Disagreeing & The Sandwich Technique

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The trick to innovation and working well together is to disagree effectively! All conflicts and disagreements can be mitigated using The Sandwich Technique: This technique is commonly used when giving criticism and feedback. It states that you should: Compliment, Coach, and Encourage.

Compliment– Express praise and respect for your peer’s work. E.g Good job Jim you’ve made some great headway on this project.

Coach– Communicate what improvements you would like to see made. E.g I think you should focus a bit more on X rather than Y.

Encourage– End on a positive note and show that you are confident in their ability.  E.g Great work so far. Cant wait to see what it looks like when you make those adjustments!

If a team of two are working on a task and they never disagree on anything, then one of them is redundant. However, if the two are constantly disagreeing then both are useless. Disagreement can be both necessary and destructive for business. New ideas and approaches are born from disagreements between colleagues. Innovation and best practices could never occur without dissension. However, teams that are constantly disagreeing are counterproductive and can’t make decisions. Nothing gets done because people aren’t willing to compromise on their beliefs. Office disagreements, if poorly managed, can escalate and quickly become office conflicts. Conflicts are destructive. Most office conflicts can be categorized in three blocks:

  1. Task-related = problems on ideas and scope of a project.

  2. Process related = disagreements on ways to tackle tasks and projects.

  3. Relationship related = interpersonal issues in a team.

The same logic can be brought into disagreement within teams. It is a three-fold system. You start with something nice, then the constructive criticism, and end with something nice again. There you have it. You show your colleagues that you respect their ideas, but you suggest that a different course still needs to be taken. Disagreeing doesn’t have to be hard so long as team members are respectful and open to new ideas. Understand that the best ideas come from a group effort and that ego doesn’t enter the realm of finding the best solutions. Here are some tips to help you disagree better:

  • When someone proposes a solution always make sure you understand the entire course of action that is suggested. Don’t cut across or strike it down without being clear on the concept.

  • If you disagree with your team’s approach then argue an alternative. Communicate with your co-workers the risks of this plan and the benefits of an alternative. If you cannot think of an alternative yourself, ask the group to brainstorm other options further and demonstrate your enthusiasm for finding the best solution.

  • Focus on positives rather than negatives. State that the proposed course of action is good, but perhaps it can be build on. Don’t let egos or emotions take over. Remember that you all are seeking the best course of action and the team will benefit most from the more well-considered plan.

Everyone has something different to offer to the project and should contribute to the prescribed solution. There may be multiple solutions that can work so don’t go in closed-minded to new ideas. Disagreements offer room for learning. Apollo Syndrome is a phenomenon whereby highly intelligent people under perform in groups. This can be largely explained by the lack of constructive disagreement. People with different views and opinions can all learn from one another in the process of making the best decision. Always encourage discussion and diversity of opinion within a team, as this will inevitably lead to the best work. You’ll soon see that disagreement can be constructive in teams and companies. Disagreeing is healthy and inspires creativity. Get going and start disagreeing! Do it right. Be respectful of others and be sensitive how you communicate your dissension. Remember the sandwich: compliment, coach, encourage! It work’s every time! All this sandwich talk making you hungry? What’s your favorite sandwich? Will you disagree using The Sandwich Technique at work? If so, please let us know how it goes!

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