Discover Through Dissent

In formal or informal conversations, a common pitfall is this thing called “groupthink”. 

Wikki says – Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.

In our culture (Filipino), we are guilty of this most of the time. We don’t just hate the idea of confrontation; we do everything to avoid it. But because of the need to express our honest point of view, we either say it behind the back of the person involved (fueling intrigues, meeting after the meeting) or directly to the person on a non face-to-face setting (social media, text message, etc.) 

That’s why we need to learn how to apply and receive “dissent” in a real time, face to face scenario. 

Webster says – Dissent is to hold or express opinions that are at variance with those previously, commonly, or officially expressed.

In the workplace, practicing this opens up room for Clarity, Alignment, and Creativity. 

In any discussion, even if the room is filled with excellent communicators, there is great opportunity for misunderstanding. The challenges that contribute to misunderstanding range from a lack of comprehension to simply distraction. But when someone brings up dissent, that opens up an opportunity for clarity, and when there is clarity, misunderstandings are almost always completely eliminated.

In an organization, the vision or the main goal may be known to all, but not necessarily agreed upon internally by each and every employee. They say that vision must be caught not taught, and dissent gives the opportunity for the leader to cast the vision, to reinforce values, and steer towards the mission, and at the same time, for the dissenter to grow in unity with the rest of the team. If the dissenter is given an opportunity to speak up, raise questions, and be heard, it would be easier for the individual to buy into the team’s final agreement.  

Another side of it is, while dissent must be encouraged, cynicism must not be tolerated. The leader must address the latter and address the behavior because cynicism would only hurt rather than help the team. It is the leader’s role to create a safe environment for dissent and not for cynicism. 

Dissent offers team members an opportunity to come up with the a wide array of ideas as individuals see things from different angles. Discussions where ideas are not only exchanged but challenged pave the way for creative ways to solve issues, to market new brands, to increase revenue, and the list goes on. It’s cliche, but true: “Two heads are better than one.”

1. When you are about to disagree, say it gracefully. 
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1

2. When you receive dissent, be humble.
Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. – Proverbs 3:34

As leaders, we need to create an environment that welcomes dissent. This will bring your group to better productivity, unity, and innovation.  

1. How can you, as a leader, create an environment where it’s safe to apply dissent. 

2. As a staff member, how can you prepare for healthy dissent and protect yourself from cynicism. 


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