The Magic Word at Work

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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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