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Please Disagree with Me!

Please Disagree with Me!

With almost every client work session, coaching call, or leadership training session I’ve been involved with over the past two months, I’m seeing a troubling trend: Far too many managers are afraid to disagree with their colleagues, staffs, and others. Or if they do disagree, they can’t clearly and objectively articulate their reason for disagreeing. They provide protracted reasons as to why they disagree, hide behind apologies, or simply avoid stating they disagree. Why is it so difficult for so many to comfortably disagree? I see three common themes:

  1. Being Inclusive is Misunderstood:

    In an attempt to be inclusive, too many managers are confusing being inclusive with being overly tolerant. In an attempt to be tolerant, they become quiet. That’s not being inclusive. That’s being weak. Being inclusive means you enable all to contribute to the process. However, it doesn’t mean everyone will contribute at the same level. Being tolerant means you allow all to have a voice. However, it doesn’t mean everyone’s opinion is correct or will be included in the final output. Being inclusive and tolerant means you allow others to be a part of the process in some way. Even though they may not all contribute equally or their particular ideas may not appear as obviously as others, they are included and that’s what matters. Life isn’t always fair or equal. It’s life.

  2. Questions and Challenges Are Misinterpreted and Taken Personally:

    In presenting a task force paper to a national board of directors recently, several directors asked questions, and challenged specifics within the report and with the recommendations. With each query I provided answers, referred them to relevant sections of the report or the appendices, or otherwise clarified the thought process of the task force members as we’d worked through the material and prepared the report. Afterwards, several directors commented on my ability to stay calm during the questioning. Honestly, I was surprised by their comments. It resonated with the directors that I didn’t take their challenges personally. However, I interpreted their questions and challenges as a need to be even more clear with them in what we recommended they do next. I didn’t focus on defending what we’d created; I focused on ensuring they were informed so they could vote knowledgeably. The questions weren’t attacks. They were requests for greater clarity.

  3. Disagreeing is Often Confused with Being Contrary:

    Contrarians have a vital role to play: They cause us to sit back and rethink what we’ve come to believe as true. They can also become a pain in the fanny when they take their role too far or play it too often. They also become a pain when their opinions are intentionally hurtful or are misinformed. Because of that, many managers have come to hold back disagreeing with their colleagues and others for fear of being likened to a contrarian who’s too often simply contrary. So instead, many managers say nothing or weakly agree with what is being said, even when they don’t agree. Their desire to disagree is there, but their fear of being viewed as an antagonistic contrarian is stronger. They’re not confident speaking truthfully and disagreeing for fear of being labeled contrary.

If your team fears disagreements, can you identify why? If you don’t know why, take time to study who’s holding back and ask them why. If you do know why, what are you doing about it?

Let’s disagree!



Copyright MMXV – Liz Weber, CMC, CSP – Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890

Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about me on LinkedIn!


Liz Weber CMCLiz Weber, CMC CSP

Liz Weber coaches, consults, and trains leadership teams. She specializes in strategic and succession planning, and leadership development.

Liz is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold both the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designations.

Contact Liz’s office at +1.717.597.8890 for more info on how Liz can help you, or click here to have Liz’s office contact you.

Copyright © Weber Business Services, LLC All rights reserved.


2 thoughts on “Please Disagree with Me!”

  1. Patrick says:

    Hey Liz,
    Great insights here. We encounter the same thing. Part of our front end interaction with teams that helps make some of this better is to establish a Social Covenant or Communication Agreement. It’s based on two simple, but often neglected questions – 1) How do we want to treat each other. And, 2) What will we do when one of us fails our commitment?
    There are a few other keys associated with it, but the front end expectation does incredible things to open up authentic communication on teams.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Patrick. The idea of a Social Covenant or Communication Agreement is brilliant. Let’s clarify how we want, expect, and need to communicate with one another to ensure we are able to do our jobs well. When we have the information we need, the insights of others, we’re able to make better informed decisions. In addition, we become aware of the
      not-often-shared talents and perspectives of colleagues. Our respect for them increases and the relationships among team members are enhance. There are multiple ‘Wins’ all around.

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Posted by Liz Weber CMC on November 25, 2015 in Leadership Development