As younger workers are more inclined to express their opinions at work, there might be some friction as to how this process should work.
So Korn Ferry offers advice on how to disagree respectfully.
Establish common ground.
Experts say it’s critical to stay focused on the goal: the problem that needs solved and its organizational impact. Connecting to the goal creates a sense of being on the same team. If an argument starts getting heated, reminding everyone of the goal can reset the dialogue and—hopefully—shut down personal attacks. "Think of the why as the lighthouse guiding you home when disagreement happens,” says Rasha Accad, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.
Listen with an open mind.
Sometimes you might be itching for a professional fight. In those cases, or in situations when you feel passionate about a topic, you may tend to think of comebacks instead of really listening to the other party and trying to understand their reasoning. Rather than immediately offering your opposing opinion, take a beat and set aside your personal agenda. Watch for the other person’s verbal and nonverbal cues and repeat what you just heard to confirm your understanding. Then dig deeper into their opinion. Ask questions to discover how they came to hold this opinion and why it matters to them.
While you listen and ask curious questions, manage your own assumptions and preconceived notions about that person. This requires a high level of self-awareness and can be particularly difficult when emotions are running high. But the more you can aim for objectivity, the smoother communication will go.
Don’t ignore the elephant in the room.
So much time is wasted in business meetings because groups—just because they’re afraid to rock the boat—often go along with somebody's bad or low-priority idea. However, speaking up in a respectful way can save the team and organization wasted time, money, and effort.
It’s up to the leader in the room to notice what’s happening and be aware of what’s being said — and not being said. If something shouldn’t be a priority, but for some reason has gathered momentum, then the leader needs to acknowledge the challenging situation and kindly, but candidly, push back.
Naming challenging things and letting everyone feel free to say what’s on their mind is liberating and empowering for the team. It’s also the responsibility of all team members to be active followers and hold themselves and their peers accountable.