In the 8 odd years I spent in the Indian Police Service, I hardly saw anyone saying ‘No, sir.’
The ‘Yes, sir’ behavior went all the way to the top. In fact, a junior IPS officer might still occasionally say ‘no.’ But often, the top brass would not only say ‘yes’ but also bully the hierarchy below into falling in line.
For a while, I assumed that this was only a problem in government, but I saw the same thing in private companies that have outwardly shed the trappings of hierarchy. The power equation remains equally strong.
Human beings are wired for self-preservation. If saying ‘yes’ serves us more than saying ‘no’, we will say ‘yes.’
However, here is the problem: If we always say ‘yes’, then we are little more than obedient robots (with university degrees).
Leaders have to be able to say no. In fact, every leadership training should train people to say ‘no.’ I once suggested this to some fellow IPS officers, and they took offense.
One even taunted me saying, ‘How would you feel if your subordinate said no to you?’ The truth is, I won’t like it but that is my problem to sort out.
Some medicines are bitter but we all need them once in a while.