Beware of the yes men in your office! It doesn’t matter whether you run a large corporate organisation, a middle-sized company or a start-up, every company has them.

Do you surround yourself with people known as “yes men”, “suck-ups” or “fawners”? This article may indeed be met with much antipathy, but let’s just push that aside for a moment and attempt to use this as a litmus test, whether you are a boss or an employee.

It’s perfectly natural to want to be with people who agree, support and praise you all the time. The fact of the matter is that we feel better knowing that we have people in our corner regardless of the issue. It makes us feel important.

The dangers of “yes men”

Beware of the yes men in your office

“Yes-men”, “Suck-ups” or “fawners” make us feel like we’re curled up with a warm blanket. “Everything is fine, it’ll work out, you are right you know, you usually are.” We feel safe with them. We trust them.

A classic example of “Yes men or suck-ups” are those trusted family or friends who for some reason tell their wannabe star relative or friend that they can sing. They go onto X-Factor, then it’s over. A verbal tirade of abuse, belittling and scolding from Mr Simon Cowell, your neighbours, strangers for the next month or so leaves your never wanting to leave your house again.

But back to the office; are you the kind of leader who punishes people – overtly or oh-so-subtly – for speaking up and telling you things you don’t want to hear? Telling you the truth? Do you seek out people who affirm your decisions and actions?

No one wants to admit that they do this, but a quick glance at organisational life indicates that this is the sum of what we see today. We’ve all seen it: the leader is isolated from reality, surrounded by a small group of people who deliver the good news and hide the bad. Their entire world-view is distorted, controlled by those who are feeding his or her perceptions. The boss personally thinks these people are protecting him (or her). Watching their back.

Do managers feed off “yes men”?

Or, the boss simply doesn’t want to hear the truth, so they reward the suck-ups of feel-good information by promoting them or something else of that nature and punishes the purveyors of truth.

The bottom line is that we all need pockets of unconditional love and support in our lives. But when it comes to the workplace and our role as leaders, it’s our responsibility to maintain a balanced perspective and stay attuned to the truth about our words and actions, the impact we have on others, and the perceptions we create. It’s not easy to do, and having the right inner circle can make a tremendous difference.

As visionary business owners, many like to think they are the “stars of their show” and are thereby right about everything all of the time and rightly so to a point, after all, they have achieved something great by building a successful business.

A quick whiff of smelling salts all too often changes that false reality. It feels great having people around us that are likely to reinforce this notion every time we open our own mouths. The problem is though, is that these people are doing more harm than good, and not doing their jobs. They are merely paying lip service to both your good and not so good ideas.

Buying into these people often means you fail to see the actual talented people doing the work, coming up with great ideas all for the sake of the business, happy to give over their intellectual property. Ask yourself, “do I need these kinds of people around me?

As “Wall Street” character Gordon Gecko said, “you need a friend, buy a dog”, because “it’s not always the most popular person who gets the job done”.

A way forward

Leave it to kids – at home – to worship their parents, but always keep good staff around – at work – who are not afraid to burst your bubble when it needs a little bursting in the long-term interest of your business.

The lesson? Beware of the “yes men” in your office.

This article was inspired by conversations with other professionals and a long career of experience.

Connect with Desi via @i3lance.

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