View from HR: Good employees are willing to say ‘yes’ and accept discomfort

When you reach a certain age, you might go shopping for long-term care insurance. I complained to an insurance broker recently that some insurance companies enjoy collecting premiums, but resist paying when needs arise.

He explained something about the best companies: they change the flow. Good carriers allow individual claims adjusters to say “yes,” but it takes a team above them to say “no.” Bad carriers encourage solo denials then set up frustrating appeals and false hurdles. A “yes mindset” does not assure payment, but it creates a fair process for the customer.

Good employees, with supportive work cultures, come into every situation with a “yes” mentality. Yes does not mean yes to everything. It means “I want to help you accomplish your reasonable needs in support of our goals.”

Understand the problem

The way you approach a challenge determines so much about how it ends. If I think you want to cheat me, I will focus on cheat-prevention. Rather than understanding why you behave the way you do, and what it is you really need, we stop at “no.” Using a yes mentality allows the real issues to surface instead of submarine.

Company policies that come from the “cheat me” perspective might reduce cheating by the 7 percent who look for loopholes. What about the 93 percent who want to do the right thing (or just do not know the right thing)? Most sick pay policies are set up to prevent cheating rather than to support the occasional, legitimate need for more paid days. Is this a missed opportunity to reward employees for good service?

Employees who say yes get the next challenge and promotion. People who understand that difficulty and confusion usually precede innovation say yes to new things. People who see the fog ahead as a reason to “go slow and say no” will not get to new places in their career.

Yes does not mean “yes me.” Yes means you want to understand the problem, be part of a solution and take the right risks required along the way. People who say yes work hard to see ahead, they do not wear blindfolds.

Accept discomfort

Employers get this backwards, too. We allow employees discretion in their work day, their processes, their efficiency and even their quality. We too often accept minimum results. Maybe we do this by default and by under-management. Then we hyper-manage the easy things like rigid work hours, parking spaces and minor rules! Seems to me we have our “yesses” and “nos” reversed.

Leaders who say yes accept discomfort. Comfortable leaders do not challenge themselves and their organizations to grow or succeed. Uncomfortable leaders are walking on new paths without a verified map and saying yes to the challenge of asking others to follow. A comfortable path takes most organizations on the road to decline.

I am still wary of long-term care insurance and whether a claim would be paid if needed, but at least I know what to look for in a good carrier!

Bruce Clarke, J.D., is CEO of CAI, helping more than 1,000 North Carolina employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability. For more information, visit