Dissent can be presumptuous, uneducated, angry, disrespectful and just plain rude. Even when conducted with the purest of motives and under the most favorable of circumstances, dissent is a painful experience for both the person who voices their disagreement and those who are on the receiving end of it.
Due to the fact that it both challenges and carries power, dissent adds to the management difficulties that are caused by other issues.
Why would any boss even consider tolerating, much less encouraging, dissension?
It’s likely that this is because dissent is just essential for those who care about making the best decisions possible. The existence of it sheds light on the tension that exists between the merit of a decision and the authority of those who are making it.
Skilled managers understand how to generate dissent while at the same time learning how to contain it. They have learned to recognize that opposition can be disorderly and to refrain from overreacting when it flows outside of “proper” channels. In this section, I’m going to concentrate on the first difficulty of provoking that disagreement. Managing that dissent is worthy of its own piece, but in this one we’ll just touch on a few of the most typical problems.
Fostering an Attitude of Dissent
Because of the intricate connection that exists between culture, power, and dissent, it is necessary for managers who wish to reap the benefits of dissent to make an effort to cultivate it:
You have to make it clear that you want people to disagree with you if you want them to. Out loud. Repeatedly. Even while it won’t be enough, this is at least a beginning.
Demonstrate to others, through your own actions, how to disagree in a way that is constructive. When you are on the lower end of a power differential, such as with your manager (or Board), or even with donors, this strategy may prove to be extremely beneficial for you. Your words of support will carry more weight if you can show that you are willing to accept the risks that come along with dissenting opinions.
Those who are prepared to take the risks associated with dissenting opinions ought to be rewarded, not just for their personal sakes but also to urge others to follow in their footsteps and do the same. Some examples of these rewards are recognition, praise, attention, and opportunity to advance professionally. The actual benefit of disagreeing with a choice is obviously when it leads to changes in that decision. Managers should make every effort to ensure that this occurs whenever it is not just possible but also desirable to do so.
Develop the necessary infrastructure
A culture that is robustly supportive of dissent needs to have its foundation in rules and actions that reinforce it. You can ask for, model, and encourage dissent all day long, but if you have short meetings where new ideas are given for immediate resolution and the boss does the most of the talking, it’s not going to happen no matter how much you ask for, model, or reward it.
Even the presence of a single dissenting voice can prevent groups from making poor decisions. It is both of tremendous benefit and incredible difficulty to cultivate an environment that is receptive to dissension inside an organisation while taking into account its principles, its culture, and the power dynamics within it.
Empowering a single dissident may have considerably less benefit than empowering multiple dissidents, but it is also more simpler. Find the suitable person, help them develop the skills necessary for this function, and then collaborate with them to improve their performance in it. It is possible that others will follow the example, assuming that it is safe to imitate the conduct of dissension that they have observed. Possibly not. In either case, the likelihood of making better decisions is increased.
“The Power of Dissent | Organisational Culture | Keogh Consulting.” Keogh Consulting, 9 July 2019, keoghconsulting.com.au/the-power-of-dissent.
by, View all posts. “Encourage Dissent | Conversational Leadership.” Conversational Leadership, 1 Mar. 2001, conversational-leadership.net/encourage-dissent.