Melissa Stratman

25 Sep, 2023
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Melissa Stratman

25 Sep, 2023
Follow Coleman!

Speak Up, Shine Bright: The Power of Healthy Disagreement in the Workplace

Hey there, game changers! Let’s talk about something that might seem a little counterintuitive – encouraging disagreements. Whether you are encouraging those who report to you to disagree with you or whether you need to disagree with your boss, healthy conflict in the workplace can be the difference between a boring, powerless job and an intellectually stimulating environment where getting to the best outcome is treasured.

Here’s the reality for most of us. When everyone nods along in agreement, it might feel cozy, but it’s like living in a bubble of lost opportunities. We’re talking about those moments when you’re in a meeting, and you have that gnawing feeling that there’s a better solution, but you hesitate to speak up. Now picture this: a room filled with brilliant minds, each harboring unique perspectives, talents, and experiences. Now, imagine if those minds didn’t just nod in agreement but clashed in a harmonious symphony of ideas. It’s time to ditch the hesitation, stop giving lip service to diverse ideas, and amp up their value in the organization to discover a goldmine of possibilities. 

 Healthy conflict isn’t about turning every meeting into a battleground; it’s about opening up a space where differences are welcomed and celebrated. Ideas collide, perspectives mesh and the sparks of innovation fly higher than a firework display. 

So, how do you embark on this journey of constructive dissent and encourage your staff to engage in dissent as well? Here are some pro tips.

Find Your Voice. Repeat after me: “My perspective matters. I was hired for my abilities.” Your experiences, insights, and instincts are unique to you, and they hold the potential to revolutionize the way things are done. Don’t be shy to share what you see, even if it doesn’t align with the status quo. Your voice may unlock the secret to fostering a workplace culture (on both the team you manage and the team of which you are a member) where speaking your mind isn’t just encouraged – it’s celebrated. 

Visualize growth. Think about it – if everyone agrees with everything, where’s the growth? Embracing healthy conflict is like opening a treasure chest of growth opportunities. It challenges assumptions, uncovers blind spots, and propels your team to new heights. If done right, it should spark others to seek out opinions, literature, and ideas that continue to spark new ways of thinking.  Remember, it’s about coming together as a unified force, channeling your collective brilliance to create the best possible outcome. Celebrate the beauty of collaboration, where your combined efforts are greater than the sum of its parts.

Practice the Graceful Art of Expression. Sharing Your respectful disagreement isn’t about throwing tantrums, calling names, or digging in your heels. It’s about presenting your viewpoint with respect. It’s like a dance, where you step forward with your argument while maintaining the rhythm of courtesy and professionalism. Often, beginning with the why of your idea helps frame your passion and motivation behind your disagreement. Be sure that the goal of reaching the very best outcome is present in the undertones of the entire conversation.

Cultivate a productive ripple effect. When you speak up, you’re giving permission to others to do the same. Your courage can catalyze an environment where diverse opinions are celebrated. Imagine the ripple effect of vibrant discussions and ideas flowing like a river of possibility.  When you encourage healthy conflict, you also set an example for your colleagues. Also, watch for quieter members who begin to use body language, indicating that they want to speak up. Pause the conversation and ask the quieter members to weigh in.  Your oversharing might bowl over the conversation if you don’t also invite others to disagree with you or build upon your current idea. It has been said that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should listen twice as much as we speak.

Approach disagreement with curiosity, not combativeness. Ask questions, seek to understand, and unearth the root of your differing viewpoints. It’s like a treasure hunt for knowledge and insight that leads to better decisions.  Notice if you consistently want to jump in with “the right answer” rather than asking questions.  A push to have the right answer can hinder creative curiosity and can keep you from getting the best ideas.

Use language that builds the discussion. The key is to approach healthy conflict with anyone at work with a sprinkle of diplomacy and a dash of respect. It’s not about challenging authority; it’s about enriching the discussion. Shift your intentions first. Instead of blurting out, “I don’t agree,” try, “Yes, I see where you’re coming from, and I have an additional perspective to consider.” Avoid the word “but” as it pits one idea against another idea, and sometimes a discussion has to happen before one person can replace their idea with a better idea. Don’t waste time on these power negotiations.

Let’s address the elephant in the room: disagreeing with the boss. It might sound scary, like stepping into the lion’s den. But, my friend, it’s time to flip the script. Disagreeing with good intentions, respectful tones and with great ideas is the secret sauce to whipping up some major success. Disagreeing with the boss doesn’t mean you’re causing chaos – it means you’re adding depth to the conversation, chiseling out a path to brilliance that might not have been discovered otherwise. Use the above tips even when you disagree with the boss. And ask for feedback to help guide you along this new path. 

So, courageous souls, let’s make a pact. Let’s espouse the value of healthy conflict and  transform dreaded moments into golden opportunities. When you acknowledge the discomfort and dare to disagree, you’re not just raising your voice – you’re raising the bar for your team, your organization, and your own growth. You are in your job to make a difference and deliver better outcomes, not to please everyone today. Embrace the power of healthy conflict because out of those dynamic discussions, great ideas can be just beyond the barrier of discomfort.

 Photo by Elisha Terada on Unsplash

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