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Constructive Debate Can Positively Affect the Workforce

Heated debates are something that happens on every successful team.

As hard as business managers will try, it's inevitable that some level of office politics will form at a company, and it doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. Not only are disagreements healthy for the workforce, but engaging in spirited debate could as serve as a way to bring a team together. 

Think about it through a sports metaphor: Many instances on the football field will result in quarterbacks and their offensive coordinators disagreeing on some play calls, and either party will be upset with how the other made his last decision. When the series is over, the quarterback and coordinator both have a chance to air their grievances, and in the best partnerships, the two will be able to develop a more successful offense in the end. This is exactly how business managers need to embrace debate at their companies.

Make Debate a Productivity Booster
The negative connotation with the word "debate" needs to go away, as some of the best decisions have been birthed from disagreements. A recent article for Inc. magazine outlined three ideas from Kellogg School management professor Leigh Thompson about how members of the workforce can argue in a constructive manner.

  • Let both sides state their case: Sometimes when businesses are rushing to make a quick decision, many people will agree with the first suggestion to reach a consensus right away. This is not the best way to get results from workplace conflicts. Each opposing side should have the opportunity to make their case, and talk about the positives and negatives of the other person's plan. Thompson said appointing a "devil's advocate" will often times allow the debate to remain fruitful.
  • A happy medium is sometimes the best choice: Many debates, actually a good majority of them, end without both sides being able to reach a decision. A successful argument can end between two parties agreeing to disagree and from there they can find a middle ground that is beneficial to both. According to Thompson, it's important for those who are debating to know when it's the right time to call it quits.
  • Don't make it personal: Disagreements can often occur in the office because two people don't like each other, and this will never lead to a productive argument. When employees are going to hash out something in the workplace, it's imperative that it's not personal. Thompson believes staying on the issues at hand instead of personal disagreements will ensure that debates will help members of the business solve the problems experienced at the company.

Managers Cannot Run and Hide
When members of the workforce are engaged in a spirited argument, it's easy for managers to hide in the office and ignore that it never. However, this is quite possibly the worst strategy for fostering a strong team of employees. According to to an article for CNNMoney, bosses need to have the power to influence others and remind their staff what is in the best interest of the company. Whether it be allowing opposing employees to air their grievances or taking matters into their own hands, managers need to remain authoritative when the potential for a debate occurs in the office.

Managers who are seeing that politics are beginning to affect the productivity of their team need to embrace the issue, and ensure that any conflicts are resolved before removing themselves from the situation at hand, said the news source.