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Five Rules To Push Forward In Your Workplace Without Holding Back Your Opinion


Biotech entrepreneur. Founder and CEO of CellmAbs.

Recently, I was reading about conflict management and the importance of disagreeing in the workplace. It might seem like it’s always good to express our disagreement when we feel that things are not as they should be. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Of course! Being straightforward is the best thing to do in modern, open-minded companies.”

I tend to agree. Mainly due to the principle that you can only push forward and thrive in your career if you challenge yourself, situations, opinions and the status quo, but there is a fine balance between positively challenging others’ opinions and disagreeing with them.

As a leader, one should always keep an open door — nowadays an open Zoom room — for different opinions, but in a high-performance work environment, people might make the mistake of being overly practical when stating their case. Therefore, even though encouraged, people should be mentored on how to lay out their different positions and receive challenging inputs without engaging in conflict or falling into self-commiseration.

Here are what I consider to be five basic rules that leaders and high-performance team members should follow to avoid potential conflict.

1. Listen first, question second.

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More than the opinion itself, the “why” is key to understanding someone’s perspective. Start with the assumption that there might be variables you do not know or scenarios that you do not fully grasp. Leave room to be convinced by a better opinion.

2. Challenge the position, not the person in front of you.

Remove yourself and others from the equation. This should not be about you or the other person, so be clear but polite. The tone, the content and the way we disagree can sometimes create more conflict than the actual topic of discussion.

3. Start with the positive.

Try to begin with something you can agree on. If nothing at all, focus on the mutual objectives and start from there. Avoid beginning with a negative approach which can leave people on the defensive. After all, the objective of stating your case should be to convince others, and that is very hard to achieve if you start by alienating people.

4. It´s not personal.

If you keep this in mind, you will able to focus on the facts solely and keep your personal interests and emotional attachment away. Something as simple as where someone is standing in the room could be misconstrued as a political move; however, don’t lose track of the rationale and focus on the endgame.

5. It’s not a game of win or lose.

Sometimes you won’t have it your way. That’s just simply how it goes. That doesn’t make you less competent or mean that others are better than you. Sometimes the collective understanding guides the way; other times, your opinion or the way you presented just weren’t enough to convince others. Nevertheless, don’t keep score; that will only hurt in the long run.

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Before expressing your point of view, ask yourself:

• Will my opinion affect someone negatively?

• Will my opinion benefit me and/or the company and the project?

• Can my lack of opinion negatively impact someone or something?

• Is this the right moment and/or the right forum for my opinion to be expressed?

Understanding that a difference of opinions promotes corporate growth and should be embraced is the first step to creating a culture of openness, transparency and empowerment. The second step is to lay out the rules and set the environment at the right temperature to allow everyone to express their opinion while keeping conflict away. However, this can only be achieved if you understand that the existence of different opinions means that sometimes people have opinions that differ from your own — and you should learn to live with this.


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