I don't care how many times I hear it, how many authors print it, and how many salesmen preach it, the customer is not always right. They may always get their way, because it is their money, but they are not always right.
If you are not telling your customer when they are wrong, it is not their fault the project is a mess, it is yours. It is not their skills that are lacking, it is yours. Anyone (sales people, managers, software architects, developers, politicians, etc.) who is doing their job right has learned to say no effectively.
The Yes Man (or women) is the type of person who uses their environment as an excuse for always saying yes. Most of the time I have found these people to be workaholics. The book Peopleware
says workaholism is not the same as alcoholism (pg. 16), it is more like the common cold, everybody catches it once in a while. That is not true, not even close.
We all show behaviors of a workaholic every once in a while (just like everyone drinks to much every once in a while, they don't go on 2 week binges once in a while), but a workaholic does not stop showing the behaviors and those behaviors will wreck your life, and can kill you. I know, it destroyed my step father. He was demoted from VP of a company that he worked 7 days a week for. He work for them for over 30 years. When the company was bought out by a foreign company, they did a clean up. Suddenly he was told he was dead weight. After 2.5 years of deep depression, he drove his car into a wall and was killed in the accident.
Like I said above almost every Yes Person I have met has been a workaholic. They don't say no because of the fear of destroying their identity. The workaholic's identity is their career. Saying no to a workaholic is like a normal person saying no to their family when they ask to be fed dinner. They perceive a no at work in the same light, every task is necessary, every task is important, and every task is a reflection of who I am as a person. They have no value outside of work.
If you are dealing with one of these yes people in your environment, you will notice they spread havoc throughout the organization. Not when they first arrive. When they first arrive they take on all challenges, appearing to be the newest hero on the block. After a while however, when their plate is to full to handle in 75 hours a week, they will spin into chaos mode. Still saying yes to everything, and dropping the ball on almost everything. They show up to meetings unprepared, their meeting schedule consumes their entire day, you start hearing about family problems and working the weekend in the same conversation, and you notice yourself doing your best to not work with them.
If you have a manager that is a workaholic you will hear things like, "the political nature of this office does not allow for saying no", "we need a warm body at this meeting, drop what your doing and go", "I did not have time to review this before the meeting, please take me through it page by page", "we expect you to be professional and work overtime like we do", and "after this emergency we will let you get back to your normal work load".
You will see within the environment projects and work being passed around like a hot potato. Not because the people there are lazy, but because they know the manger does not know when to say, "No, my team is stretched to the limits so we can't do that", or "We don't have anyone available that does that, so we won't have a representative at the meeting". The team has been bombarded with work that has been accepted on behalf of the workaholic for them to do. Work that they should not be doing, but the workaholic can't say no, because that would be identity damage.
You'll find them also very unforgiving in performance reviews. If you aren't supporting their actions, you are not helping them maintain a healthy identity. So if you are not displaying workaholic characteristics, you are not one their identity improvement team. You are actually sending the message, "I don't like who you are". That is at least how, "I can't work the weekends" is heard by them.
The only real solution when faced with this type of environment is to get out. You either get out, or you join the club. So over time, you find the truly talent and balanced people have left, and the place is a chaotic mess filled with disgruntled employees, working mostly on supporting their manager's image by performing the work they are unable to say no too.
If you are faced with this problem, you can do only one thing, leave. This blog
ends with me leaving a position because of this same problem. The manager said yes to us (the development team) and yes to the customer on everything. As most workaholics do, they built a wedge between the customer and the technical team, and they did all the communicating. We were told we were not allowed email, or to speak to the customer. The problem they ran into was they were saying yes to conflicting things. It got so bad I emailed the customer claiming it was an accident so they would know what was really going on. The customer exploded, and although the explosion was directed at me, it was worth it, because it got us back on the same page. But only for a little while. Leaving became my only solution.
Most of the time the people in charge of the Yes Person don't see the affect they are having on the environment. They won't easily detect it because the workaholic is good at protecting their identity. It is a matter of survival. If you suspect you may be having this problem, do a survey, but make it an anonymous survey.
Sometimes, but not very often you can help a Yes Person. It is rare enough that you can have any lasting affect with your help, that if they don't accept outside help (employee help programs), you should start working at fire them. At least start reprimanding them for the dropped balls, the poor morale of their people, and step into the communication channels between them and the their teams.
Change usually only comes with pain for these people. Sadly that pain is usually great enough to destroy their life outside of work as well as the career they worked so hard to create. When that dies so does their identity. If they find help, they can rebuild it without work being a factor in it.
I have had my share of long hours that lasted for a long period of time. But in between I make myself take breaks and make sure that my life outside of work is not falling apart. If I am doing life right, my career does not define who I am.