Allowing Space for Respectful Disagreement in the Workplace

What does respect look like? How does it impact dialogue in the workplace?   

If Chris, the company owner, issues a directive that many believe to be a bad idea, is it more respectful to say nothing or to speak up? 

Chris may feel “respected” if everyone just listens and says nothing. However, silence may lead to significant business losses. Certainly, the decision to share or remain silent depends on the personalities of the individuals in the room. However, it also reflects the business’ unwritten policy regarding open dialogue.  

When a business owner or organizational leader encourages dialogue and open sharing, people are more likely to contribute to the conversation and help advance the mission.  

Speaking up may be the most respectful action. Silence, while knowing the likely negative impact of the directive, may be disrespectful to the overall business.

It helps to clarify if someone’s silence really does mean acceptance. Danger exists in assuming what a person’s words or actions mean.

Approaching conversations with curiosity helps clarify what someone’s words or silence mean. This opens space for conflict resolution or conflict prevention. While it takes time and trust to create such a space, it often increases morale, productivity, and overall business success. 

Does your business and organization foster space for respectful disagreement? What is your unwritten policy for openly sharing concerns? How well do people trust that their ideas will be respectfully received?

A civil and family mediator, peace builder, and educator, Sherry Ann Bruckner lives in Alexandria, Minnesota. Visit brucknermediation.com/services to learn more or call Sherry at (320) 808-3212 for help to transform conflict and create peace.

As always, be gentle with you. Be gentle with all. Be the peace.