7 Ways "Yes People" Can Destroy Your Business

Yes people can sabotage your hard-earned success. Watch for the following warning signs to know if you have any in your company.
May 27, 2013

Successful people are easily seduced. Egos can soar and these successful businesspeople believe they are the sole reason for their good fortune, and that anything they touch will turn to gold. As financial gains allow for more hires, small-business owners all too frequently unwittingly choose "yes people" to employ. Beware: It's one of the most dangerous things you can do.

Luckily, you can identify these yes people. Yes men and women follow a certain predictable pattern. If you think you may have one among your ranks, watch for the following seven signs, try to counteract and, if you can't, consider letting that person go for the good of the company.

Yes people don’t tell the truth. They only tell the small-business owner what they want to hear. This doesn't help a leader, who needs the whole story, good and bad, to operate a business. It only serves to increase your vulnerability. Counteraction: Try nipping this in the bud by hiring trustworthy people who are willing to disagree. Test this by taking a ridiculous point of view on an issue that is obviously wrong and see who speaks up to disagree.

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Yes people execute blindly. They only do what they're told to do—never thinking strategically for themselves, never thinking about how to advance the company or how to do something better. This inevitably puts more pressure on a small-business owner to do and think of everything. Why are you paying them, again? Counteraction: Come to an agreement with these people on what needs to get done, and then have them formulate and execute the plan. Hold them solely responsible for the outcome.

Yes people aren't really listening. Yes people are so wrapped up in themselves that they're deaf to the concerns of employees and customers, disregarding the satisfaction of the customer and the profitability of the company. These people get ahead by sucking up to the boss and only worry about their own future. Counteraction: Send a yes person to a trade show or industry conference with strict instructions to talk to customers and vendors, and report back on what people are saying—good and bad. If that person comes back with nothing constructive, only general praises, that will confirm he or she wasn't listening.

Yes people don't see changes in the market. Being so focused internally on the needs of the small-business owner, these people rarely keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry. They have no idea what's coming next, which is necessary to keep your business relevant. Counteraction: Send them to trade shows; have them talk to competitors and do research. Ask them to formulate a new company strategy based on their findings and present them to you.

Yes people don't really care about the company. Being a team player is tough for the yes person because they're so focused on their personal cause and on pleasing the small-business owner to advance their own career. Counteraction: Review and rate their performance steadily, and reward compensation based on measurable results, not how agreeable they are. Never play favorites.

Yes people never take responsibility. Since they never risk their own original ideas for fear of looking bad, they always place blame in the event of failure on others. They point fingers at everyone around them, blaming someone’s bad idea or poor execution. Counteraction: Making people accountable is a powerful tool. Give them real responsibility by having them formulate the strategy and its execution, and make them solely responsible for the results. 

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Yes people get resentful over time. The irony of yes people is that they inevitably will begin to dislike and resent the small-business owner—secretly, of course. They expect grand promotions and big raises, and when they don't get them, they start gossiping behind the owner's back. This can become a permanent distraction and spread distrust through the organization. Counteraction: Only compensate and advance this person based on what they deserve, and if you start distrusting them, you likely have a good reason, and it might be time for them to go.

Do any of these sound familiar? Once these yes men and women are identified, they need to be turned into real leaders—or fired. 

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