With the General Elections in Singapore heating up, much has been made of the relevance of opposition parties. What is the true value of opposition? Are they simply opposing just for the sake of it? Or are they necessary to improve the status quo and to force the hand of the incumbent?
Dissenting voices, we may not always like them, in fact we may confuse them for rebellion and ostracise them for it. But do they have any merit? Do they force us to look at ourselves through a different prism and be critically objective?
When we picture our ideal organization, we are likely to picture one where everyone's aligned in the same direction with everyone in constant agreement. However, is that really the most effective form of an organization?
Often times in an organization, the hierarchy get surrounded by yes-men, people who are afraid of voicing their opposition and instead conform to the prevailing sentiments of those in charge. When this happens, things get stale, there is no fresh perspective on offer and as an employee you are not bringing anything new to the table. You are not telling your bosses something that they do not already not. Remember that as an employee, you want to value-add to your organization, to improve their output.
Having wide-ranging perspectives achieves this as it refines processes and allows the organizations to consider alternative perspectives. It allows boundaries to be pushed and for all bases to be covered. It is only natural for there to be a difference of opinions as every team member has differing experience levels, comes from a different cultural background and has varying areas of expertise.
Research has shown that teams which have diverse work approaches make decisions up to 60% faster. It has also been shown to increase retention—employees who feel that their contributions are meaningful and rewarding are far more likely to be happy at work.
All about the delivery
Often times, it is not what we say but rather how we say it. Our tone and choice of words matter, especially when offering an opposing viewpoint to your colleagues. You want to make sure that you get your point across but crucially without the risk of sounding needlessly abrasive. It is easy to get emotional when speaking out but the true test is to do so in a calm and composed manner. Only then, will your colleagues be able to fully appreciate your intentions.
It can take a huge amount of courage to speak up in a team meeting, especially when your opinion potentially conflicts with those in charge of running projects or initiatives. Employees are hired for their expertise in a certain field, as well as their experience in the wider industry, you can see it like this, you are being paid for your opinion, hence it is your responsibility to offer it even if it may not be the popular thing to do.
Leadership teams need to understand that such a culture is what they should be after and not one of blind compliance because that is not what will accelerate the growth of the company. Thus, they need to cultivate an environment that champions the productive sharing of differing viewpoints, where people do not feel like there is a need to conform and risk being alienated by the masses.
Such a culture will only take effect if the direction comes from the top-down. Instead of shutting down bad ideas, remain encouraging and actively create platforms for the staff to have such healthy discourse.
Companies need to learn how to appreciate contrasting inputs, they need to understand that it is part of the process of refining their internal processes. It is only through such internal dialogue will organizations be able to do their best work.