YES PEOPLE are the ones in our lives who look out of their own self-preservation vs. the well-being of a co-worker, friend, or family member. They aren’t necessarily vindictive or have the intention of causing harm. 

YES PEOPLE are passive and avoid conflict. Essentially, they are confused for selfish people who understand the immediate is more satisfying than the big picture. They are the ones who applaud a bad idea, who think of themselves before the entire team, who repeat what you want to hear but knowing it isn’t factual or good for the person. 

Do they lack a moral compass? No, not necessarily because many of them are great humans who just lack a backbone and care more about your opinion of them vs the outcome of a greater situation. How can we work with YES PEOPLE? You won’t change everyone and it’s healthier that we attempt to manage the them.  


EXAMPLE ONE (THE COWORKER): You’re in the office and wondering if it’s the perfect time to approach your boss for the promotion. You say to your coworker, “Do you think I should ask for the promotion? I feel that I deserve it and it’s owed to me”. Your coworker knows the backend of the story and has information that you may not like, information that you probably won’t be getting the promotion. 

This person could save you grief and embarrassment by mentioning something that may upset you. “Hey John, I actually think you should wait on that. They might be considering someone else for the position, so maybe wait and see how that goes or change your approach?” – Knowing that delivering the truth might upset you (but save you from an uncomfortable situation), this coworkers encourages you to speak with the boss. “Go for it! You should ask for the job because you totally deserve it.” 

This YES PERSON had the opportunity to cease a difficult professional matter and nip it in the bud. Your coworker just put their level of comfort ahead of your future. Let that sink for a minute. Your coworker thought about the immediate moment of upsetting you vs. saving you from an embarrassing situation. Your coworker put his/her immediate needs ahead of your longterm goals.  

EXAMPLE TWO (THE ASSISTANT): You call an associate/assistant into your office and ask if he thinks the client proposal is good enough to send. Knowing that you put a few days of work into the presentation, he will not mention that it still lacks the excitement the client needs. Instead of saying, “I like it but I think a couple of sections aren’t ready yet because…” to his boss, the assistant says it looks wonderful and it’s ready to go! 

Your assistant is more concerned about the next paycheck or staying in his boss’ good graces vs. looking out for you, even if it might cause a moment of tension.  This person is a deficit to your operation and cares more about his level of comfort and paycheck vs. the good of the entire office.


Life is hard. Finding a loyal tribe to guide you through the professional career, personal life and social expectations is a puzzle for just about anyone. Having someone who would rather avoid a small moment of discomfort, even if your cost is great is toxic. It’s at the very least, a detour from a successful life if you disagree with the word toxic. YES-PEOPLE place their temporary needs over your longterm best interest.

But should you avoid them? How can we coexist with such a personality type in our lives and encourage their honesty?


Fergie and the national anthem: She sat there and rehearsed for days, spoke to her team about the approach and worked with her band to rearrange the music. At every point of the voyage, someone should have said, “I love you but I’m not sure this will come across as you hope. I wouldn’t want you suffering the bad publicity if it does not translate to the audience. You’re amazing and I think you’ll do great, but there’s that chance it could go wrong and I wanted to at least say that.”

Not one person stopped her? She seeks the help of a stylist, glam team, management, lighting crew, choreographer, publicist, producer and vocal coach. She seems quite reasonable and professional. She’d listen if someone said it might sound terrible, but she went out there and did her thing. They let her walk into a moment easily avoidable. Are they thinking of Fergie or their own survival? 

H&M Sweatshirt Debacle: The infamous little boy wearing a monkey sweatshirt had the nation gasping in discomfort and caused national headlines. As a photographer myself, I can pretty much name a fair amount of hands that shirt went through. Forget about corporate & ad agency, just the people on set could have said something. 

Stylist? Stylist assistant? Grooming or makeup dept., production assistants, lighting crew, photographer, DIT, producer, clients on set, the parent, child handlers on set required to be there by law, retoucher, social media marketer, website people who uploaded the image… NONE OF THEM!? No one said, “Hey, are you sure you want to use this image|shirt?” – Everyone wanted their paycheck and probably thought, not my problem. I just need to get my check. 

H&M Scandal made national headlines


Maybe we have YES-PEOPLE because it’s a necessary (or so they think) means of survival with friends and in the work place. Egotistical bosses contribute to the fear of not losing your job and having agreeable employees. Maybe it’s that egos have gone so high that it’s harder to hear an opposing thought without feeling it as a personal attack? It could a hundred other reasons but it’s a big enough problem to warrant articles and videos on the subject.

Lets revisit the first 2 examples of YES PEOPLE in the wild. Here are ways the situation could be remedied and each person feels empowered enough to have an opinion and know that it matters. They need to feel their ideas are encouraged and not used as a weapon against them.

EXAMPLE ONE (COWORKER): It’s in the approach. Asking for advice is one thing, but we need to remove the weight that comes with that question. Give them a way out and when a person does not feel cornered, they’ll usually respond in a more truthful way. 

I’d say “Hey I’m thinking of asking for the promotion today. I feel it’s time but what do you think? You’re a good gauge of mood, should I do it or do you think it’s better to wait?” – CONGRATS, you just asked the same question without making the listener feel like all the pressure is on them. Hopefully your coworker will share information they had and save you the uncomfortable confrontation with your boss. 

Photograph by Bruce Mars

EXAMPLE TWO (THE ASSISTANT): Ask them to come into the office and express how important this presentation is for the company. Ask the assistant if he feels it’s good to go, or can he find a few spots that need improvement before you send it off. Your assistant doesn’t have to give you a YES or NO answer this way. It allows him the chance to review the work, to give his thoughts and more importantly allows him time to make a decision. He doesn’t feel cornered this way and you’ll likely have a more honest answer from him. 

In each case, it’s important to thank them for their honesty and not lash out if it’s news you were hoping to avoid. It comes down to safety and that’s the basis of why YES PEOPLE are that way. 

It’s about having the reassurance that if they go against your idea or hopes, they’ll still have a job or a place in your life. As it’s their job to answer honestly, even if it hurts your feelings; it’s also our job to provide them with reassurance that their honesty will only be appreciated, not punished. 

It’s easier to fix ourselves than the bad habits of others and by making this small adjustment within, you will likely have a more impactful change in the behavior of others. 

Lets speak a little more…

The author teaches photography and getting into the business of photography. Follow on Youtube.