Hell No, Yes-Man

The thought of having my own yes-man is bi-polar.  I like the thought of having a minion of my own, a vote that always echoes my own (thus doubling my own personal voting power) and possibly having my lunch fetched for me, but the inverse of that that brings a taste of “ew” to my mouth when I think of being around such a person… why is this… hmmmm.

Even though I may love the way a “yes man” agrees with my statements, opinions and solutions, the average “yes man” can often be the worse type business person to have around.   Most often for complex technical decisions or high stakes investment decisions, you’re much better to listen to the one who’s playing “devil’s advocate”.  They’re the ones who position their statements in such a way as to get you to think about possible unwanted outcomes or byproducts of the proposed solution. In situations like this, I say “Hell no yes man!”.

The yes-man is such a common role in todays business world that Merriam-Webster has an official definition for this type of person:

a person who agrees with everything that is said; especially :  one who endorses or supports without criticism every opinion or proposal of an associate or superior

In my current professional career and past entrepreneurial endeavors, I have never met a yes-man I like.  Personality wise, yeah okay I might make small talk about a current event or something non-critical, but for highly debatable topics and intense discussions where a strategic, technical, or financial decision is going to be made,  it is seldom if not nonexistent that I take a yes-man’s parroting opinion as a serious contribution.  This is my own opinion based on my experience… yours may of course be different.

It’s interesting to note that the first known use of the term “yes-man” was in 1912.  Other notable events for that year include:

⁃New Mexico and Arizona admitted to the Union as the 47th and 48th state respectively

⁃Girl Scouts (Girls Guides) formed in Savannah by Juliette Gordon Low

⁃“Tarzan of the Apes” was published by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Surprisingly, Urban Dictionary has a well thought out definition for this type of individual:

“Men without balls who will answer yes to any query from their boss/superior regardless of the question’s intelligence, bearing, or appropriateness. It is usually intended to farther the yes man’s career by getting and staying on the boss’s good side, but may have the opposite effect.”   The phrase “may have the opposite effect” resonates very loudly in my head when I read this…

Another yes-man definition:

Yes men often ruin the productivity or usefulness in the department they work in, as they are unwilling to provide any form of original idea, opinion or more importantly criticism to their boss and thus contribute to disconnect between managers and workers.” – by boohooohoo

And this is description of the movie Yes Man staring Jim Carey (not to be confused for The Yes Men, because that flick is spot on and hilarious):

“Carl Allen (Jim Carrey) is stuck in a rut with his negative ways. Then he goes to a self-help seminar and learns to unleash the power of yes. Living in the affirmative leads him to all sorts of amazing and transforming experiences; he gets a job promotion, and even finds a new romance. But Carl finds that too much of anything, even positive thinking, is not necessarily a good thing.”  The key phrase here is “not necessarily a good thing”.  However, this movie was not about being a brown nose, ass kissing, yes-man, but more-so just having to say “yes” to everything.

Also, this type of person is not to be confused with the “yes-man” theory of saying yes to more things in your life.  Exercising that theory may make one think a bit more positive about things, take more chances, be a bit more selfless, that kind of thing, but clearly not the “yes-man” I’m talking about here.  Another thing (that should go without saying) of course is that a woman can equally be a “yes-man”.  The term has no gender boundaries and is the same type of character in a business setting that I say hell no to.

I’m a bit perplexed that people are still yes-mans.  I mean, it seems so transparent to me and therefore I have think to myself, “Hell no, yes-man”.   I’m going to leave it at that.  I almost started to discuss what is worse, the yes-man or the people (bosses, mgrs, peers, etc.) that enable them to be that way.  Hmmm… I’ll leave that one for another time, but feel free to let me know what you think, even if it’s to say “yes, I agree”!   Thanks for reading my little rant.

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