Want to Be a Success? Burn Your "Party of No" Membership Card

In today's workforce, people are increasingly becoming members of the "Party of No," choosing to be resistant to change all the while offering few, if any, options for how to move forward and progress as an organization. Using this approach at work will be disastrous, not just for your organization, but also for your own career.

The problem with this resistant mentality is that it rarely translates into results, which are exactly what organizations seek to reward. Business leaders are growing tired of trying to both produce results and keep entitled employees engaged. They're becoming clear about what types of employees add value and are steering clear of those who are considered a drain on resources and emotionally expensive. Leaders today are more willing to play favorites with those who stand out against the crowd and work to produce results, which is exactly how it should be.

In order to become an indispensable asset at work in 2011, consider the following:

1. Get Real

Step out of your deluded thinking that all businesses should be democracies. The most successful businesses today are benevolent dictatorships. To run a business like a democracy is to assume that democracies are efficient and always lead to the best decisions and outcomes. Democracies are not efficient and do not help companies that wish to compete, so even though it may sound like a good idea, don't expect that of your organization.

Another thing to keep in mind is to resist the urge to deliver your opinion at work. Instead, conserve your energy to implement decisions and achieve amazing results. Your job is to deliver results, not opinions.

2. Be Willing

Keep in mind that you were not hired to review all requests and determine whether they merit the gift of your support. When asked to do something ethical and legal, there is only one appropriate answer: "yes." You may need to overcome some challenges, do some problem- solving, and figure out a few things—but that is your job.

To respond to a new decision or initiative with a "No. It won't work," is not helpful to the organization. You are not doing anyone any favors. Such a response is simply code for "I am unwilling" and "I would rather not change."

Just say "yes!" Saying "yes" keeps you in a position to continue to learn and influence. Rampant success starts with willingness.

3. Get Rewards

Want more than your share of the power, benefits, attention, and rewards this year? Just say, "yes." In the event you do have some legitimate concerns, view them as risks to mitigate—rather than reasons to resist or stall—and succeed in spite of them.

If you are unable to get on board, your rewards will soon match your value. Trust me, the rewards being offered to those who offer only resistance are diminishing quickly.

Oh, yes, joining the "Party of No" is easy and tempting. It is far easier to say "no," providing criticism and absolving oneself of any responsibility or accountability. But resist the temptation, and you will see the rewards.

Cy Wakeman is a dynamic keynote speaker advocating a revolutionary new approach to leadership. Her groundbreaking ideas are featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and SHRM.org. Her book, Reality-Based Leadership: Ditch the Drama, Restore Sanity to the Workplace, & Turn Excuses Into Results (Jossey-Bass, 2010) is available for order at all major online book retailers. For more information, visit cywakeman.com.

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  • Brian Cunningham

    Thanks for continuing to point out the elephant (dead moose, 800 lb. gorilla, etc.) in the room on a number of workplace issues, Cy. A workplace culture of "NO" clearly has a negative impact on an organization. "Negativety" appears to be one of the primary devices that some in the workplace consistently use to attemp to display their knowledge. Afterall, people who "know" that a given initiative won't work MUST be very knowledgeable... or so it has seemed. As you said, these "paper tigers" are fast losing their credibility amongst all but the most unsure of leaders and frontline workers. One of the main problems with this issue is that many of these resisters are in elevated positions. They are clearly committed to the status quo and days-gone-by, yet under the guise of, "I am just trying to protect the organization from making mistakes". It is leaderships responsibilitie to coach these people beyond these non-productive behaviors.
    I believe as most would, that workers at all levels should be encouraged to ask clarifying questions and to contibute to the direction of a decision, as both of these are productive, but the consistent "NO" that tends to come from well-known individuals in an organization needs to dealt with by leadership... and I believe that these are the folks that Cy is referring to... those who can be counted on time and time again to freely share their "push-back" in an attemp to stop, slow down or derail an initiative to satisfy their own agenda.
    I don't believe that these employees are necessarily "bad" or need to be fired. Actually, many of these employees have been, are or could be once again, very productive, valuable assets to an organization in many ways. All it takes is the "awareness", courage and committment of a good leader to coach them though their mistaken interpretation of their job description.
    Thanks again, Cy.

  • Billy Ross

    Thank you for guiding those who are constantly negative, and I hope this input isn't seen as critical. Just hoping to provide another viewpoint, and to encourage discussion...

    It's important to be a team player (and do work that the boss deems necessary), but there are definitely situations where management MUST be told 'no'. What if they do not understand the ramifications (and pitfalls) of their decision? Should an employee merely say yes, in order to win favor? Simply agreeing to every request is not a valid solution.

    Being a good team member also includes speaking up, when management makes the occasional error in judgment. Always saying no will likely get you fired... but ALWAYS being the 'yes-man' will cause people to lose respect for you.

    People (especially those at the bottom of the totem pole) are often afraid to speak up. Yet finding the courage to tactfully confront leaders is a powerful lesson in diplomacy. If things aren't going well (and most everyone on the team says as much), then an employee has a responsibility to speak up. It isn't always easy to disagree (AND still have a positive outcome), but the lesson will help you climb the ladder of success. Done right it will earn one respect, from both co-workers and leaders.