The Idea: Disagreement is healthy, but it is difficult to do well. We often times don’t see ourselves the way others see us. We can appear disagreeable or adversarial and not cooperative. There is a gap between how we show up, and how others see us. The larger the gap, the larger the communication disconnect. Communicating intent is the key to unlocking “healthy dissent.”
When organizations don’t do conflict well everyone suffers. Almost half of all employees pull back their performance when the culture gets toxic: 48% intentionally decreased their work effort, and 47% intentionally decreased the amount of time spent at work.
What makes it all the worse is that leaders “want to know what employees think” and employees “want to offer alternative suggestions to executive leadership.” So what is getting in the way?
The best leaders must be open to critique but team members, as detailed in Joseph Grenny’s article “How to Disagree With Your Boss,” are equally as responsible in this moment.
When disagreement becomes too aggressive, Grenny says, the number one flaw in these heated moments is a lack of acknowledgement of intent, and a failure to respectfully enter the conversation.
The four key steps to healthy dissent include:
Step 1: Contract for candor upfront
Step 2: Discuss intent before content
Step 3: Show respect before sharing a dissenting view
Step 4: Ask for – and earn – permission to disagree
“I don’t want to eat my broccoli,” was never an effective argument with my parents. In retrospect, I did not understand nor respect their intent. And I hadn’t earned the right to disagree with them. The same dynamic can help introduce dissenting opinions with your boss and your team.
Ask if you can be candid. Share your intent, give respect and don’t threaten. Move slowly and ask permission to disagree.
Honor given, honor received.