Bursting the bubble: cultivating dissent in the workplace

According to a recent BusinessWeek poll, 90% of executives and middle managers believe that they perform in the top 10%. (This effect, known as positive illusion bias, is not confined to managers alone: it can be found among drivers confident that their reflexes are superior to those of others on the road, trial attorneys certain that they have the stronger case, and negotiators with an overinflated sense of their own prowess at the table.)

Given how widespread this phenomenon is, and how fallible then our judgment can be about the utility of our ideas and the strength of our abilities, many of us are undoubtedly in need of a little healthy perspective-taking when it comes to the decisions we make.

Just in time comes the latest edition of the Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge newsletter with an article on the importance of “Encouraging Dissent in Decision-Making“.

Dissent asks the hard questions, anticipates problems, and prevents mistakes–mistakes which can otherwise prove costly:

Consider the costs to organizations, large and small, when dissent does not or cannot surface: Abjuring rigorous debate about its merits, a youthful president John F. Kennedy essentially rubber-stamped a 1961 plan to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, resulting in one of the biggest U.S. foreign policy fiascoes in decades. During a 1996 commercial expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest, several climbers, including two of the world’s most experienced professionals, died in part because junior team members didn’t speak up when their expert leaders ignored their own core operating principles surrounding safety. In 2003, NASA engineers were reluctant to challenge long-held beliefs that foam strikes incurred during the launch of the space shuttle Columbia posed no risk to its fuselage.

Consider that the next time someone disagrees with you.

(Thanks to Thoughts from a Management Lawyer for the poll results.)

                        author

Diane J. Levin

Diane Levin, J.D., is a mediator, dispute resolution trainer, negotiation coach, writer, and lawyer based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who has instructed people from around the world in the art of talking it out. Since 1995 she has helped clients resolve disputes involving tort, employment, business, estate, family, and real property… MORE >

Featured Mediators

ad
View all

Read these next

Category

On Secrets and Blogging

Well, it finally happened. My blog was picked up by google, which was searching for someone (name now confidential!) and lead her to one of my "musings" which apparently revealed...

By Jan Frankel Schau
Category

Fresh Eyes and Bruce Springsteen

From the RSI BlogI am in my third month now serving as Director of Foreclosure Mediation for RSI. When I visit our foreclosure mediation programs in Rockford, Geneva and Waukegan...

By Hannah Kaufman
Category

The Best Interests of Children: Negotiating in the Shadow of the Law

Distance Family Mediation by Susanna Jani Today, it is my privilege to publish a post about what is undoubtedly the single most important consideration for separating parents — including when...

By Susanna Jani

Find a Mediator

X
X
X