The real problem with being a “yes” man or woman

The Corporate Climb-Laura Wittig
The Corporate Climb-Laura Wittig

Photo by Walt Stoneburner

Disclaimer: Okay… okay. I have a confession to make prior to falling victim to the raised eyebrows of all my friends and family after reading this article. I’m guilty. I am indeed, in some capacity, what I am about to describe as a “yes woman.” Now, I’m not the worst I’ve ever encountered by far, but, I do have symptoms of a yes woman. I’ve heard that acceptance is the first step to breaking any sort of bad habit, so here goes.
What is a yes woman?
Who are the yes women and men in our lives? We all know them. They are the ones who are the first to raise their hands to chair any volunteer initiative, big or small, regardless of how full their plates already are.
They are the ones who seem to have, somehow, magically created 30 hour days – or else, how would everything they are doing be possible?
They seem to excel at their full-time jobs. They are changing the world one not-for-profit board position or community bake sale at a time. They aren’t scared to take on new jobs, or even side jobs. They maintain their personal and professional relationships. Sometimes they even have time to eat, drink, and – what – sleep?! Who are these superhumans and what is their secret?
As amazing as these everyday superheroes may sound, there is some bad news. The problem with being a yes man or woman is that there is always something that is sacrificed with each and every new initiative taken. Finding a realistic balance between taking care of yourself and your family and being involved in your community isn’t always easy to do. It is, in fact, extremely difficult.
The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we want to have a little part in many things, or whether we want to do a few things, and do our absolute best that we possibly can. From one yes woman to another, here are some things that I have learned in the last few years to take into consideration.
3 tips on being the best you can be while taking care of yourself
Picking and choosing
If we can’t do everything, then we should probably do the things that represent us the best. When evaluating one opportunity over another, the first thing you should do is check back with your personal values and goals. Choose to support the causes and initiatives that are closely aligned with these goals. Not only will you be more passionate about them, but your effort will go back to representing your personal brand and who you are as an individual.
It will help you expand your networks in areas that are meaningful to you, and that are aligned with both your short and long-term goals. Don’t join something or sign up for something simply for the sake of getting involved. It can become a slippery slope.
Saying no
Many of us avoid this word like the plague, when in fact there are some situations when a yes is much worse than a no. Being asked to be involved in something can be extremely flattering and humbling. Unfortunately, what happens when you get involved and can’t commit the resources required to do the best job possible, is that you are misrepresenting yourself, and your work.
Pick the causes where you can ensure you sign your work with excellence, rather than do a less than stellar job. Even if it’s a volunteer job or committee, remember – the world is still small and word gets around quickly. You don’t want to make a volunteer position gone wrong the thing that ruins your chances at future opportunities. Do everything in a manner where you are extremely proud to say “I nailed that.”
YOU come first
There will always be other opportunities to get involved in something cool. There may not be as many other opportunities to tend to you. Ignoring your own requirements, such as exercising regularly, eating and sleeping properly, and maintaining relationships that are important to you can become extremely dangerous to yes men and women. Take care of yourself first, and everything extra will be that much more special and enjoyable.
Make sense? Sound easy? Well… it’s not always. It is, however, very easy to get caught up in the world of trying to do everything and be everyone.
The best thing to do is plan your time in advance. Choose how much time you want to commit to extracurricular activities per day, week, month, or year, and stick to that budget. Ensure to always plan time for yourself, and only commit to so much that you can confidently say you are doing the very best you can at each commitment.
Practise graciously declining opportunities. Look in the mirror and repeat after me: “No, thank you.” That wasn’t so tough, was it?
Athena Leadership is a Manitoba-based, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing young women in leadership. Laura Wittig currently serves on the Board of Directors as the Director of Communications. She is a proponent of helping other women advance in their careers, and seeks to share her perspective on how we can always keep learning personally and professionally.

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