You are in a planning meeting with your team. Your boss has explained an issue within the organization that needs a solution. You chime in and explain a possible solution that is based on your knowledge and experience. Your co-workers nod in agreement, and you feel confident that this is an idea that deserves to be further explored and considered. Your boss begins her response with “yes…,” and you feel encouraged and supported, then she continues with “but…,” and suddenly you feel denied and knocked down. Unfortunately, a “yes, but…” response from leaders happens often, and the consequences are significant.
Not all proposals are an ace; however, in most situations, leaders can still respond in a way that encourages an employee to keep thinking and be a part of the process to find a solution. When a leader responds with “yes, but…” again and again, employee morale decreases. Employees who are made part of company development feel valued, and they become invested in the success of the organization. In short, employees who feel encouraged are more productive.
Why do some leaders regularly respond with “yes, but…?” In most cases, it is because the leader wants complete control over the situation. “Yes, but…” is a form of micromanagement. We have all had leaders in our lives, such as bosses, teachers, coaches, and even parents, who micromanage. One common reason leaders micromanage is due to a lack of trust; the leader does not trust that an employee will get the job done as well as the leader believes he or she will complete the task or fix the problem. Micromanaging, including providing feedback beginning with “yes, but” on a regular basis, leads to antipathy and suppresses employee contribution. Organizations led by managers who regularly stifle employee advancement are missing out on worker expertise and talents that may be beneficial to the accomplishments of the organization.
The alternative to “yes, but…” is “yes, and…” The word “but” is an objection to whatever was previously stated and a way to segue to the argument of why the proposal is not an appropriate suggestion. It has the tendency to shut down the dialogue. The word “and” means in addition to. And is a word that builds onto an idea and encourages innovation and development. In his article “Some Reflections on the Difference Between ‘Yes, but’ and ‘Yes, and”’ Rob Hoskins states “saying ‘yes, but’ allows us to stay safe, whereas ‘yes, and’ means learning to trust people, and interact with people, and to co-create something that could only have arisen from that interaction. We open ourselves to being changed by that other person.” Having a mindset of “yes, and” creates an environment that makes employees feel valued, respected, and invested and that will lead to greater success for the organization!