Why Sam the "Yes Man" Never Got Paid
May 26, 2015

Why Sam the "Yes Man" Never Got Paid

by Brian de Haaff

I used to know a guy — we’ll call him Sam — who always agreed with everything the CEO said or did. He loved the CEO even when she was nasty or very, very wrong. He was a Yes Man. Every organization seems to have at least one.

Sam was sailing along just fine until something unexpected happened — the company was acquired. The executives at the acquiring company carefully considered each employee and their role to determine how they would fit. In the end, Sam was not considered a key player, and he did not receive a meaningful role at the new company.

This is why Sam the Yes Man did not get the big retention bonus he expected.

What kept him from getting paid for his loyalty? After all, Sam learned long ago that the best way to climb the corporate ladder was to follow along dutifully and never make waves.

What Sam did not understand was that the new company was not looking for Yes Men. They were looking for people with strong character, who could stand on their own and be bold.

You might know a guy like Sam at your own workplace. In fact, you might even be that guy. You follow along in lockstep with the boss, never disagreeing with her. You see it as the safest way to advance your career and get through life unscathed.

The trouble with being a Yes Man is that you do not bring anything new to the conversation. You do not stand out when it matters. If the boss disappears tomorrow, you might as well too, and no one would know the difference. And more likely, they would celebrate your disappearance.

If you want to get paid, you need to be the one who shows initiative. You must become a person who knows his own mind and follows it.

Here are some important first steps you can take:

Speak first Yes, it takes courage to be the first one to speak up in a group. While everyone is fretting about what they are going to say when it is their turn, you can start the conversation and set the direction. Speaking up first shows that you have confidence. Find your voice and use it.

Be bold We are often told at a young age that it is best to not challenge authority. However, companies look for people who are not afraid to disrupt the status quo and share their creative ideas. That is how great companies innovate. Someone has an idea that is so crazy that it just might work, and they have the guts to bring the idea forward. Do not be afraid.

Be transparent The world has enough posers and pretenders. Do not pretend to be someone you are not, or borrow someone else’s views. Be yourself and let your own views come to light, even if they are controversial. Do not worry so much about the consequences.

Being the Yes Man is never a safe career move — in fact, it is the opposite. When you decide to play this role, you cede your control to someone else (who may or may not know what they are doing.) If they go down in flames, you are going down right with them. That’s bad, but what it does to your self-esteem is worse.

When you go through life as the Yes Man, you not only lose the respect of others, but you lose respect for yourself.

Innovative companies need more people who will dare to step out of their comfort zones and share their creativity. I encourage the team at Aha! to do this daily.

Go ahead. Shake things up. Surprise them, and surprise yourself with how bold you can be.

Have you ever known a Yes Man? Where did he go wrong?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

Follow Aha!

Follow Brian

Related articles

The Best Cover Letters That CEOs Love to Read
April 13, 2017
The Best Cover Letters That CEOs Love to Read

A well-crafted cover letter is a great way to get noticed. Find out what to include in your cover letter to catch the attention of a CEO.

New Marketing Managers — Do These 8 Things in the First 30 Days
January 28, 2019
New Marketing Managers — Do These 8 Things in the First 30 Days

Are you a new marketing manager? Check out these suggestions from eight marketing experts on how to show your true value in your first 30 days.