One of my favorite parts of my job is to interview potential employees.
During those interviews, one of my standard requests is for the potential new hire to tell me about a disagreement they had and how it was resolved.
More applicants than not attempt to convince me that they have never had a disagreement that required any level of resolution.
They fail to understand that disagreeing is necessary to building strong design teams and that to be productive in today’s work environment everyone needs to know 1) how to disagree effectively and 2) how to disagree graciously.
At some point in your job, you will disagree with someone about something. These watershed moments will define your ability to grow, mature, and prosper in your profession.
You can rant, throw a tantrum, demand your way, lay on the floor and kick your feet. Or, you can politely, succinctly, knowledgeably, and convincingly state your argument.
The former method will not only be unsuccessful, but you have guaranteed you will never be asked your opinion again. The latter may or may not prevail in every disagreement, but you have assured a place in all future discussions.
When you disagree and lose, you can sulk, complain, point fingers and hold resentments. Or you can accept the decision and move forward with the idea that you can and will continue to try to make sound and effective arguments in the future because you know your opinion matters.
Which method you choose will define your future place in your work environment.
Disagreeing in the Work Place
Disagreements in the workplace should be encouraged, and entrepreneurs and small business owners need to be prepared to teach their employees how to disagree. Diane Gottsman came up with a great list of how to disagree that includes:
- Keep emotions out of the discussion.
- Speak like a diplomat.
- Accept that conflict is a vital part of doing business.
- Focus on the outcome.
- Know when to stop.
Most people would agree that too many of the disagreements we see in today’s world are aggressive, judgmental, win-at-all-costs, and divisive. The Bible has great advice for everyone to follow on how to disagree effectively.
- Seek first to understand (Proverbs 18:13) – Ask questions and do not make assumptions.
- Seek common ground (1 Corinthians 9:22) – By identifying strengths that are common to each side, the disagreement is reduced to a more manageable size.
- Don’t argue but discuss (2 Timothy 2:24) – Arguing is adversarial, builds walls between the participants, and eliminates the opportunity for constructive conversations.
- Respect each other (Matthew 7:12) – Each side of a disagreement is as intellectual and committed as the opposing side. Do not judge each other by their chosen position.
- Exhibit humility (1 Peter 5:5) – go into each disagreement with the understanding that you are open to learning something you have not thought of before.
- Avoid slander and hyperbole (Proverbs 6:16,19) – go out of your way to protect the dignity and reputation of the person you disagree with.
Plan for disagreements in your place of work. But more importantly, plan to resolve disagreement in your workplace so that you can enjoy future disagreements.