The Magic Word at Work

magic word at workTraditionally, no one ever wanted to be considered a "Yes Man." However, in today's competitive workplace and job market, that perception may be changing.

There was a time when saying yes all the time only led to being taken advantage of, and giving a doormat impression -- lacking self-assurance and self-esteem. But, these days, with the right attitude, timing and situation, using the word "yes" can be a marvelous career booster, while saying "no," even when justified, can limit your career options for employment and advancement.

The danger of no

"I came to work on a day when there was an important event going on within the company that week and I worked 17 hours that particular day," said William Holmes, a website designer in Boston. "I was scheduled to have the next three days off. At 1AM after working that day for 17 hours, my manager said to me that he needed me to work the next day on my first day off. I said, 'No, I'm taking the next three days off as scheduled' because I just emotionally needed the time off after a very long, difficult and trying day.'

"I now know that decision to say no to work when the company needed me, even though I was scheduled to have time off, affected me and affected my relationship with managers and people moving forward in the company," added Holmes.

Arguably, in Holmes' case, he was justified in taking his scheduled days off. However, in today's competitive workplace, employees are being asked to go above and beyond the regular call of duty. Saying "no" may win you the battle in the short term. However, saying "no" may also cost you the war in the long run in terms of advancing within the company promotion-wise or become even more costly for you when management is deciding who's worthy of keeping if the staff needs trimming.

What they're looking for

"Most companies and most managers feel as though they want their employees' attention toward the company... they want their focus, their energy, their drive for what they're trying to accomplish toward the company," said Holmes after learning from his earlier career mistake.

"They want you to say yes because they want to know if you're in or you're out. A lot of the companies I've worked for in the past look at it that way -- in that they'll make decisions later on based on if you decide that a holiday is more important than helping them cover it if needed; they'll know that they can't rely on you later on. Then, they'll look for someone else to move forward with the company or to promote -- and you'll get passed over by a company in a lot of ways if you're not willing to go the extra mile and say yes all the time."

The person who's deemed reliable, eager, and willing to do more will usually come out ahead. That's usually the person who says yes to whatever their bosses need.

According to Bruce Tulgan, author of the book, 'It's Okay To Manage Your Boss,' making yourself available and reliable to your boss can work wonders. Tulgan writes, "Be the employee that says to every boss, 'Great news! I'm going to take responsibility for this management relationship. I know you are busy. I know you are under a lot of pressure. I'm going to help you by getting a bunch of work done very well, very fast, all day long. Count on me. With your help, I'm going to be really valuable to you."

The benefits of yes

Saying "Yes" can be positive in so many ways:

  • Being a yes-person can show your boss you're eager to see the company prosper and grow. It instills confidence in your employer that you can be counted upon when things get tough. It gives the impression that you're more invested in the company than just working your normal hours and cashing your weekly paycheck. That positive impression of "yes" can end up paying off in unexpected dividends.
  • Being a go-to employee can open doors to opportunities you never dreamed of before. If you're an intern who's inexperienced and perhaps even unsure of your abilities, saying "yes" will give your supervisor confidence in your willingness to learn and take on greater responsibility that could lead to wonderful career options.
  • Agreeing to even the most seemingly menial needs and requests of your employer, within reason of course, shows you are a team player worthy of their trust. That trust that you gain by saying yes to the small, perhaps trivial things to you, may earn you greater trust from your boss when something extremely more important needs your attention.

What you'll get out of it

It's often the folks with the positive "yes" spirit who will be the ones that management will think of first when it comes to hiring, promotions and salary raises. The "Yes people" are the ones employers know they can depend upon in a pinch.

Holmes, now successfully employed once again, noted that "when the manager asks you a question and where you stand on that question, they want you to say yes. They want you to be that person that's willing to step forward and do what's right or what's necessary to keep the company moving forward. That may mean working extra days, extra hours, can you stay late on the shift, or can you cover for this person?"

In the long run, saying yes may not only keep your company moving forward, but also, your career.

Next: How Women Can Get Men to Listen to Them at Work

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It seems what is happening is that employees saying 'yes' to more work that's not in their job description, more hours, etc. are doing it because they saw the good employee down the hall who put in their share in an 8 to 10 hour day get canned. It's self-preservation but the more people do this, the more the company will expect their employees to bend over. With unemployment at 10% or up to 22%, depending on how many have stopped looking for work, it seems a preferencial alternative do extra. At least you still get a paycheck for however long it lasts until YOU get laid-off. Reality is setting in for many that this economy is likely to get worse. We may see 30% or higher unemployment in the future and the coming hyper-inflation will make the 'Great Depression' look like a cake-walk. The fact of the matter is, this coming economic collapse was pre-orchestrated by the purposeful devaluation of not just our currency but many nations. It has been in the works for some time. It's pre-orchestrated to work that way. The Fed (some 6 major banks) will own our debt, own us. BTW, George Soros made much of his money as a currency trader. This would be a great windfall for the likes of him. The dollar will not be worth as much as toilet paper. There is no solution unless you figure out a way to work for yourself, turn a profit and keep the Fed out of the till. Good luck with that. Try to stay healthy and pray.

November 05 2010 at 3:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Given the current climate of employment, particularly my field of Nursing, "yes" works only as long as ittakes someone else to say it more and louder. It is appreciated for the moment only,and when it comes time for that load of "yesses" to be repaid, your needs are looked upon like an inconvenience to your employer, and those yesses then have fallen on deaf ears and become forgotten. Hey CEO, YOU wanted to climb the ladder and be the boss so go do it and stop whining. That was your choice. Most of us are just happy to do an honest days work and then turn it over to someone else and go home.You want to work your life away, have at it! I work to live, I don't live to wotk.

November 05 2010 at 1:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is beyond helping out when needed, this is basically the ole suck up routine. It won't work. You can suck up all you want... in another three to four years they will replace your butt with a cheaper entry level model. Tired of India Online peddling their third world scripted work ethos.

November 05 2010 at 12:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Red Sam Rackham

Sometimes YES lets a supervisor know he has a patsy who's afraid to say NO and will therefore take advantage of him constantly.

November 05 2010 at 12:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A lot of white collar workers have forgotten what there blue collar fathers faught for with unionization and the AFL-CIO. A decent days work for a decent pay. I will agree in some cases it has gone to far. The idea was right. We have fallen back to the olden days when the employer owns you.

November 05 2010 at 12:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've been mostly lucky in jobs ... get the job done ... appreciated by the boss ... no unnecessary overtime.
In my job that had a season everyone worked overtime that season for the most part although not required.
Also except for the season with a few weeks notice I can get any one day off during the week and the day is not lost just switched for another day off ....although they randomly assign non requested days off with
some weeks two non-consecutive days off. also I almost always work at least one or both weekend days.
As far as overtime ... at this other great job I had we had one in turn that was doing the overtime thing ...pretty much by himself ... I thought but not sure how others thought that he had poor time management skills. The in turn before him was hired but not him although he was knowledgeable . as apposed to him in my case we had an end of the year deadline and it was projected that I might require some overtime to meet the deadline ... got the set of keys and alarm code etc. but worked all of maybe 2 hrs or so of overtime as I got the job done in the regular weeks leading up to year end. This company was my favorite by far to work for but it was a special case ... entirely employee owned except for me the new hire and of coarse in turns and one later hire (hired as the bubble was in expansion mode). except for non involvement in "ownership" meetings we were treated just like everyone else. Plus I regularly got 20% raises each year and year end bonuses. If the housing bubble hadn't burst I would still be there as I went from lowish end of pay for my skill set (rejoined this field) to mid+ pay for my skill set in just three years.
lesson small is good except they may not have resources to ride out bad times.

November 05 2010 at 12:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So now it's demanded that we work 17 hours a day and then have to come in on our planned time off? Cmon! I worked 70 hours a week for many many years and weekends as well but I had no life. I made tons of money but had no time to spend it on anything

I now work 3 days a week and I am broke most of the time but I love it. I volunteer alot, I have time for my friends, and I have a LIFE!

November 05 2010 at 12:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Perfect prescripton for corporate slavery! As if American workers aren't already pressured to say "yes" to almost all employer request now or have their job threatened! New slogan "Just say yes to overtime, extra work and all employer requests" and ignore your family, your health and any enjoyment in life outside of work. Your career will be extended and your life will be shortened! What great advice! WHY DON'T WE ALL JUST MOVE TO CHINA!

November 04 2010 at 11:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I cannot believe this article and the person behind this article. What the F is wrong with you? Yes people suffer the consequences. People with a healthy work-life balance do not. It is as if you are encouraging people to work themselves to death with little to no return. Yes people are almost always taken advantage of. Regardless of the macroeconomic situation, employers don't own and shouldn't expect one or more of their employees to say yes to their requests.

Where is the danger of yes? Why aren't those dangers outlined as eloquently as the dangers of no? That's what I thought.

This is one of the most ridiculous and offensive articles I have ever read.

November 04 2010 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Saying yes and working all the overtime in the world will only end up with you getting passed over and not thought well of in any company. This article was written by someone who has no idea. Try the suggestions once and guaranteed you will regret doing so and will never do them again. Your boss likes you or not regardless of what you do. You can do the best job and if the powers that be don't like you, you might as well not have even done your job. You will be the first to go and the one who you thought was the stupid loafer will get not only your job but every promotion known to man.

November 04 2010 at 9:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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