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Why healthy dissent in meetings is good for business

Posted by Shivali Anand

March 1, 2022    |     4-minute read (607 words)

Do you get irritated when someone disagrees with a suggestion you make during a work meeting? Many of us have been conditioned to focus on teamwork and consensus-driven decisions in the workplace, to the extent that we feel uncomfortable with disagreement. The desire for consensus can lead us to ignore our inner reservations and submit to the loudest voice in the room or immediately agree with the highest-ranking meeting participant.

But it’s important to consider that businesses often develop or even flourish as the result of healthy disagreement. Teams succeed when they can have a fair debate over opposing ideas, because it helps ensure the final decision is not based solely on maintaining the status quo. Attempting to eliminate conflict from the workplace can actually stifle growth by preventing the exchange of fresh and innovative ideas.

Why disagreement in the workplace can produce greater results

According to research, when multiple perspectives are addressed before making a decision, teams and organizations achieve considerably better results. The process of debate helps curtail the psychological phenomenon of groupthink, in which a group's decision-making process is unduly focused on conformity and harmony. 

Discussing multiple perspectives also helps avoid the psychological phenomenon of confirmation bias. This happens when people seek only information that supports a particular stance or notion, ignoring contrary evidence and making poor judgments as a result.

To arrive at the best decisions, businesses should be careful about prioritizing consensus at the expense of healthy debate. Leaders should aim to cultivate a culture that encourages polite dissent, as multiple perspectives can be essential for making better decisions.

Are you still unsure? Six further business advantages of constructive disagreement are listed below.

Reinforces the team's mission

When you express your disagreement with a colleague for a specific reason, it reminds everyone in the room of the meeting's objective. Members of the team are encouraged to concentrate on the group's goal and to continue working toward it.

Bolsters creativity

Individual creativity can be boosted by encouraging employees to think differently. Businesses that welcome genuinely dissenting voices challenge traditional thinking, which has the potential to improve business outcomes.

Teamwork is improved

If your team's relationships are becoming stale, it's time to switch things up. Inspire people to change how they interact and break out of their ruts by studying people's behavior patterns in meetings and then articulating what you observe.

Watch for the following behaviors:

• Do some individuals dominate conversations?
• Is there anyone who hasn't said anything?
• Who is listening and taking notes?
• Who appears to be preoccupied and uninterested in the conversation?
• Who generally initiates discussion?

It offers a variety of viewpoints

Employees may hold perspectives that differ from those held by the company's established culture. By listening to these co-workers’ views, you may be able to glean ideas or information that you hadn’t considered before. 

To get a variety of perspectives, have team members analyze the potential consequences of a plan or offer their ideas on a concept or problem. The more viewpoints you get, the more solid your answers will be, and the more you'll grasp the opposing views.

Produces fresh ideas

Innovation does not happen when individuals are afraid to criticize the status quo. "The best innovations we have made regarding our offerings came from employee dissent," said Planning Pod creator Jeff Kear.

Accept dissent as a tool for constructive change in terms of alternative thinking, better decision-making and creativity.

Prevents unrest from percolating

A culture where employees can vocalize dissent helps businesses determine which areas need more attention. Business owners are able to address unrest and keep it from spreading by paying attention to employee discontent.

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