Yes-Man

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Burns: Are you saying my money is all gone?
Assistants: Mmm-hmm...
Burns: But I made all the right moves, didn't I?
Assistants: Yes, sir.
Smithers: Every move a right one!
Burns: ...I see it all now. You are just a bunch of yes-men. I was making the wrong moves, and you were too gutless to tell me! Isn't that right?

Assistants: Yes, sir.

A great assistant provides their boss with the things they need to do their job. This can mean an organized schedule, up-to-date research, fielding calls, or taking on the small tasks.

For some assistants, however, it means kowtowing, flattering, and generally blowing smoke up the posterior areas of their superiors. This is the domain of the Yes-Man.

For them, their boss is the be-all and end-all of their world. If the boss says "Jump!", the good Yes Man says "How high?" The great Yes-Man already knows, and follows up by apologizing that his leap was not worthy. The boss may not need or desire this, of course... but if they're a Control Freak, a Neidermeyer, or a Pointy-Haired Boss, you can be sure they'll have or want a Yes-Man. Sometimes, they'll have a team of them, led by the Alpha Yes-Man.

The reasons for this blind loyalty can be anything from unshakable love, to spineless fear, to a desire to borrow the power and status of the boss by association. The last type is often the one most likely to act like a mini-tyrant to others when the boss isn't around.

The Yes-Man is often not very good at his job, though this is not always the case. Sometimes, most notably when the boss's actual ability is lacking, they can be frighteningly efficient. Go far enough to the extreme in this, and you get the Battle Butler.

The Dragon is sometimes the Yes-Man, though just as often goes to the opposite extreme. The Professional Butt-Kisser is almost indistinguishable from the Yes-Man, except their devotion is to the position rather than the boss, so they'll treat anyone who gets, steals, or kills for the job the same as their old boss.

Of course, even exceptionally devoted Yes-Men can be pushed too far, especially by an over-demanding or bullying boss... and if they are, then the boss had better be careful; The Dog Bites Back.

Not to be confused with the guerilla activist/comedy hoaxters, The Yes Men.

Compare Hypercompetent Sidekick, The Renfield, Like a Weasel, Lickspittle. Contrast Commander Contrarian and Honest Advisor.

Examples of Yes-Man include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Sanae from Hanaukyo Maid Tai.
  • Ravi from Planetes comes off this way, but he's well-motivated to keep his job in a relatively heartless corporation.
  • Hidariko and Mikiko, All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku TV.
  • Koizumi from Haruhi Suzumiya happily agrees with everything Haruhi says, even things like shooting photos of Mikuru in embarrasing poses and outfits (much to Mikuru's dismay) and kisses her ass like a pro to boot. He will however, try to convince Haruhi of other possibilities, if the situation gets too serious. Because of Haruhi's Genre Savvy, he compares it to other fictional happening, but it doesn't always work out good for him.
  • The electro-sprites that came with Chisame 'Chiu' Hasegawa's Artifact in Mahou Sensei Negima are a group of Yes Mice. "Chiu-sama is truly kind!" "Hooray for Chiu-sama!" Naturally, Chisame is more annoyed by them than anything.
  • Siegfried Kircheis is this to his childhood friend, Reinhard von Lohengramm in Legend of Galactic Heroes. Parodied to the fullest extent in this bonus video
  • In the Tenchi Universe version of Tenchi Muyo!, Washu has two doll-sized robot copies of her whose sole purpose is to talk about how great she is.
  • Corkus toward Griffith from Berserk.
  • In Saint Beast, Pandora clearly disapproves of some of the things Zeus does, but he'll keep being the yes-man because it means he gets a greater share of Zeus' love.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Donald Menken was one of these for the Green Goblin in the Spider-Man comics.
  • Skeets to Booster Gold, be it his more stoic comic book depictions, or the Jerkass he is in the animated adaptations.
  • Possibly The Comedian towards Richard Nixon from Watchmen. The actor described him as one in an interview.
  • Parodied in Dilbert where, thanks to the bad economy, a rich businessman can now only afford to employ "maybe men" who are apathetic about his decisions instead of praising them.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Yellow Submarine has an interesting variant on this trope with the Blue Meanie Max. He starts out saying "yes" to the Blue Meanie Alpha, which gets him in trouble, at which point he switches to "no" but still means "yes." By the end of the movie the Blue Meanie Alpha wants him to say "yes" but he has just gotten used to saying "no, your blueness" (which he at the last minute switches to "yes, your newness"). Seems the Alpha takes pride in making his yes man's natural response the wrong answer.
  • Chi Fu from the movie Mulan behaves like an Obstructive Bureaucrat most of the time, probably because he's separated from the real authority, but in the presence of anyone of real power (the General or the Emperor), he turns into one of these, trying to anticipate his superior's words and actions and act accordingly. This is played for comedy at the closing of the film-when the Emperor bows to Mulan, it takes him a quarter of a second to go from oily yes-man fully supporting the execution of the heroine to prostrate on the ground before her.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • On The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin whenever the boss suggests something Those Two Guys respectively say "Great!" and "Super!".
  • At one point in Memory, Miles Vorkosigan briefly tries being rather literal version of this with Emperor Gregor. It's probably a good thing for Miles that Gregor isn't very fond of yes-men, given that his attempt consists of entirely repeating "Yes, Sire" after everything Gregor says, until Gregor tells him to stop it.
    • Miles later observes that his job as Imperial Auditor can be summed up as, "Whatever you say, Gregor."
  • Heavily discouraged by The Prince. Machiavelli warned that any Prince would be surrounded by flatterers, but in order to encourage the image of the Prince as infallible, he should have advisors whom he trusts to tell him the truth, but only when asked, and only in private. The best form of advisor is one who only thinks of the Prince's interests, rather than his own.
  • Kevan Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire is one to his older brother, Tywin. He turns out to be a subversion, as he actually does think for himself and agrees with Tywin so often because he knows that Tywin always acts in the best interests of House Lannister. After Tywin dies, Kevan's niece, Cersei, expects him to become her Yes Man and in shocked when he doesn't.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Finch on Just Shoot Me.
  • Dwight on the American version of The Office. (Gareth from the UK Version)
    • In later seasons, the Scranton, PA and Stamford, CT branches merge. Andy, the Yes-Man for the other branch, comes along and forms a rivalry with Dwight.
  • On No, Honestly one character was promoted at work to be a "Nod" man: after all the "yes" men said Yes, it was his job to nod. He would need another promotion to become a full on "yes" man.
  • Al Borland of Home Improvement acts like this around superiors. In one episode, he spoke to the president of their company more like one would the President of the United States, prompting Tim Allen's character to ask "Why don't you just glue your lips to his butt?" Later in that same episode, Tim brought Al along to discuss an agreement they both had with that very president on the logic that "if a suck up like you complains he has to take it seriously."
  • Goldar to Lord Zedd in the second season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
  • One of Stephen Colbert's tactics is to act like a Yes-Man to highlight the absurdity of his opponent's position, the most common targets being George W. Bush or Bill O'Reilly. Of Michael Behe:

My guest tonight has been called 'the father of Intelligent Design'. I hope he's ready for five minutes of me nodding approvingly.

    • He wasn't.
  • Colonel Klink on Hogan's Heroes became a Yes-Man whenever a general, any general, showed up. He practically licked the boots of Field Marshals.
  • Ryuunosuke towards Takeru in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. His bootlicking of the team's leader is taken to comic proportions. He's been training for this all his life, and will not let himself look bad at all.
  • Jeeves from Jeeves and Wooster manages to be this while not only being one of the most frighteningly efficient men in the show and being the only who really runs the show for his (rather moronic) boss, but also is the one to get said boss out of numerous sticky situations. Although "Yes, sir" became stock dialogue from him, if his facial expression showed the slightest sign of disapproval, viewers knew he was going to get his own way in the end.
  • Glory's minions on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    • Of course, in all fairness, she wasn't just a boss, she was a GOD!!
  • The "Twentieth-Century Vole" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus has a rich film producer who despises yes men. And people who disagree with him. Not to mention anyone who's indecisive.
  • Jerry Ledbetter on The Good Life.


Theatre[edit | hide]

  • In Angels in America, Justice Department flackman Martin Heller comes across to the audience as little more than one of these to Roy.
  • Mr. McQueen to Cladwell in Urinetown. So much.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Fallout: New Vegas has Yes Man, a consistently happy robot programmed to help whoever orders him around (due to the fact that his owner either couldn't make him work only for him or didn't fix it as some sort of contingency). He agrees with whatever you say, tells you what you want to hear, and gives you tips on where his owner went, and on how to take over Vegas, his previous owners plan.
    • This is best shown if the player does something detrimental to his plans (not properly dealing with certain factions or deciding to destroy your own Trump Card). He'll just say that it must make sense somehow since you must know what you're doing and goes along with it even though he's very aware that you just made things worse. The most he can do is point out how you've just made things more... Challenging.
  • In The Sims 3, one of the lower-level job titles in the Political career track is Yes Man.
  • In Assassin's Creed II, Silvio Barbarigo mocks fellow conspirator, Carlo Grimmaldi's, attempts of winning the trust of the Doge of Venice by telling him that he has become a Yes Man instead.


Web Animation[edit | hide]

  • Simmons from Red vs. Blue fits the trope in the Red Team as he is smarter and more willing to work then the others (Grif is extremely defiant to the point of desiring to pull a Heel Face Turn on Sarge and is Too Weak To Live due to his poor physique and the Donut is just plain gay). He is "The Dragon" for the fact he is second in command and willing to find a better alternative to the Red Team's generally dumb ideas. However he still kisses Sarge's ass a lot.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Ysengrin from Gunnerkrigg Court is perpetually kissing up to Coyote. Word of Tom confirms that this is because he loves Coyote very much—though Ysengrin isn't blind to his boss's shortcomings.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Smithers on The Simpsons.
    • One episode of The Simpsons parodied the concept by giving Burns a team of Yes Men, with Smithers as alpha. On discovering he's suddenly become poor, Burns denounces them all as the yes men they are. They, of course, reply, "Yes, sir!"
    • In another episode, Burns is outraged by the shocking decline in the quality and quantity of Smithers' toadying, and demands that he fall into line. When Smithers refuses, Burns fires him on the spot.
    • Subverted by the fact that Smithers will sometimes oppose Burns if he feels he needs to, such as trying to talk Burns out of blocking the sun over Springfield (as it "crossed the line from everyday villainy to cartoonish super-villainy"), or in going behind his back to reveal Sideshow Bob's electoral fraud to Bart and Lisa, fearing the consequences for his "choice of lifestyle" if the Republican Bob takes power.
  • Yes Man (The character's actual billing!) from Kappa Mikey. His main role seems to be getting excited so that Ozu can remain the stone-faced picture of calm. The poor dude sleeps in a drawer under Ozu's bed.
    • Also reversed. When Ozu's brother Brozu visits, Brozu brings with him his own personal "No Man." Whenever someone has something bad happen to him, it's his job to turn Chibi and scream "Oh NO!" in an over-the-top manner.
  • On Family Guy, Peter becomes the leader of a tobacco company, which comes with a Yes-man android. Peter promptly confuses the hell out of it.

Company Suck Up: Morning, Mr. Griffin! Nice Day!
Peter Griffin: Ehhh, It's a little cloudy.
Company Suck Up: It's absolutely cloudy! One of the worst days I've seen in years! So, good news about the Yankees!
Peter Griffin: I hate the Yankees.
Company Suck Up: Pack of cheaters! That's what they are! I Love your tie!
Peter Griffin: I hate this tie.
Company Suck Up: It's awful, it's gawdy, it's gotta go.
Peter Griffin: [pauses] And I hate myself.
Company Suck Up: I hate you, too! You make me sick, you fat sack o' crap!
Peter Griffin: But I'm the President.
Company Suck Up: The best there is!
Peter Griffin: But you just said you hated me!
Company Suck Up: [Begins to jiggle] But. Not. You. The President. That you. Said hated you. Who loved. Hate Yankees. Clouds.
{{[[[Your Head Asplode]] Head explodes}}, sending gadgets and wires everywhere]
Parking Director: I'll have that fixed for you tomorrow, sir.

  • Owen, Xanatos's second, on Gargoyles is an example of a slightly-more-free-willed Yes-Man, who is also something of a Battle Butler. However, regardless of his competence, he is actually bound by magic to serve Xanatos for his lifetime. So while he can raise objections and suggestions, when Xanatos finalizes his decision he must carry it out. This could be troublesome, as Xanatos seeks immortality, and Owen, as Puck, is already immortal.
    • Owen's actually something of a subversion. He on Xanatos' side, but he's never afraid to criticize him, and Xanatos deeply respects his opinion. The reason he's bound by magic is that Xanatos chose that binding over Puck's offer of one catch-free wish.
      • In fact, Xanatos said he'd fire Owen if he ever let him win at Judo, rather than going all out. Clearly X doesn't like yes-men.
  • Transformers Armada's Demolishor normally functions as one, though he has been known to occasionally have doubts.
    • Speaking of Transformers... Lugnut from Transformers Animated. One has to wonder how well Megatron knew his troops when he wonders if Lugnut is loyal. (He is. Loudly. With lots of "for the glory of Megatron!" and "whatever the great and glorious Megatron commands!" So much so that it eventually starts to get on Megatron's nerves)

Lugnut: STASIS LOCK ITSELF COULD NOT DETER ME FROM YOUR GRAND AND GLORIOUS PLAN, OH WISE AND NOBLE MEGATRON!
Megatron: (left optic twitches) Just.....go....
Lugnut: YES, MY LIEGE!


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • From 1970 to 1982, the President of Mexico had so much authority that an urban legend says that the president Luis Echeverri­a once asked "What time is it?", and one of his assistants said "Any time you want, Mr. President".
    • They said the same thing with Louis XIV of France: "Whatever time Your Majesty desires".
  • Real Life example: While Benito Mussolini initially appointed competent and free-thinking individuals to important government positions, he eventually bought into his own hype so much that he would only tolerate yes men, and quickly surrounded himself with them. Needless to say, this was to have disastrous consequences.
    • This a very common pattern with dictators. Possibly a mild form of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.
      • The Genre Savvy Roman Republic knew about this tendency, and had every triumphant general assigned a slave with only one job; to stand behind him while he's being hailed by the people and tell him "Remember; someday you will die". The message didn't really seem to take hold in the last century or so of the Republic.
  • A few Persian proverbs play with this trope:

Any failing that pleases the sultan is a quality.
If at noon the Shah tells you that it is midnight, raise your gaze and admire the stars.

  • An old joke: The President (of a country or corporation) begins to worry if his advisers are just appeasing him.

President: I must ask you this - are you yes-men or not?
Advisers (all in unison): Noooooooo...

    • Alternatively: Our president doesn't need a bunch of yes-men beside him. When he says "no", we all say "no"!
  • General Keitel was this to Adolf Hitler. He knowingly approved pretty much every single immoral and outright illegal order Hitler gave, always claiming he was Just Following Orders.