No, You Don’t Have To Argue With Your Employees
When Lance sent us a link to the article Why you should argue with your employees and asked us to read it and give feedback, I immediately balked at the headline.
Is it me, or is the idea of arguing with your co-workers off-putting?
As it turned out, it wasn’t just me. Almost all of our team read through the article and disagreed with the author—at least in terms of the words she used.
Sidenote: All Nectafy team members have taken the DiSC personality assessment. We use the results to see how we can best work with each other. There are four personality types in the DiSC profile: Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C). Even those on our team who were skeptical about it at first have found the DiSC profile to be really effective in showing us how to work better with each other.
As a majority-CS team, most of us are hardwired to not enjoy arguing with anyone (except perhaps ourselves, in our heads, constantly). The thought of it being OK for our team to get into heated arguments with each other isn’t something we want under any circumstance… ever… please.
I think that’s where the author’s intent was lost on us—because I really like what she had to say about airing grievances in a way that builds up the team’s infrastructure and actually makes it stronger.
As with any relationship (and I do consider the Nectafy team more of a family than a strict “employee-employer” arrangement), talking about the problems is more than important—it’s vital.
But how we communicate matters just as much as what we communicate.
For me—and likely for Gabby, Isaac, Marisa, Megan, and Tiffany, as well—inciting arguments would probably not have the positive results the author talks about. That’s because our personalities generally aren’t “fight-oriented”—we’d probably instead stop talking, clam up, and let the irritation fester into a sore that grows much bigger than it should.
I’m not saying to avoid situations that may lead to conflict, unease, or discomfort. Those need to happen. But I am saying that for some of us, there’s a better way to approach conversations that involve disagreement than by arguing.
What should we do instead of arguing?
Instead of taking the advice in the article, for our team, it makes sense to look at how specific members are wired. If you have teammates like Henry and Lance, who may thrive when given the opportunity to have spirited conversation—see, I don’t even like the word argue—then you should embrace that (with those employees).
But for employees who see that sort of confrontation as an affront, I would suggest investigating different ways to find a solution.
In the article, Lew says this:
Arguing is a sign that you care. You care enough to have strong opinions about how to make the company better. You’re willing to bring those opinions forward, and battle it out for the best one.
Arguing is how you vet ideas and ensure you’re not submitting to groupthink. Arguing is how you make the best decisions.
My guess is the author has a “D” personality, so arguing isn’t a personal thing for her. But I’m thinking we could replace the word “argue” with something else, for people who don’t like to argue, and still get to the same place.
For our team, that manifests itself in a few ways:
- Our “issues bucket.” This is our pretty clever way of freely expressing any “issues” we have—it takes the emphasis off of an issue being personal and makes it more of a business process that needs to be fixed. It’s a simple spreadsheet where any of our team members can put in an issue, their suggested resolution, their name, and the date they entered the issue. All issues are read, evaluated, and prioritized for action.
- Time to think. Instead of asking for immediate feedback, we try to make sure everyone gets time to think about a certain topic before a discussion, which allows for more carefully crafted words.
- Anonymous feedback. Sometimes we share our concerns anonymously, which is safer.
- One-on-one conversations. Each week, we have scheduled times for one-on-one meetings with Lance. In that time, he asks us for our feedback about specific and general issues. This is an intentional, consistent conversation that we use to talk about any situations we may not want to address in a group setting.
Ultimately, by allowing for all types of employees to communicate in the ways that best suit them, we’re still bringing ideas forward. We’re still vetting them. And we’re still working to make the best decisions for our company.
And we’re doing it in a way that values all of the people who, I think, make our company pretty amazing.