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Why dissent in meetings can be good for the company

Posted by Deepshikha Shukla

January 4, 2022    |     3-minute read (582 words)

Do you feel put off if you make a suggestion at a work meeting and someone disagrees? Many of us are uncomfortable with dissent as we’re conditioned to focus on collaboration and consensus-driven decisions in the workplace. For cultural reasons, we may acquiesce to “the loudest voice” in the room or automatically agree with the highest-ranking executive, even if we have private doubts.

Healthy disagreements help organizations innovate and grow. Teams succeed when they can engage in respectful discussion of competing ideas to make sure the final choice has competition rather than just going with the status quo. On the other hand, trying to remove conflict from the workplace can stunt business growth by curtailing the exchange of new and different ideas.

6 reasons disagreement can spark better business outcomes

Research supports the idea that teams and organizations produce far better results when different viewpoints are considered before making a decision. For example, groupthink is a psychological phenomenon in which a group is overly focused on conformity and harmony in the decision-making process, consistently resulting in dysfunctional outcomes. Confirmation bias is another type of psychological phenomenon in which people exclusively seek information that supports a single position or idea and ignore contradictory input, also leading to poor decisions.

With diversity of thought imperative for achieving better decisions, businesses should set about creating a culture in which respectful dissent is encouraged. Still need convincing? Below we list six other business benefits of constructive disagreement.

  1. Reinforces team purpose
If you disagree with a teammate by providing an explicit reason, it reminds everyone of the meeting’s purpose. Team members are prompted to focus on what the group is trying to achieve and to keep working toward that common goal.

  1. Increases creativity 
Encouraging employees to show disagreement can boost individual innovation and creativity. Businesses that embrace authentic viewpoints of dissent allow conventional thinking to be challenged, which has the potential to improve business results.

  1. Improves team dynamics
If your team’s interactions are languishing, it may be time to change the dynamics. By observing people’s behavior patterns in meetings and then describing what you see, you can inspire them to change how they interact and break out of a possible rut.

Behaviors to watch for include:

  • Do certain people dominate conversation? 
  • Who hasn’t spoken? 
  • Who listens and takes notes?
  • Who seems distracted and uninterested? 
  • Who usually opens the conversation? 
  1. Provides multiple perspectives 
Employees may have perspectives that differ from that of the established company culture. By listening to your colleagues’ opinions, you may uncover valuable input that you hadn’t previously considered. 

To gather different views, ask team members to interpret possible outcomes of a particular strategy or to share their thoughts on an idea or problem. The more perspectives you get, the more robust the solutions you can come up with, and the better you’ll understand the other side’s position.  

  1. Generates breakthrough ideas
Innovation doesn't happen when people are discouraged from questioning the norm. “The best innovations we have made regarding our offerings came from employee dissent,” said Planning Pod founder Jeff Kear. 

Embrace dissent as a tool for positive change in terms of promoting divergent thinking, improving decision-making and fostering innovation.

  1. Prevents unrest from festering 
A culture in which employees can express healthy dissent helps businesses figure out which areas need attention. “By listening to employee discontent, business owners are taking the first step toward stopping unrest from spreading,” said journalist and media and marketing consultant Adetokunbo Abiola.

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