Harmony through Silence

December 5, 2016

Harmony through Silence

An option is always to keep your head down when the big guns of conflict come out. Sometimes it’s a good idea and sometimes not. Let’s talk about this possibility.

Why it’s a bad idea

  • You wouldn’t be representing your group well.
  • A potentially good idea will get lost.
  • A sub-optimal solution might be adopted.
  • You might be wimping out by not speaking up.

It’s good for the company

The reasons above are about the company. That is, if you speak up, the company benefits by getting closer to the right solution. Even the last one fits. You’re wimping out by not helping the company be its best. The organization is usually better off if knowledgeable people occasionally ruffle feathers.

But is it good for you?

Depends. Depends on how you feel about the issue under discussion.

  1. I care deeply. Meaning, it is related to your own values and ethics. Not speaking up will do your sense of self-worth damage.
  2. I don’t care. E.g. a change with no impact, or any solution works for you. You might want some visibility by speaking, but if your comments are seen as disturbing the peace, you might want to back off.
  3. I care/am interested in a good outcome. I think most work place issues fall here. Whatever the decision, it will not materially offend your values and ethics. You care because it is the responsible thing to do or because this is important to your status, power, influence, or other intangibles. If so, factor in how much speaking up might disturb the harmony and whether it’s worth it. Might be, might not. The answer isn’t as important as the question.

Other factors to consider

Other factors can come into play:

  • Your boss’ expectations. Is she expecting you to achieve something for your group? Does she want to put up a fight or just keep an eye out? Don’t go in without knowing.
  • Will your boss support you? What if you tangle with Tod and Tod complains that you’re not a team player? Will your boss defend you or throw you under the bus? No point in asking her. Who ever says, ‘yes, I’ll throw you under.’? But what’s your sense of her? How much you disturb the harmony of the group depends on the support you expect if/when the fecal matter hits the Dyson bladeless fan.
  • Picking your battles. Honestly, sometimes it’s better to retreat to fight another day. If you work with these people, flattening them, no matter how richly they deserve it, may not be the best way to foster good relationships. Similarly, if you need a colleague’s support on something more important, you might want to go lightly on objections.
  • What it does to you. Having said that, it’s also important to keep a watching brief on what going along does to you. As I’ve said, it’s not this particular going along, putting up, or shutting up that matters. It’s their accumulation. A whole working life of that can leave you wanting to escape from a prison rather than looking forward to the next adventure. So, although in theory it’s good for the company if you try to press your ideas, it might not always be good for you personally. You need to balance how much of the harmony of the group you want to disrupt to move your agenda forward.

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