How To Work With Compliant People Without Crushing Them

The other day someone made a request of me and before I could even think, my mouth said, “Sure I’d love to.” When I went home and thought about it more, I realized I hadn’t really wanted to say yes, but my words betrayed me. And now I felt stuck between what I agreed to, and what I really wanted. Ugh, I’d been in this situation before, what happened?

At EnergyCAP, Inc., we’re helping our employees to understand themselves better. One of the tools we use is a behavioral trait assessment called RightPath. RightPath measures how “strong” a person is along six factors: dominance, extroversion, compassion, conscientiousness, adventurousness, and innovation.

Every employee has taken RightPath and the reports are accessible to the entire company. This way, you can learn about a colleague’s behavioral profile or compare yourself with your manager. This insight is helping with awareness, collaboration, and performance.

Because of RightPath, I’m more aware of how I behave. I understand why I said yes when I didn’t really want to: my compliant nature got the best of me.

According to RightPath, compliant people are loyal, cooperative, and eager to say yes. We’re “typically more agreeable when working with others, enjoy the joint efforts of working with others, and are careful when choosing words and making comments.” We don’t usually share our opinions unless we’re asked to.

If you know this about compliant people, you could walk all over us. But please don’t, you need us. Here are three ways to work with compliant people without crushing us.

Ask for opinions directly.
Unless we’re asked for our opinions, we probably won’t share them. That may run counter to how you operate. You may have an opinion, so you share it as freely as breathing. But compliant folks would rather support the established agenda than assert ourselves. If getting feedback is important to you, then ask for feedback directly. Don’t expect us to give it automatically. If a compliant person doesn’t speak up in a meeting, don’t assume she’s disengaged. She may be waiting to be called upon.

Give time to reflect.
We need time to compile how we think and feel. Our default is to agree, but that may not be our truest response. We may say yes in the moment, but later regret our yes, and then hold a grudge. This makes matters worse. Instead of demanding an answer on the spot, allow time for reflection. It may seem like going slow, but you’d rather have a true response than a backpedaled response later. Give a timeframe like, “I’d like to hear from you tomorrow,” or “After you have time to think about it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.”

Invite a no or different opinion.
Our aim is to be supportive. Disagreeing with you or saying no seems like being unsupportive. That’s why it’s hard to do. But a diversity of opinions may be best, so how can we get there? By your invitation. You can help us by inviting a no or a different opinion. Say something like, “You may disagree with me and that’s okay. I know you’re still on board.” An invitation like that welcomes a divergent opinion and reassures us that we’re still being supportive.

We’re all different people, offering different contributions. The key is learning how to let each other be our best. Next we’ll talk about working with dominant people. There are some of you out there, oh yes.



As the founder of Munyay Global Coach Marketplace, Chris believes you can love your life and your work. He's the Vice President of Human Resources for EnergyCAP, Inc., where he helps employees to succeed. He's also an Associate Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation, a Certified Professional Life Coach, and a Certified Gallup Strengths Coach. He loves to coach people, write, and speak around the topics of engagement, coaching, and strengths. Find a coach, pay a coach, and give a coach at www.Munyay.com.

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