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How to Avoid Yes People

1. Don’t hire them in the first place.

Ask questions in the job interview like, What are some examples of where you used initiative on the job.? Can you tell us about a problem you solved at work without management’s involvement? Define the word assertiveness and tell us how it applies to your life.

2. Ask for input into decision making.


Now here’s the hard part: if your employee has an idea which differs from yoursand you are convinced, that while yours is better, doing it the employee’s way won’t be fatal, then let them try. Why? Because it was their idea, and they are more committed to it than to yours.

3. If your mind is made up, tell your people that, and don’t ask for input.

If you are worried about successful implementation ask, “Will you support me in this?”

4. Seeking differing opinions is a positive because you might come up with a better – even novel – solution.

As the management aphorism advises, “If you want to improve the work, ask the people doing the work.”

5. Seeking and implementing the ideas of others is also motivational.

It involves creativity and ownership of ideas and methodology.

6. If you really want to take a risk…

The next time you make an important decision ask the question, “Will each of you tell me why this is a bad idea; why it won’t work?”

7. Never shoot the messenger.

Finally, to minimize the number of yes people, never shoot the messenger. A manager needs to hear the bad news more than the good news. It is tempting to get angry when receiving bad news, but it should be resisted.

L. Michael Tompkins, Ed.D. is a licensed psychologist and organizational consultant who resides in Sacramento, California

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