There are a couple of people in our company who you can always rely on to highlight the elephant in the room, highlight the other side of apparently good news and generally call out the areas of our company where we can improve. They are brave individuals and will do this in big company meetings, meetings with their bosses and in department meetings. There is a tendency for the rest of us to smile and exchange knowing glances as we sometimes dismiss their comments as ‘typical’ of their attitude. We’re much happier with our colleagues who talk positively about their projects, potential sales or feedback from a customer; it makes us feel happier and a bit safer. Great understanding and knowledge exists in every part of our organisations, especially at the coalface closest to the customer. The people here know how the organisation works and, more importantly, what can be done to make things better. Too often they are not asked about changes, we rely instead on external consultants who do ask them and then produce a great PowerPoint telling senior management what they have said.
Employees, such as the ones mentioned above who are prepared to raise issues, are seen as ‘troublemakers’ or ‘not on board’ with the strategy. They are blockers and communications are designed to persuade them to become positive and support the change. The result of favouring people who agree with the strategy and change is that we are in danger of missing some really important information that will allow us to grow as an organisation. It is more difficult managing these people but it is a big mistake to assume that they are negative towards the organisation. In many cases it’s the complete opposite. It’s because they care, they are doing this from a good place. They want things to be better, they want the organisation to be better. People who complain and raise questions are incredibly important for businesses as they prevent complacency and smugness from creeping in, especially when the business is successful. They are the embodiment of the Growth Mindset.
As a consequence we have to become better at having dialogue within our organisations, valuing diverse opinions, accepting different views and moving on. One of the reasons that the fallout from the Brexit vote has been so toxic is that the debate before the vote was poor. As a result neither side feels that their opinions and concerns have been heard by the other side and they resent this. It’s much easier to accept a decision you disagree with if you feel that your views have been fully taken into account and respectfully listened to and maybe even incorporated into the other sides approach. In order to build organisations worth working for we should work hard at encouraging dissent and a diversity of views. As a result we will make better decisions and be better at implementing them. Good moaning.