Your day needs to be organized by blocks of what your focus points are. If you run things this way, you are easily able to show your boss that they are all full at the time and give them the ability to take something away or provide you with assistance with one or multiples to free up more time.

Ask for a timeline of completion and see if some of the current tasks you handle can be reprioritized and delayed being able to take on this one. Let your boss help you with what is most important for them to get done first and go from there.

Saying no is not some mystical ability. You learn it through practice and reflection. You need to do it and then see how your life changes for the better. Flying below the radar is not the quickest way to level up. We know that to get ahead we must take a risk and if done correctly, saying no will be a very calculated one. You will not get lost in the weeds and stand out like a mountain top if you learn to disagree with tact.