The toxic leadership blog

The Leader's Guide to Dissent
Dissent plays an important role in organizations because it expresses differences of opinion on many issues. The truth is that very few people have the courage to disagree in a culture of conformity.

Essential question

How Can Leaders Create Environments Where Employees Speak Up?

As we think about organizational culture, It is important that we actively encourage employees to speak their truths. We need to go further than proclaiming an “open door” policy. 

Dissent: the expression or holding of opinions at variance with those previously, commonly, or officially held

Effective leaders encourage dissent through open dialogue and debate. These organizations are positive, and trusting environments where employees express disagreement without fear of retaliation. 

Environments become toxic when expressing opposing viewpoints is viewed as personal attacks by leadership and not an act of care. In work environments rooted in perfectionism, members may find it difficult to speak up. Employees in these environments may fear that expressing countering opinions will lead others to see them differently. There may also be a fear when interacting with a superior. This fear becomes particularly evident when a decision-making process is unclear.

If an organization fails to address these potential problems, employees may see the organization as discouraging diverse opinions and resort to latent or repressed communication in the future. Further, if an employee expresses his or her opinions to outsiders, the organization may assume that there are no issues to remedy.

Powerful leaders who foster a culture of feedback seek to create a workplace that values radical openness and allows people to challenge the consensus. Executives should encourage diverse viewpoints so that employees will feel that their opinions are valued.

Organizations need a healthy atmosphere of honest communication if they want innovation and engagement. Encouraging constructive dissent in your organization is the best thing that can happen. If you are open to hearing from others, you will improve your best ideas.

Cultivating a Healthy Environment for Dissent

Clarify Decision Making

Supporting dissent in improving decision-making is proof that the organization cares about its impact. Managers actively consider voicing to be an important organizational perspective. Organizations must show that they value dissent and promote freedom of speech in the workplace when individuals demonstrate and articulate dissent.

Leadership Modeling

Explaining why dissent is important to your organization shows that you feel an obligation to listen to and use it. Communicating dissenting opinions strengthens people who express them, know that they are being heard, and have the ability to use their feedback. If you share true gratitude with someone in the workplace for having the courage to express your dissent, you can encourage constructive dissent in the future.

Value-Aligned Behavior

The core values of your organization are a good place to think about how to invite differing viewpoints. Any organization that promotes an healthy and honest communication will, by its very nature, create a safe and open environment.

With time and practice, most people will become more comfortable with dissent. Let us welcome respectful dissent and creative conflict in our team spirit of trust and commitment to great work.

Dissent plays an important role in organizations because it expresses differences of opinion on many issues. The truth is that very few people have the courage to disagree in a culture of conformity. 


The Leader’s Guide To Dissent


How can leaders create environments where employees actively speak up and constructively dissent?


Actively consider dissent as an important part of communication. Leaders should not allow their ego to get in the way of valuable feedback and innovation. Model appropriately by not only engaging in discourse, model your value-aligned behaviors.

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