Who loves disagreement and dissent? Well, there might be a few who love the drama, but for the majority of leaders and co-workers, it’s not an item that we look forward to encountering. Dissent has to be addressed though in order to be an effective team that has high morale Today we’ll look at where it may come from and how to address it head-on. 

Understand the type of dissent that you are dealing with


Before you get in front of dissent happening on the team, you’ll be well served to understand what exactly you are getting in front of. Are you attempting to stop a squabble or an all-out rebellion? Here are different types of dissent that can show up in your team

Storming: a normal part of team building – Storming is a phrase that refers to the second phase of a team coming together. They’ve worked through the pleasantries of the introductions and now they are fighting to figure out direction, responsibilities, and influence. This phase will often work itself out as the team settles into roles, and what is expected. It is good however to check in and make sure that things haven’t gone too far off the rails. 

Personality differences – There will be times that you encounter an oil and water situation with two people; they simply don’t mix. Knowing that they never will, actually helps you as a coach and leader. You shouldn’t waste time and energy expecting these folks to magically become good friends. Instead, focus the coaching on how they can establish a working relationship. Address any performance issues here or behaviors that are counter to your company’s values. How to Handle Toxic People (Show 205) will help employees deal with those co-workers whom they truly don’t get along with.

A fear of change – Just like the rising sun, change is inevitable. No matter how along in your career journey you are or what your tenure is at an organization, change can be surprisingly hard sometimes. We all settle into our areas of comfort, and it can be difficult to change the dynamic or be asked to leave it altogether. The key here is up help the person understand 1) The Why behind the need. 2) How it impacts them. 3) How the change could positively impact that person. 

This conversation certainly isn’t a one-and-done discussion and will require you to check in to help them feel secure and informed on the change journey. Remember that their dissent is based on fear, so communicating and affirming in a way that mitigates that fear should be your goal. 

Detractors: misaligned employees –  Sometimes there are people who just aren’t aligned with what your team is trying to accomplish. There could be a number of reasons why that person now sits in this category, but the most important thing is that they are here now. When I do talent assessments with leaders, we make a collective commitment when people fall into this category. Either we rehabilitate these people to perform like they need to or we find a different position for them that better suits them. Our last course of action is to exit the employee, but even then we must walk the agreed-upon coaching plan first. leaving detractors on your team is detrimental to your business, and your mental health as they continue to drag you down and their influence can spread to others. 

Address the dissent


Once you determine the type of dissent, you’ll be better equipped on how to approach the situation. Regardless, these steps will help you as you address the issue:

  • Address it immediately, or at least as soon as professionally possible. Don’t let the rub or issue fester, but also balance the need to address it quickly with the appropriate setting to do so. You don’t want to embarrass someone and become unprofessional yourself. 

  • Be very clear on what the issue is. Clarity and brevity are best here. Communicate what you are observing (or what feedback you were given) 

  • Ask questions (when appropriate) and seek to listen and understand instead of react. Get a true understanding of their perspective and experience. This works well, especially for those with a fear of change, but this step will be less successful and sometimes unnecessary in situations like personality conflicts where someone acts unprofessionally. 

  • Set or re-establish expectations

  • Gain alignment and agreement with the other person

  • Establish expectations on behavior change and follow-up timeline. 

Don’t take all dissent that happens as a personal mark against your effectiveness as a leader. It’s part of a leader’s journey to address from time to time. Understand what you are dealing with and then address it in a way that all parties can move forward from. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH