Have you ever been part of a truly educational conversation when everyone had the same opinion? The answer is probably not. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people isn’t a bad thing, but surrounding yourself with people who don’t challenge your thoughts can be detrimental in the workplace.
People that disagree with an opinion help to point out blind spots and bring clarity to a different way of looking at things. Educate yourself by learning from people who challenge your thought process, not those that just affirm your view.
Generally, most of us try to avoid conflict, especially when it comes to a workplace scenario or when it involves someone superior to you at work. However, eliminating all tension at work isn’t possible, nor is it healthy if you want to better your team.
So, how can you promote healthy disagreements at work?
- Encourage Openness – Be empathetic to others’ beliefs. When you begin a conversation, encourage someone else to share first by asking them how they feel. From there, be attentive and engaging. Try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes before hearing them out, and actually listen to what’s being said before responding.
- Remain Respectful – Regardless of how a conversation goes, be respectful and honest, clearly communicating what’s expected out of the conversation or situation. If your opinion changes as a discussion progresses, voice it. If you make a mistake, own up to it. If someone else says they made a mistake, be graceful in your response.
- Provide Training – Not all employees come in knowing exactly how to problem solve or the best steps to take when having a healthy disagreement. Professional development is key to nurturing employees and the impact they can have on business success. Conflict resolution training is a great place to start when it comes to helping employees learning how to share their opinions non-intrusively.
- Recognize Unhealthy Conflict – Those leading a discussion with conflicting sides should also train on how to recognize the makings of an unhealthy conflict. When there are differing opinions, things can escalate quickly. If it sounds like people are starting to get personal or taking shots at one another, step in before irreputable damage is done. There should be someone in the situation that acts as a moderator, and it needs to be communicated upfront that personal attacks aren’t tolerated.
- Hire Accordingly – The people you bring into an organization help mold how the company grows and evolves. Hire people who have a willingness to debate respectfully and share their opinions boldly. During the interview process, ask candidates to explain a situation involving solving a problem at work or sharing an unpopular opinion.
You’ve prepared your team to problem solve effectively and handle conflict resolution respectfully. But not all things in the workplace go according to plan. So, what should you do when unhealthy conflict arises?
- Don’t Accuse – Focus on the situation and not the person. Instead of saying, “when you…” say “when this occurs…” Be specific, don’t generalize.
- Break it Down – Think of this as a pros and cons exercise by summarizing the points of agreement and disagreement.
- Check-in & Adjust – Make sure those involved agree on what topics should be discussed. Adjust your assessment until both sides agree on this.
- Develop a Plan – Prioritize the most important topic of discussion and start there.
- Don’t Rest on Your Laurels – Even when a healthy discussion is had, and a solution is decided upon, look for opportunities to continue building.