DISAGREEING EFFECTIVELY AT WORK
Todd Dewett | April 5, 2021
Most people want to speak up and disagree with others at work more often. However, we remain quiet because we don’t want to offend, we want to be supportive, and so on. Other times we do speak up and inadvertently cause problems due to our tone or choice of words.
If you seek to advance, you must learn how to disagree effectively. It’s absolutely required when you choose to support creativity, innovation, and change. When you challenge the status quo, disagreement happens. It’s normal. What matters is how you react.
Picture this: you are in an exciting meeting talking about reimagining a key process. Ideas are flying and the discussion is productive – initially. Then someone takes aim at a well-intentioned comment and reacts with fast critical feedback. The room falls silent. What do you do?
Things You Don’t Say
Don’t offer a clear negative assertion. There are rare exceptions, but usually, it’s not smart. Avoid phrases like “I disagree,” “I can’t support that,” “That won’t work,” or “You’re wrong.” These never uplift and often create unproductive tension or conflict.
Things You Should Say
Craft responses that are inquisitive, not dismissive. Try using phrases such as, “I’d like to know more,” “Can you explain that further?” or, “That might be possible if we were to…” These types of statements allow you to build a more complete conversation before a final decision is made.
Be Supportive and Helpful
Even when you disagree, try to add value to their effort. For example, you can praise or affirm some portion of what they propose. You can always validate their intent as reasonable or important. And you can offer resources or connections they might find useful as they continue to move forward with the issue.
If the disagreement was civil and productive, following up can still be useful. So, consider stopping by to say hello, show support, or just make sure they feel fully understood. If the disagreement was more difficult, consider a light apology (focused on how you delivered your response) or a full apology (focused on your words and delivery). A sincere apology is often essential to mending fences and maintaining respect.
What kind of leader are you? Just look at your team. If disagreement never happens or happens often and is painful, you’re in trouble. The productive space is in the middle: it happens once in a while and it’s managed effectively. That’s when disagreement facilitates better conversations, better decisions, and more forward motion.
Stay Up To Speed With Dr. D.!
Everyone says we need to take breaks at work. Small bits of time not working are rejuvenating investments in higher productivity. True, but are you using breaks correctly? Let me challenge you to take a few notes for at least one full week about when you’re taking breaks, why, and for how long.
Ask yourself these questions:
Am I using breaks too much or not enough? Aside from time spent at lunch, you need at least two hours of downtime spread over the week.
Am I earning my breaks? Sometimes, tying the indulgence of a break to the completion of an important task is a highly motivating strategy.
Am I using breaks when stuck? Other times, breaks are best used when you’re spinning your wheels and need to step away to refocus.
Be honest about what you learn in this little exercise and take your use of breaks to the next level!
Until next time – stay safe, go learn something, maybe help someone, or at least do something interesting!
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