Just say no: avoid being a yes-man or yes-woman manager

“Sure thing.”

“Not a problem.”

“We’ll start that right away.”

“Yes, my team can take care of that.”

All those are frequent phrases heard in the workplace. When something urgent comes up and needs to be taken care of as soon as possible, it is a manager’s duty to try and ensure the task is accomplished.

However, when you start to say ‘yes’ to everything without a filter and never turn down anything from upper management, you’re in danger of becoming a yes-man or yes-woman. And that is not a good thing.

A yes-man refers to someone of unquestioning obedience, one who slavishly agrees with a superior.

Keep in mind a yes-man manager may not actually upset upper management and executives. Maybe the person is seen as a ‘makes it happen’ kind of manager.

But then again, while the yes-man manager may be extremely accommodating, they may also clam up in meetings, avoid conflict at any costs, and fail to take a stand on important stakeholder issues.

In other words, upper management may like the eager to please manager but they probably don’t respect that manager. And when it comes to promotion time, they will pick a manager that shows a little backbone, doesn’t avoid confrontation, and is skilled at making tough decisions.

It gets worse. When you adopt a yes-man attitude, it doesn’t just serve as a potential setback in advancing your career, but it can also directly impact your team and their level of engagement with the company.

For example, upper management comes to you asking if your team could add more tasks to a project. Without getting into details, just understand that it is a pretty unreasonable request for you and your team, and will mean working tons of overtime and having to work weekends.

Though deep down you realize this request is asking too much of your team, you simply smile at the upper management and say, “my team will take care of that.”

With that one sentence, you just frustrated and disengaged your entire team.

When you are in charge of a project, you are aware of what tasks must be accomplished for completion. The general rule is if more tasks must be added in, the deadline will shift. Forcing your team to cram more tasks into the same deadline will pretty much guarantee subpar work, along with team dissatisfaction with you and the company.

This is when you need to learn to say no every once in a while. For instance, if the project deadline absolutely cannot budge, say no to the additional requests or at least schedule those tasks for another time.

We’re not advising you to go from yes-man to no-man, but adding the word ‘no’ to your vocabulary could help you be a more effective manager.

The most effective managers are the ones that serve as an advocate for their team. These kinds of managers are likely to manage accountability and expectation in a clear and non-defensive manner. Their team trusts them and relies on their fairness and directness in situations.

If you feel you might be guilty of acting as a yes-man manager, we encourage you to find out about the training and development opportunities available in your organization.

What are other ways yes-man managers can learn to balance when to say yes and no to upper management?

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