Is being a "yes man" the only way to get ahead?

In the post-Enron and Bernie Madoff era, is being a “yes man” really still the way to advance your career? According to “Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn’t Want You to Know – And What to Do About Them” by Cynthia Shapiro, PHR, it might be.

For our office book club one of the attorneys picked “Corporate Confidential.” The book describes an antiquated culture that requires 100% submission to the company directives. Identifying problems or weaknesses in the company’s plans or processes is akin to treason. It’s a company that embodies nearly every conspiracy theory employees might have about their employer.

Ms. Shapiro has some good points and identifies a number of potential landmines of which employees should be mindful. But her point gets lost because the employer she describes seems so evil and anti-employee. Any employee who questions the direction of the company is a traitor whose career is destroyed. If you don’t cheer every decision made by your supervisor, you are just an “invisible employee” who will never be recognized or promoted.

Given the nature of our practice, everyone in our office knows that the purpose of HR is to protect an employer from personnel issues. However, Ms. Shapiro’s description of the stereo-typical employer is one where an employee must always be “publicly positive” about your supervisor’s decisions.

Most companies today have to stay competitive. If none of their employees ever question the direction of the company, how is that possible? It is true that there are politics involved in company communications and that how you deliver criticism is more important than what you say. But, there are too many companies that have lost their edge and gone under simply because no one on the team was willing to point out the icebergs that laid in the path of the company’s plans.

If being a “yes man” is the only way to get ahead in a company, I definitely don’t want to work there.