Unlock your team’s potential

How to Turn Yea-Sayers into True Thinkers

Do you find that no matter what you say your team is always nodding? If so, you could be surrounded by typical yea-sayers. But unproductive servitude and the fear of rejection can greatly impact how well a job is done and a company’s success. Social worker Martin Bergmann explains how to create an appreciative work environment in which employees become wise co-workers and thinkers.

Martin Bergmann explains how to create the right conditions to unlock the potential of your team and allow them to express their opinions openly.

The yea-sayer. They say yes to all. They signal their consent by silence. Do you have employees like this on your team? Those who simply refuse to think critically about the current project? Then it is time that you take care of and support the yea-sayer energetically, and develop them to become self-determined, thoughtful and cohesive members of the team.

The yea-sayer

Martin Bergmann, consultant and social pedagogue.

In the working world, a yea-sayer can be recognized by his/her silence. Martin Bergmann, social pedagogue and managing director of Improwe Consulting, explains: “The yea-sayer is silent on many topics since silence is often interpreted as consent. Identify a ‘yea-sayer’ in the team by reflecting on your work relationships. Are there people with whom you almost never discuss controversial topics? Do you like to go to them when searching for confirmation? Are they people who find it very difficult to make their own decisions? These can be indications that people are afraid of their own positioning and are more comfortable following the ways of others.”

Why do employees become yea-sayers?

Whenever an employee learns that they are successful with a certain behavior, they continue to use it. Success can be in this context: “This is how I get the greatest recognition of my leadership”, or “I expend little effort and don’t engage in debate throughout the day”. However, it is possible for yea-sayers to flourish in a certain environment – with a boss who can neither deal with contradiction nor with criticism.

Promote thinking!

Help your team members by giving them clear rules and directions while at the same time giving them enough space. Martin Bergmann demonstrates this by a concrete example.

Employee: “Hey, boss, should I tackle task A and B now?”

Boss: “Good question. Which factors play an important role here in our decision?” This will immediately promote an exchange of ideas between the employee and boss.

As a leader, you should place emphasis on constructive criticism. “Challenge them actively, be an example, place feedback on the agenda, conduct regular reflections,” says Bergmann. If you are appreciative in your communication, an atmosphere of positive development is automatically created.

Let it rain – and then start the harvest!

A constructive criticism culture guarantees further development at all levels. “Only in a climate with lots of precipitation and variety do diverse solutions to complex problems develop,” explains Martin Bergmann. “Even in special circumstances, everyone benefits from constructive criticism. If you know how to address problems with constructive communication and take your own well-being into your own hands, you can work out in which direction you should paddle.”

Further tips from Martin Bergmann to promote independent thought amongst employees:

  • Organize dedicated responsibilities for employees. This enables productive consultations with colleagues.
  • Ask for input! Don’t wait until someone has the courage to formulate their own thoughts and speak up.
  • Ask questions, but then wait. Because if you give the answer yourself, your coworker only learns one thing: If I remain silent long enough, I don’t have to say anything!

About the author

Jörg Peter Urbach is the author, editor and blogger of Sprachleidenschaft. He has been writing for more than 25 years, for print and online. Concepts. Stories. Journal articles. After studying musicology and German language and literature, Jörg Peter worked as an editorial manager in the classical music business. As long-time chief editor of the portal wissen.de, he knows how to inspire readers with clever topics.

If the native Kieler is not writing, he is walking through the Alps. Or listening to the opera. With mindfulness.

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