Disagree Constructively At Work By Offering Solutions, Not Just Dissent

Disagreeing with colleagues at work can be a challenge. No one gets anywhere by agreeing with everything everyone else says and never offering up alternative ideas. Fortunately, walking the line between not being a jerk no one wants to work with and warning your colleagues of impending doom (while getting credit for your own ideas) isn't too difficult.

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We all know what it's like to sit in a meeting with our colleagues, listen to someone suggest a course of action we know likely won't work, and then sit by while everyone decides to march down that path, even if other people in the room have reservations about it. The solution, according to Johny Gardner, writing at the Harvard Business Review, is to package your dissent with a solution to the problem at hand as an alternative to the path you want to avoid.

The key is to hold your dissent for the right person. Someone who can do something about the problem, like a manager, your boss or a project leader. Then package it with a solution that you're willing to work on. Don't just disagree for the sake of it or try to use your gut feeling as a rationalisation, especially in a group situation. Similarly, don't complain to people who can't change the course of events, or your idea won't get heard.

No one wants to be a jerk, but no one wants to waste time and energy either, and no manager wants to waste time and resources working on a solution to a problem that won't pan out. Even in the most restrictive workplaces, the people who save time and money and offer smart solutions to the team's challenges are rewarded.

How to Communicate Dissent at Work [Harvard Business Review]


    I can appreciate both sides of this; it really annoys me when nobody in the room is ever willing to disagree with any idea whatsoever no matter how impractical, and things get stupid, but I also hate it when you get "cock-blockers" who just sit back and play the skeptic without offering any decent reasoning or alternative (ie they get to trumpet when they're right without putting themselves on the line, or offering anything as it were).

    It's why I hate "NIMBYs" (Not In My Back Yards). Really? You think someone else *does* want that power station near their home? Do you think the government would want to put it there if there *was* an alternative? How bout you offer one then? No?

    Last edited 27/02/13 9:46 pm

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