Sunday, January 29, 2012

Saying yes without being a yes-man


When people think of yes men, they tend to think of spineless lackeys who bow, scrape and bob their heads at anything their boss says. I came across a particularly chilling quote from Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg trials:
"... alles was er um ihn hatte, waren ja Männer, alle keine Männer waren sechs Fuß darunter." (Translation - all he [Hitler] had around him were yes-men, all the no-men were six feet under.)
Much of the power of Oliver Hirschbiegel's extraordinary Downfall is how he portrays the helplessness of those around Hitler in the final days and hours - they simply cannot tell him the truth, nor can they find it in themselves to disagree with him. So what do you do when your hideous little troll of a VP demands that you drop everything and jump in on some project that he only half-understands? 

A straight "No" robs you of influence and will quickly earn you a negative reputation among your colleagues. I like Shawn Wood's version of saying some version of "Yes, but ..."
  • Yes. I can do this in your timeframe and in your budget. (A full yes)
  • Yes. I can do this in your budget but I am going to have to change the timeframe. (Yes, but)
  • Yes. I can do this, but not in your timeframe or your budget. Let's negotiate. (Yes, but but)
  • Yes. I can do this, but I do not think it is the best way. May I make suggestions? (Yes, however)
  • Yes, I can have someone else do this for you. (Yes, but not me ...)
Related Posts:
Shawn Wood has a superb post over on this topic over on Dumb Little Man

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