Two days ago I wrote about strategies for dealing with bullies in your life.
But bullies are hardly the only “difficult” people that cross our paths. Take the polar opposite, for instance, the “yes people.”
Yes People will pretty do much do anything you ask of them — work late, take on extra job responsibilities, do work that’s totally beneath their skill level, attempt work that’s totally beyond their skill level, all with the aim of pleasing the team, the higher ups, the receptionist, whoever.
Because of that, Yes People can seem like dream colleagues — until you start to feel that a little edge of annoyance that often arises when people try to get you to like them, or that burst of rage that comes from people promising you the moon (“Sure — I can proofread that 112-page technical paper by noon!”) and then delivering you a patio cover (“sorry — can I get this to you by the end of the week?”) Moreover, Yes People are susceptible to burnout, because they don’t know how to pace themselves or take care of their own needs.
Best Strategy: Dealing with Yes People takes some savvy, because you have to help them help themselves. Many Yes People aren’t aware of what they’re doing, for instance, why they’re doing it, or how it can cause problems. People-pleasing behaviors can spring from deep emotional trauma (the fear of being abandoned, for instance), powerful cultural backgrounds (a mandate against saying “no”) or sheer lack of inexperience (just how long does it take to proofread a 112-page technical paper?).
And that means you have to help them learn that it’s ok to say “no” (i.e., “don’t let that admin tell you to go copy your own briefs — that’s HER job!”) and that it’s ok to set realistic boundaries and timelines (e.g., “if you’re not able to do this by the end of the week, speak up now so we can manage everyone’s expectations.”)
Because Yes People can be annoying,it’s also important to monitor your own responses to them. A harsh or sarcastic tone can fluster — even derail — a Yes Person, so it’s important to be both clear and reassuring with such folks. This helps them understand your expectations; it also models new ways of interacting with people in the work place.