Personal Finance

How managers can foster healthy workplace debate

talk

Healthy debates help employees to exchange ideas without having to degenerate into bitter arguments. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

scottbellows

Summary

  • When discussing concepts and ideas with liberal or conservative employees, managers should utilise different approaches depending on the type of worker.
  • The study finds that liberals flourish as more open-minded, creative, curious, and novelty seeking, while conservatives, on the other hand, prosper as more orderly, conventional, and better organised.

Listen to me. Agree with me. Why argue with me? My ideas are better than yours.

Every Business Daily reader knows someone who cannot fathom that their ideas stand as anything besides unimpeachably flawless. Give a contrary view that challenges their perceptions? They jump down your throat while trying to figuratively rip out your heart with vitriol and venom.

We hear these back and forth of forceful disputes anywhere from our homes to our communities to our places of worship to our politics.

Our superior cognitive capabilities make us dominant over other species on earth and part of our keen survival skills involves discussing and determining the best methods for keeping our families and small geographically confined communities safe.

Similarly, healthy deliberations should thrive as an integral part of the human experience since any workplace revolves around generating ideas and debating thoughts and concepts.

However, some people cannot handle a healthy debate. But which type of people tend to accept constructive criticism and deliberations better than other types of people?

Much debate among social scientists exists between researchers who study whether conservative or liberal individuals are more open. While a few smaller studies find that both conservatives and liberals are equally open to new ideas and accepting of other people with varying ideologies, the vast majority of research, as confirmed by Jonathan Baron and John Jost in a prestigious recent publication, shows that people who hold liberal beliefs are more likely to have lower bias and, inasmuch, more open to debate.

Further, stunning new research from Yoav Ganzach and Yaacov Schul shows that two types of individuals are the most intolerant of opposing viewpoints. Not only did the research duo confirm previous research that conservatives are significantly more intolerant toward ideological outgroups than liberals, meaning conservatives are more intolerant to those who disagree with them than are liberals who can get along with and tolerate even those who disagree with them, but secondly that those who are more intellectually gifted are more intolerant than those intellectually unwise.

Many would have expected instead that more intellectual people could see other sides of arguments with bearing and enduring tolerance. However, expectations are confounded in that the super-smart are the most intolerant of others.

What can executives do to aid their teams to foster healthier debates? Note the differences between types of individuals.

Managers who retain certain high intelligence employees on their team should follow three steps.

First, during manager-employee one-on-one coaching sessions, share about and practice active listening techniques.

Active listening works on an individual paying attention to and verbally reconfirming the other person’s viewpoints before jumping in and sharing their own ideas.

Second, many types of bias exist among people including racial, ethnic, point of origin, socio-economic class, size, shape, weight, height, gender, masculinity or femininity, attractiveness and even against different ideologies, among others.

Special emphasis

Highly intelligent people should take anti-bias training with special emphasis on ideological outgroups versus ingroups.

Third, encourage smarter employees to verbally express individual appreciation and recognition to other team members for those team members’ strengths.

Such verbal recognition helps to rewire someone’s brain to value their colleagues and listen to their ideas and contributions rather than fight them.

Also, social scientists Dana Carney, Samuel Gosling, Jeff Potter, along with same John Jost find that liberals and conservatives often embody different personalities and interaction styles.

When discussing concepts and ideas with liberal or conservative employees, managers should utilise different approaches depending on the type of worker.

The study finds that liberals flourish as more open-minded, creative, curious, and novelty seeking, while conservatives, on the other hand, prosper as more orderly, conventional, and better organised.

Therefore, making debates interesting and unconventional works more with liberals while orderly discussions with organised logic work better in discussing ideas with conservatives.


Dr Scott may be reached on [email protected] or on Twitter: @ScottProfessor