Avoiding the Dangers of Disallowing Dissent


Most organizations function best when everyone acts in harmony. However, if that unity is the result of a suppression of anyone’s valid opinion, it might be a sign of dysfunctional group behaviour you should take steps to avoid. When your team members appear to agree with each other in meetings but fail to carry out decisions in daily operations, harmful discord results. Take action to spot and handle non-productive team dynamics:

Why does this situation occur? Under stress, group decision-making skills suffer. Individuals without power refrain from expressing concern for fear of reprisals. Team members may ignore the ethical consequences of their group choices, giving way to bullying and demeaning actions on the part of those in power. Leaders in any organization can overcome this worrisome behaviour by empowering individuals to speak up when they have a contribution.

What groups fall prey to this condition? Groups that prioritize pleasing a charismatic superior (at all costs) frequently discourage any objections to strategic decisions, regardless of their practicality. In the name of creativity and innovation, caution may be disregarded. Employees facing extreme time pressure can experience this phenomenon too. It can cause otherwise well-meaning individuals to make poor short-term choices or even dangerous ones. Ignoring ethics and morals causes collateral damage in many cases. This situation may not cause overt death and destruction in business settings, but the impact on employee morale can be devastating just the same. Additionally, company cultures that permit the threatening of team members to accept one brash person’s point of view, especially when sufficient knowledge exists to refute that point, have destructive outcomes.

What can you do as a team leader? Recognizing undesirable conformity early in the team formation process can help your team move forward more productively. Employees must have an outlet to release negative energy. To promote this in your team, educate all your employees about cognitive biases, and encourage dissenting views. When individuals fear being shunned, scolded, or derided for speaking up, other employees must call out leadership as well as other team members. In some scenarios, it can be helpful to have a cooling-off period after any divisive team debate.

In summary, fostering team diversity and encouraging free speech may prolong decision making, but the positive long-term results outweigh the temporary negative impact. When big egos prevent people from accepting any other perspective other than their own (even if it is masked with fake consent), poor team behaviour results in less than optimal business outcomes. Take the time to recognize this dysfunctional behaviour on your team. You’ll be glad you did.

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