Back in 2015, a LinkedIn study found that more than 58% of millennial employees said “yes” without a second thought. “Yes” was the word that managers wanted to hear, and those who said it most seemed to rise the fastest. In order to keep the cogs turning, “yes” was sold as the word that would empower us, turn a negative into a positive and our paychecks into gold. We have taken a look at why it’s no longer the best policy to be a “yes man”, and why finding your authentic voice at work can benefit both you and your employer.
While there’s something to be said for rising to challenges with a “can do” attitude, the pendulum has gradually swung further and further away from reasonable and productive limits. In the scramble to say “yes” to everything, we frequently see businesses agreeing to price points and schedules they can’t realistically meet, and employees suffering from stress, burnout and fatigue.
It’s true that during times of recession, the day-to-day functioning of organisations takes precedence over innovation. In difficult times, anything that detracts from the bottom line is expendable. During the last economic downturn people were glad to have jobs to go to, and were willing to do more and more to hang onto them. However, as the economy has strengthened, there’s been rapid growth across many sectors thanks to new investment and significant technological developments.
In this new competitive climate, businesses need innovators and creative thinkers, people who challenge old ways of thinking and vocalise their ideas, concerns and opinions. Yet studies show that after years of being “yes men” employees don’t know how to do anything else except passively agreeing with everything. Not only does this flatten innovation, it creates a huge gulf between what people say and what they actually think and want.
The more employees disengage by default, the more a company risks having a set of robots perform their duties without any form of attachment or sense of belonging. New independent research shows that one in four UK workers spend their lunch hour looking for a new job. This indicates that rather than feeling able to express dissatisfaction with their current job, they’re simply ditching it and looking for a better fit.
LinkedIn’s major study into workplace culture recently revealed that employees want to work for organsiations whose values most closely reflect their own. The study identified honesty, flexibility and trust as the most sought after differentiators between businesses. Organisations who allow their employees the flexibility to achieve a good work/life balance, who are fair and transparent about pay, and who take employee welfare seriously, are demonstrating that they value their employees, and this, it seems, is the key to new business.
It’s long been established that people are happiest when they feel valued and listened to. This allows them to find a sense of meaning and purpose in their work. When a person’s opinion is heard, there is a sense of contributing towards the creation of something, which results in a stronger connection and increased loyalty towards an organisation. Rather than inviting non-cooperation, giving employees greater say can achieve the precise opposite.
Without the right people in place, even the best ideas will falter, and ultimately fail. This is because the market for any product is constantly evolving, along with the competition. This new phase in business will see people less as cogs in a wheel that keeps business functioning, but as active contributors in its development. When organistations hire employees, they won’t just be thinking about how they can fulfill one set of tasks, but how valuable they will be to the business as a whole.
There’s a common misconception that only people at a certain level have the ability to engage in operational discussions. Yet when it comes to innovation and new ideas, this isn’t necessarily the case. Employees who are customer-facing, or those who deal with data, may have valuable insights and ideas. Neither is it the case that those with university educations are the most likely innovators. As entrepreneurship often demonstrates, the ability to problem solve in original ways comes as often from unusual circumstances as from educational syllabuses that teach everyone the ‘right’ answer.
Businesses can benefit hugely from encouraging diversity in their recruitment process and building feedback from all departments into their development plan. Yet employees will only speak up in a genuine culture of trust, where they feel that they are being taken seriously, and that there won’t be repercussions for voicing an objection or speaking against a popular majority.
Moving away from a “yes” culture doesn’t mean that we automatically replace this with a “no” culture. The objective isn’t necessarily to seek out dissent, but to encourage employee engagement. It’s far better for employees to diplomatically voice concerns, objections or alternative ideas than to go along with something while secretly thinking it won’t work, or quietly seething with resentment. Employees too must recognise that the ability to speak constructively and justify their opinions will give them the most traction.
When employees stop opening up to employers, they have been beaten into submission by a narcissistic culture that only wants affirmation of itself. This usually comes directly from the very top of an organisation. Leaders can and should take steps to build a certain degree of conflict into their decision-making processes. For instance, they might ask a set of managers to role-play the firm’s competitors in a series of meetings so they can test core assumptions. Or they might assign someone to play devil’s advocate in order to ensure a thorough critique and risk assessment of a proposal. It’s this open and free debate of ideas that leads to change, as an idea can only spark innovation if it’s given a voice.
Finding an authentic voice at work is just one of the many ways of contributing towards building a healthy and productive workplace while nurturing your creative spark. To find out more about how workplace culture is changing, read our article.
If your looking for new work opportunities then give out team a call on 0800 971 7070Tags: Work/Life Balance, Workplace Culture