I was passionate in my career and all I wanted was to be seen as a business driver that could develop strong relationships and deliver results. I planned to work my way up the corporate ladder but was stopped dead in my tracks four years in. Until then my managers had appreciated my passion and fun personality, and promoted me. As I began my next position in the company I continued to infuse the fun and passionate personality into my position but found it was no longer working in my success. I didn’t understand, I was boggled, I was working my ass off and still trying to motivate teams through fun and humor. Cue the phrase “What got you here won’t get you there”. I struggled to get support from my managers and was continuously passed over for promotions. I didn’t understand, I delivered results and was a team player, what was I doing wrong? I found out what I was doing wrong in a feedback session with my boss. In my bosses words I needed to be more “vanilla”, when I asked what that meant the response was we need you to be more of a “Yes Man”.
I was floored and paralyzed by the response and the feminist in me was angered. They had basically told me to stand in formation of clones and not challenge management. “Don’t laugh outside of the office“ was the feedback that soon followed as well as “make sure you’re standing with your back straight”, “don’t put your elbows on the table (it was a 4 hour meeting, I needed to change positions in my defense). The continuous feedback was crushing my soul and productivity, but it turns out it wasn’t just me, many of my peers at the company had received similar feedback. It was feedback that was unrelated to job performance and over shadowed the benefit of diverse opinion. It also caused similar soul crushing effects on my peers. I have my Masters in Business and in any case study we read the main message was to challenge the status quo to deliver results and innovate, that’s how businesses found success, think Apple. However, this stood in stark contrast to the “Yes Man” mentality. I was young and naïve and I worked hard to comply with their requests. I began sitting quietly in my cube, not speaking up and keeping to myself. To which I received feedback that I was hurting the team by not being myself. I rode on this rollercoaster for another four years, trying my hardest to comply with the standards of being a “Yes Man” but to no avail I couldn’t do it. I sat in my position and watched my dreams of success crumble in front of me as the peers who had the “Yes Man” approach rose the ranks.
As glum as this post may sound, the message that I want to share is to be yourself. Trust in your worth and don’t closet your brilliance and negate your worth based on the opinions of others. My work was solid, but my personality didn’t jive with their expectations and corporate culture. Instead of fighting to fit in, find a job where you can stand out. A job that appreciates your strengths, drive and possibilities. It is out there, once you stop holding on to the rejection and trying to change perception. Believe me, your parents didn’t conceive you with the belief you would work at that specific company and be miserable. You can always change and through change comes growth. However, sometimes we hold on to the possibility of trying to change things instead of letting go and finding a path that best serves us.
This blog is dedicated to all of you out there who are fighting the battle of not becoming a “Yes Man”. Be your authentic self and be happy. Find a job that appreciates you and that you appreciate. I'm so grateful that I never moved up the ranks because it inspired me to become a life and career coach so I could help women that struggle with their own executive presence, career path and goals. I am so grateful to empower individuals to "Choose Your Happy Life". Life is short and my goal is to motivate every person I encounter to live life to the fullest and create the life they love. Another personal goal is to empower women to climb the ranks and not get discouraged by gender inequality or destructive feedback. I will leave you with a quote that strikes home with me “As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being redirected to something better.” Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great! For this experience I am ever so grateful and hope I can inspire you to look for the lessons and create your happiness.
If you need more buy in as a manager or leader to support empowering authenticity and diversity check out this study that found a strong correlation between employee engagement and diversity.