Some commonly used expressions in the corporate world i.e. ‘submissive’, ‘subservient’ and ‘Yes Man’ have more or less become part of the acceptable vocabulary. The questions we must ask ourselves as leaders: Who are these people? Why they are preferred for hiring? Which corporate sectors, in particular, actually want to hire them?
Before we move any further, let’s understand that the above terms are frequently used in a derogatory manner to describe a man or woman who is perceived to be overly agreeable and hesitant to share contrary viewpoints. Most so-called ‘yes’ people get their way up in a mediocre culture because the bosses are such who want their employees to just listen without uttering a word, get things done and they don’t need to argue. In fact, they are responding to a culture or the management team who elicit and reward this type of behavior. Most submissive employees are doing what they think they need to do to survive on a dysfunctional leadership landscape where all the signals and messages confirm for them that dissent is bad and agreement is good.
Now let’s have a look at both the sides of the coin and see where the real problem lies and how to address it.
About ‘Submissive’ Work Culture
Of the many factors that contribute to a culture of submission or surrender, a big one is when decision makers frequently surround themselves with people having similar mindset, training or behaviours i.e. management consultants, executives and managers and then reward them for constant agreement. This mostly happens in customer service domain with particular reference to hospitality industry where one expects total surrender, courtesy and prompt service. Studies prove that this type of people are fearful, less confident and sometimes incompetent. When this happens, the team and organization start falling short of its collective wisdom and intelligence, collective creativity and collective ability to innovate. Not much undermines leadership effectiveness like surrounding yourself with or creating submissive employees who fear expressing dissent. For them, the concept “Agree to disagree” doesn’t even exist.