I can think of three main reasons why people use this misleading phrase: One is to simply agree with whatever the person is saying because their mind is on something else and they cannot be bothered to engage in a discussion. Two, they genuinely agree with what has just been said. And three, they want to disagree but they are either too polite or scared because the person they are supposedly agreeing with is their boss.

‘Yes men’, as they are sometimes politically incorrectly referred to, can be a real pain and cause all sorts of needless damage. I once inadvertently agreed with the CEO of a company I was a board member of and immediately he started to set up meetings with his key sales managers to discuss about reducing their bonuses. When I challenged him as to what the hell he was doing he said “Well you agreed!” Indeed, I had, but I did not mean it literally, it was more of a principle thing, and anyway, I didn’t think he would really act on it. It was an expensive lesson for me. 

Even the most confident leader has doubts sometimes and looks for people to share their ideas with. A strong sparring partner can save them a great deal of time and often helps them to quickly take the topic to a deeper level.

Unfortunately there are far too many ‘yes men’ around. Even without consciously knowing it we can become susceptible ourselves because agreeing with someone is much less hassle than rejecting them head on.  This is especially true of any topic that has a degree of uncertainty.  Think about it.  How many times last week did you say “Yes you’re right” without one hundred percent meaning it? And who did you say it to?  They might be right now, out and about acting upon ‘your advice’!

Consultants, coaches and interim managers are paid for their advice and should never say “yes you’re right” unless they genuinely mean it.  However, very sadly, far too many do. It’s a professional curse that needs eradicating.

One way of dealing with it is, the next time someone says to you “yes you’re right”, challenge them. They won’t expect it: ask them “That’s interesting, what exactly was it in my argument that motivated you to agree so readily”? You never know, perhaps their answer might be useful?  In any case it is very likely to encourage a more thoughtful response in  future!

Have a good week