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Monday, December 22, 2014


Dissent is an interesting word.  It is easily recognizable as a position of disagreement.  However, it does not generally imply the same kinds of negative connotations as words like argument or dispute.  Dissent seems more aligned with concepts such as disagreement, debate, or expressed differences of opinion.  Dissent suggests push-back via more respectful manifestations than, say, protests or resistance.

Dissent is a powerful nutrient for healthy organizations.  It serves as a marker to indicate fundamental opposition to an idea or proposal or practice within the organization.

On the surface, dissent seems disruptive.  It has the effect of slowing down the conversation (or directives).  Dissent feels inconvenient.

However, dissent also has the effect of helping us clarify positions and interests.  It helps us get a better view of the long-term prospects of a proposal or idea.  Dissent also helps us gain a better view of the motivations of those involved in the dialogues, both the proponents and the dissenters.  In either case, those motivations can be authentic and righteous, or they can be quite egocentric.

Oddly, dissent seems more readily available as a tool, yet less used, in organizations where leaders foster high levels of transparency and full disclosure.   That seems almost paradoxical.

Wise leaders should go out of their way to ensure an organizational culture that is safe for dissent.  Dissent most certainly indicates opposition of some sort.  Those wise leaders know, however, that opposition that is squelched or punished or harassed or demeaned or disparaged or impugned, rears its head in much uglier ways than simple dissent.

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