How do you approach dissent in the workplace?
As I see it, you have three main choices.
- Stomp out dissent.
Keep dissent from arising. And when it does, crush it. By all means necessary. Harsh words and dirty looks work well. Sarcasm can be a particularly effective way of shutting up a dissenter, especially in public.
Why would you stomp out dissent?
Because you’re insecure and you don’t like any perceived challenges to your authority. Because you’re busy and you don’t want to slow down and be thoughtful. Because you’re arrogant and you think you know it all.
What are the consequences of stomping out dissent?
Trust on the team drops. Employee engagement on the team drops. Innovation on the team drops.
People shut off their brains. The best decisions don’t get made. The risk of misconduct increases.
And people think you act like a jerk.
- Tolerate dissent.
Make sure dissenters are free speak up and be heard without fear of repercussions. Listen to them. Take them seriously.
Why would you tolerate dissent?
Because you are secure in your leadership and not threatened by opposing ideas. Because you value good decision-making over false politeness, healthy debate over groupthink, and diversity over homogeneity.
What are the consequences of tolerating dissent?
Trust goes up, fear goes down; this results in greater efficiency and effectiveness on the team. Better decisions get made. Risks are reduced. People think for themselves and will surprise you with good ideas they come up with on their own.
And people working for that jerk down the hall will see you as a good leader and want to join your team.
- Encourage dissent.
Go beyond tolerating dissent. Invite it. Have people put your ideas to the test. Cultivate a team culture where people enjoy playing devil’s advocate, put aside their confirmation biases and can easily pivot among points of view.
Why would you encourage dissent?
Because you are one of those very rare servant-leaders who can facilitate the creative tension needed to produce breakout ideas. Because you know that doing so forces people to think, to push themselves and to grow. Because you see things whole, appreciate ambiguity and are constantly seeking improvement.
What are the consequences of encouraging dissent?
Super high levels of trust, creativity and innovation. A team where everyone contributes, feels valued and is engaged. An environment where people are always on their toes, doing their best thinking and never get lazy. A safe space where conversation is about the merit of ideas, not people and office politics.
You get the best and brightest to be highly-loyal followers and, together, you might just change the world.
How do you approach dissent in your workplace?
As always, we appreciate your views.
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