Subordinate criticism healthy


CREATING an environment where your team feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas is essential for every leader. However, many leaders struggle with accepting dissenting opinions and may even punish those who disagree. Leaders who do not tolerate dissent make poor decisions.

Those with different opinions but cannot present them to you without being punished will agree with you to get along. This result is often a toxic work environment that stifles innovation.

Research shows leaders who allow dissent from their followers or staff may be more successful. Bennis (1989) argues that leaders, who encourage dissent, disagreement, and truth from associates and search for the truth themselves are more likely to lead their organisations to better performance.

Nijstad (2014) found that minority dissent stimulates team innovation, and transformational leaders can create a psychologically safe team climate in which dissenting opinions are used effectively to create radical innovations. Some research suggests that productive disagreements between leaders and their staff can have positive outcomes. Vignoli (2018) found that disagreements on leadership style between supervisors and employees were related to employees' well-being and work team outcomes. 

Chen (2013) proposed that high-quality leader relationships encourage open-minded and constructive discussions among employees, which can lead to effective team leadership. Tjosvold (2000) argued that developing productive relationships is an essential capability of effective leaders.

Trepanier 2022 offered guidelines and suggestions to promote and support healthy and productive disagreements at work. Overall, the papers suggest that productive disagreements can lead to better outcomes for employees and teams and that leaders can benefit from developing the skills to engage in productive disagreements.

Allowing dissent and productive disagreements by leaders is not an easy task. Research shows that it can be done with very impressive results. Only leaders willing to be wrong and empower their followers will hear the truth, even if it goes against their views. This is a shift that many leaders are not willing to make. In my conversations with some leaders, they think they will lose control if they allow those, they lead to challenge them by presenting different views to issues.

One research paper suggests that dissent can be productive in organisations, but it needs to be managed carefully. Landier (2005) argues that dissent can be useful in decision-making and give credibility to the decision-makers choices, but it can also hurt the implementer's intrinsic motivation.

Garner (2009) found that certain types of dissent messages, such as solution presentation and direct-factual appeal, are more effective in expressing dissent than others. Trninic (2018) argues that dissent can be productive in learning communities, but it needs to be managed carefully.

 Here are some guidelines for cultivating a culture where people can disagree with their managers without being punished for raising issues:

Encourage open communication: Encourage your team members to freely share their opinions and ideas. This will help create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts.

Listen actively: When someone disagrees with you, listen to what they say. This will help you understand their perspective and show that you value their input.

Avoid getting defensive: It is natural to feel defensive when someone disagrees with you, but it is important to avoid getting defensive. Instead, try to understand why they disagree with you and see if there is a way to find common ground.

 Focus on the issue, not the person: When discussing disagreements, it is important to focus on the issue, not the person. Avoid personal attacks and instead focus on finding a solution for everyone.

Be willing to compromise: Sometimes, finding a solution that works for everyone requires compromise. Be willing to compromise and find a solution that works for everyone.

Follow up: After a disagreement, follow up with your team members to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there are no lingering issues.

Respect Differences: Recognise that everyone has different experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives that shape their opinions. Respect these differences and use them as an

opportunity to learn from one another.

Avoid Punishing Dissent: Never punish someone for disagreeing with you or expressing a different opinion. Instead, use the opportunity to have a constructive conversation and find common ground.

Embrace Feedback: Feedback is essential for the growth and development of individuals and organisations. Embrace feedback from your team, even if it is critical or challenging to hear.

Allowing dissent on the board of directors can improve the board's performance. According to a study published in the European Journal of Management, boards that encourage dissent are more effective at monitoring managers and making strategic decisions.

The article is titled: The unfriendly board: Antecedents and Consequences of board dissent.

Check around.

You will find that companies that struggle with performance issues do not allow dissent at the board and executive levels.

Different opinions on issues are not allowed, and those who dare cross the line are severely punished, including being fired.

Nguwi is an occupational psychologist, data scientist, speaker and managing consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and human resources consulting firm. — or e-mail: [email protected].

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