Avoiding “Yes Men”

by Ashvini on April 2, 2013 · 18 comments

in Leadership,My Personal Thoughts

Surrounding yourself with Yes man is the worst thing a leader could do. The glorification starts when the group that he or she is in becomes an echo chamber. A leader is then surrounded by people who agree to whatever he or she say. Such a leader risks getting the wrong advice.

When one is not so famous, there is a lot of crowd at the bottom of the rung. As they start to rise in the career or business, they attract people who are willing to follow every word they say. Thus every quote is exaggerated, every tweet is retweeted a thousand time. People like being flattered . But often the flattery is a form of deceit. The unrestricted flattery often make leaders assume that the things they are doing are completely right.

Flattery with intention to deceive often is done so as to gain something from the leader. Politics is full of it and unfortunately corporations are also not immune to it either. There is a difference between genuine appreciation ( which may happen without asking ) and flattery ( which is often given freely).

Yes it does feel great when one is praised for their success at something. However,  with every round of success, the leader’s ego gets a little bit higher. Praise from media pour in. People talk about them. Thus they may become overconfident.

On the flip side, people who provide valid criticism are looked upon with suspicion.

I have seen a number of corporate leaders, managers who enjoy the glory that comes with handling bigger teams or projects. Their competence would have got them the position they are at now. But their lack of ability to separate good from the bad works against them. They become arrogant. They alienate the well wishers. They think others are incompetent. This is the start of downfall or if not downfall then that of stagnation.

If you are in position where you have followers and make considerable impact on people or business around you, it is a good idea to stay humble. Keep yourself at arm distance from “yes men” because they only increase your ego. Also remember the fact that these “Yes men” will desert you when you face any trouble.

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Zalando May 17, 2013 at 11:39 am

Surrounded by “yes men” type of people is like being surrounded by “robos”-The one who ll never say more than “ok sir” and would continue to follow the order without thinking much. Its important to be reactive enough in order to provide an effective solution to any problem/work. Though most of the people in corporate world likes to have such people under their nose in order to get the work off their shoulders, but its not at all good for an organization to have such people.

Thanks Mr. Ashvini for yet amazing article. I have been following your posts for quiet a while and all the topics that I have gone through are amazing and real life situation based.

Christian April 11, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Sometimes the only way you can get your bosses respect is to oppose him.
I’m personally not much of a followers and would rather speak my mind openly without caring to much about the consequences.
Yes men type are horrible people to work with and they should never gain any real power.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena April 11, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Hi Christian,

If you spoke and they listened it is just a great situation. Infact then this post does not apply to those leaders at all. But if you are in situations where you cannot move out, living with those kind of people may be suffocating.

Manickam Vijayabanu April 9, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Hi Ashvini,
Wonderful topic. At most corporates, the word ‘Leadership’ has been misspelled as Dictating or over commanding or allow the glory to hear “YesMen”.

First, A worthy leader should become a good listener. The ignorance of what is real leadership or by knowing and allow to hear “Yes Men” to enjoy the false grandeur which won’t run for long run. People who surround them can easily address what he’s worth and keep moving when time is up.

To me, A good leadership consists couple of characters.. Like knowledge Sharing, Team communication, Appreciate/Honor, Identify talent, Brainstorm, Help, importantly…down to earth! An eminent leader doesn’t require to command over and they will be requested to navigate when people feel they are worth it.

Thanks for the nice post Ashwani.

Sonia April 9, 2013 at 9:01 am

I have seen many people like that and its no wonder why people have no backbone. Past jobs I have had always had “one” or a few like that. Those were the coworkers I stayed clear of and of course they also tended to get promotions. Let’s just say I wasn’t trying to sell my soul to the devil for a few dollars more. Karma.

When people disagree with me, or offers a solution from a different perspective, I can respect that. If all they want to do is kiss someone’s butt, its such a turn off and spineless. I see that on blogs and in real life. When I see that online, I laugh thinking, do they really think they are going to be BFF”s now. People can smell that type of person a mile away or they might be the type that like that, but only end up “using” people in the process.

Not worth it. Have a voice, speak up and say what’s on your mind.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena April 9, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Hi Sonia,

A few rotten fish makes the whole tank stink. The problem with leaders is that they like to surround themselves with people who nod to whatever they say. In the end the whole team looks like working for a single cause, increasing the ego of the leader.
It is indeed a turn off and it becomes a reason for starting of the failure.

Glad to see you back on the blog :)

Adrienne April 6, 2013 at 5:49 am

Well Ashvini, I’m not one of those that will agree with everything everyone says. I stand up for what I believe in and I’m not afraid to tell boss man that his idea is horrible. I also don’t think that it’s in their best interest to let others just say what they want to hear.

In the long run that can hurt them more then help because if you’re the leader of a team and it’s suppose to be a team effort then you should listen honestly to what they have to share. We don’t know it all and that’s why it’s great to get other’s opinions.

You gave us something to think about for sure.

Hope you’re doing well and looking forward to your weekend.


Ashvini Kumar Saxena April 9, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Hi Adrienne,

I am sure about the fact that you like to tell the truth as it is.
In many instances in my career I have seen managers and some “loyal” team members feeding into each other’s opinion. This inflates the managers ego and if someone goes against him/her , he is surely offended.
Often the managers are not such to start with but with time , the yes men and women surround him and then he starts to develop the ego. It takes a long time but it grips people in charge. A true leader needs to guard himself against it .

Thanks for your comment :) . Have a great day :).

Radu April 5, 2013 at 1:25 am

Not all the leaders accepts to be argued by the lower rank employees. It’s a matter of pride for them and even though they are wrong they will not accept. I’ve seen cases(similar but different) when the “bossman” was stating clear that he is the leader and everybody should obey his sayings. Next day i quit…

Ashvini Kumar Saxena April 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Hi Radu,
Yeah it has happened to many of us and it is very unfortunate.

Radu April 9, 2013 at 9:37 pm

I am curious if there is a way to fight these “self appointed kings” with grace :)

Rashmi Sinha April 4, 2013 at 1:02 am

Multiple ideas can give you number of choices to choose from. You must listen to every one, but should do what your mind tells you to do. This should be the logic. Thanks for a nice post.

Praveen Rajarao (@brpraveen) April 3, 2013 at 1:36 am

Nicely written Ashvini. Actually I should say that I am on the other side here, i usually agree with my friends and go along with their ideas and suggestions. Maybe I need to put my foot down and hold on to my thoughts and stop being a blind follower :-)

Ashvini Kumar Saxena April 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Hi Praveen,

You are correct. Sometimes the dishonest flattery can have a very strong grip on us. We may then would like to go with what others are saying. Quite dangerous indeed.

Thanks for your comment :)

Daria Steigman April 2, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Hi Ashvini,

The other reason to avoid “yes” men (and women) is that a diversity of ideas will always serve you better than the ego boost of being right in your own mind. As you said, companies get in trouble when they only listen to what they want to here — and don’t hear the advice, critiques, and market signals critical to a sustainable business.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena April 9, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Hi Daria,

Thanks for correcting the title. Yes it applies to everyone. Echo chamber is one of the worst feeling to get. Its alright when people praise leaders for what they do. However when praise becomes insincere and dishonest, it has a tendency to deceive.

Thanks for your comments.

Nishant April 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Very good topic Ashvini. It is one of the worst problems in today’s corporate jobs. I still reckon when I was working at Zenith as a Team Leader, our manager *loved* these ‘Yes Men’. Since I don’t like to believe everything they say, I always asked questions which sometimes were answered with a bad face. This is something Team Leaders / Managers really have to understand.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena April 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Hi Nishant,

True. Everyone has seen such incidences. Some of us might have fallen into the trap of dishonest flattery too. The team spirit goes away the moment discordant voices go away. Not to say that team always need to disagree but manager who only wants to hear about themselves are walking dangerous paths.

Thanks for your comment:)

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