This is an interesting comment
about German general Heinz
Guderian by one of his fellow officers:
“Guderian was always in
conflict with everybody else. He was very
hard to get along with, and it’s a tribute to
the German Army, as well as to Guderian’s
own remarkable abilities, that he was able
to rise as high as he did.”
There exists the notion of “difficult”
employees, who we assume need to be
“dealt with,” rather than benefitted from.
However, what if the difficulty is in the eye
of the beholder? A difficult employee may
just be someone with a dissenting opinion.
Independent thinkers shouldn’t always be
viewed as a pest to their managers.
Tough questions may be difficult and
people with an opinion can be opinionated,
but even if you’re the only person with
a different point of view, that doesn’t mean
you’re wrong – it may simply be an inconvenient
truth. While it’s usually easier to
leave things the way they are, an unconventional
idea can benefit the entire company.
Creating room for dissenting opinions
may be crucial for survival. U.S. President
Franklin Roosevelt was known to listen
to an advisor and then call in another advisor
with an opposing view, at which
point Roosevelt would sit back and watch
them go at it. John F. Kennedy said, “I
can’t afford to have just one set of advisors.”
Similarly, companies can’t afford to
have a CEO surrounded by cheerleaders
and court jesters.
Avoiding conflict at all costs is no way
to manage risk. Organizations can institutionalize
dissent by encouraging debate and
accepting disagreement as part of the decision
making process. This way, employees
know that having an opposing opinion
doesn’t mean they’re negative or a poor fit.
We can contribute to a winning culture
if we identify competent people who may
not fit the mold, and make a conscious effort
to bring them up through the ranks.
A simple first step is to record the courage
to disagree on performance reviews,
by listing examples of where an employee
suggested an approach that differed from
HR has a key role in building a record
of who has the courage to be a lone voice
in the woods, versus those who keep their
heads down and hope for the best. A tendency
to fly below the radar may be an
excellent reason for not promoting someone
to a position of greater responsibility,
where challenging the status quo is even
more important. ■
Evert Akkerman is founder of XNL HR.
the last word
Why We Want to Hire Difficult People
DISSENTING OPINIONS MAY BE CRUCIAL FOR SURVIVAL
By Evert Akkerman
AVOIDING CONFLICT AT ALL COSTS
IS NO WAY TO MANAGE RISK.
56 ❚ SEPTEMBER 2016 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL