Think Twice Before Hiring A Yes Man

I've worked since the age of 14, first as a temp in a brown suburban office building and then as a temp in various sleek and tall urban office buildings and successively (and sometimes simultaneously) after that as an administrative assistant, wife and mother, freelance writer, adjunct lecturer, brand consultant, think tank leader, and government communicator.

It has been my observation over the years that most of the time, I fit in with work teams where an independent, innovative style of thinking is wanted. But it's hard for me to find a group that really wants this, because most of the time, almost as though by some force of nature, bosses seek to hire people who somehow resemble themselves -- or at least, people who act this way.

The situation at work kind of mirrors the rest of life. For example, schools at all levels tend to attract people who not only share an outlook on life, but who literally dress the same. In the same clothes. Same exact clothing. Head to toe.

Religious communities favor conformity. Overwhelmingly, I have found, people who go to the same synagogue or who are part of the same communal group, tend to dress the same and to share similar viewpoints -- and to think that their way of being, as opposed to all others, is the default for "normal."

I have observed that regardless of the setting, where personal views vary in a community, they tend to occupy at the outer limits an acceptable "bell curve." This means that uniqueness isn't really a thing, but more like a variation on some standard that is known to all concerned.

Even on social media -- where one would think that the lack of a physical presence would somehow encourage greater diversity of thought -- people self-segregate into like-minded communities, and inevitably choose an enemy to demonize. Online, as in real life, there is a similar way of talking, of moving through time and virtual space, and people are known to one another through their use of the right linguistic codes and symbols -- even if they disagree on this essentially minor thing or that.

Perhaps the need for conformity, particularly of one's subordinates to oneself, actually is a biological urge. A survival thing -- as bosses subconsciously fear that the free-thinking subordinate is more apt to try and take their jobs. Or, at the larger level, as social institutions breed people who keep those institutions afloat, rather than challenging the reasons for their very existence.

If I may introduce reality for a moment: Our fears tend to lead us in the wrong direction. As a friend of mine once told me, who worked in Internal Affairs at a government agency: Usually the criminals are the ones who look just like the rest of us. They have to, in order to charm and disarm all the people who may catch on to their schemes.

People fear what they do not understand, and one thing most people do not understand about freethinkers is that they're mostly passionate about a principle. If they get riled up, it's because they perceive that inferior ideas are moving forward, or that a result orientation is being subsumed to a culture where image is more important than reality.

I remember a time when people really were free thinkers. Now, it's all about "saying what the boss wants to hear," "not making trouble," "passing the litmus test" so that you are allowed into the room -- real or virtual.

We cannot allow ourselves to fall into conformity. When that happens, it is truly the beginning of the end.

Organizations only grow, and thrive, and stay alive when they stay in touch with reality.


By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. The author hereby releases this content into the public domain. Free photo by 2649771 via Pixabay. All opinions expressed are those of the author alone.

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