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Yes-Men Are Dangerous: Why You Need Irritating People on Your Team

Kim Tracy Prince

Leaders love it when employees support their ideas, and nobody likes that one guy who spoils all the fun. But he might be good for business.

Everyone hates that coworker who makes a meeting last too long with her "questions" or "potential roadblocks" in the plan you’re discussing.

And it’s a drag when your project is moving ahead full steam and someone comes up with a "better way" to get around a possible bottleneck in the workflow.

But sometimes it’s better to have that guy around. Here's why.

Sometimes Your Ideas Are Bad

Even if you believe you've vetted all aspects of the idea, and it’s guaranteed to be 100% successful, you're still just one person. If everyone on your team takes it for granted that you're right, nobody will catch the flaw in the plan.

True, nobody wants to sit in marathon progress meetings, but finding out that a project is on the wrong track, early in the process, is better than driving that train to its doom.

You're Busy

Good yes-men and yes-women do exactly what they’re told, which is great until they can’t think for themselves anymore because they are afraid to color outside the lines or try something new or better.

People like that require much more hands-on management since they hesitate to make their own decisions. Yes, you may have all the answers, but you've got other things to do, and other employees to manage, so you don't have time to do their work for them!

Yes-Men Can Get You Arrested

When a manager is a yes-man, he or she will happily take direction from above and assign a project to the team without question. If they succeed, he takes all the glory. If they fail, well, we know who gets the blame here.

Blindly agreeing to demands from upper management can even result in illegal activity. In a thread about dangerous yes-men, Tech Republic reader Nick Nielsen shared a story from the trenches.

Yes-Man, fresh from a meeting with the CXO: "The boss wants XYZ and we need to do it."

Subordinate: "We can't do XYZ."

Y-M: "Sure you can. You guys are the best in the company."

S: "Thanks for the compliment, but nobody here is going to do xyz. We don't want to go to jail."

Turns out it was a test. The CXO knew it was illegal and also knew Y-M should have known it was illegal. Y-M was gone the following week.

You Want Your Team's Work to Be Good

Those employees who just say yes? They're not being honest with you.

The whiner who always says he's too busy might be doing you a favor by telling you the truth. Ever see the fast, good, cheap triangle?

Overworked and overcommitted employees can’t do everything on schedule at top quality and under budget.

Pick any two triangle: fast cheap good

You’ll have to pick two. As the boss, you throw work at your team and then demand only good updates, but what you don’t know is that your employees’ projects are starting to slide.

They’re not on time, they’re only mostly done instead of all the way done, or something slipped through the cracks completely and was forgotten.

It's Not Personal - It's Business

It's fun to be friends with your coworkers and employees since you're around them so much. It is tempting to surround yourself with people you like, who are even fun to hang out with after work, too. That way your holiday and summer parties are a blast, and everyone gets along.

She’s argumentative, or always protests or challenges the group. If you were less professional, you might say she’s a bit of a buzzkill. But without her around second-guessing others’ work, you wouldn’t have delayed your latest successful project to fix some serious problems that she pointed out. She's good for your business, even if her personality isn't your cup of tea.

Sometimes It's Just Better to Say "No."

If someone says "yes" to everything, whether taking on more work, executing a bad idea, or ignoring a problem, their dishonesty can hurt the business and damage loyalty.

At a large company where I once worked a typical 9-6, my department head came to us and said “The CEO hates walking through our floor and seeing empty cubicles after 6 pm. My boss wants our department to stay late to look like we are working late and supporting the company’s mission.”

We were young, underpaid employees who ended up rotating the task - every night a few of us would stay late just for show. That questionable move, among others, created resentment toward my boss, his boss, and ultimately the CEO whose contract was not renewed. 

If that manager had treated such requests more evenly - sometimes questioning demands from above - we might have carried out that task less begrudgingly. When employees know that you're doing what's best for everyone and not just saying "yes" all the time to look good, they will work better for you.

The Well-Rounded Team

The truth is; you need that "no-man" around to keep it real. Grand plans and visionary thinking are necessary for your business to move forward and keep growing, but you also have to have someone to keep your feet on the ground and be realistic.

That one person in your posse who says "Nope, can't be done," when everyone else around you is tearing up and clapping at your motivational speech? Don't dismiss her negativity completely. Her caution may guide you away from disaster and toward success.

Image Credit: jacoblund / Getty Images
Kim Tracy Prince Member
Kim Tracy Prince is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer covering money, travel, parenting, advice, and other topics for the internet. Her work can be found on,,, Notre Dame Magazine, and elsewhere.