Is it better to be a “Yes Man” or to blaze your own path in the workplace?
Your answer to that question most likely depends on your age, as well as the work environment in which you are accustomed.
Forbes recently published a very interesting piece regarding how best to manage millennials, and it really got me thinking about some of the ways in which young professionals can stand out and make themselves known within their organizations. In the piece, author Liz Ryan details the story of Jackson, a 22-year old assistant who was given a list of 20 tasks to accomplish on his first day. While Jackson quickly finished 17 of the 20 items on his to-do list, he was not afraid to tell his boss (who also happened to be the CEO) that he wasn’t comfortable doing the remaining three items on the list, and perhaps there would be someone else better suited for the job at hand.
Whoa. Not only was that a pretty gutsy move on Jackson’s part, but doing such a thing was practically unheard of several years ago, when managers expected their employees to say “Yes ma’am” or “Yes sir” when given a task. However, as Ryan points out in her piece, millennials are more vocal than ever before about both their strengths and their weaknesses, which is shaking up the status quo of the traditional employer/employee relationship.
There’s no reason that any of us can’t be more like Jackson. In the age of social media, we are constantly taught to brand ourselves online and put our best foot forward, but it can also be refreshing for employers to hear when we don’t believe we are up to completing a specific task. While so-called “old-school” managers might scoff at this type of behavior, modern managers should be able to appreciate the candid nature of such a statement by their employees. A little humble pie never hurt anyone, and managers like to know that there are some things about yourself that you want to improve upon or change for the better.
However, don’t take this as an excuse to pass the buck when it comes to responsibilities that you don’t feel like completing or you might not necessarily be particularly adept at. It’s great to be able to express concern about your ability to complete a task, but you should also attempt to better yourself by working with someone who can accomplish the task so next time you can complete your work on your own.
If management is going to be courteous enough to understand and accept your professional shortcomings, the least you can do is attempt to improve yourself in return. After all, every relationship is a two-way street, and you’ll never get anywhere without at least trying to become more than you already are.
And if you don't believe me, just look at what happened to Jackson; several months later, Jackson was doing better than ever and had become a valuable member of the team. And because he had the courage to speak up, not only did he prove himself as a trustworthy employee, he also taught his boss how to be a better manager. Over time, Ryan reports, he became a valuable member of the team. Not bad for a first job.
So speak up, do your best, and don’t be afraid to admit when you aren’t the best person for a certain task. After all, it’s better to voice your concerns before starting a project than to deliver on empty promises.
The Millennial Report is a weekly column by associate editor Michael Cusanelli, who graduated from Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism in 2013. He is an avid gamer and movie buff who spends nearly as much time concocting the perfect mix tape as he does writing. You can find him on Twitter @MCusanelliSB.