Simple Ways To Be Less Divisive

Here are some simple ways to be less divisive in the workplace:

  • If you agree with an idea X that Bob said, say “I agree with the idea X”, don’t say “I agree with Bob”. The former states your advocacy; the latter is dividing the group into teams.
  • Don’t exaggerate, even if it’s for effect. “Everyone loves the new accounting software” is not true, and the one person who is annoyed to tears with a permissions error will react poorly.
  • Don’t ask questions that frame disagreement as unusual. Say “Can I confirm that March should be the launch date?”, don’t say “I assume we’re all aligned that March should be the launch date”. The former simply clarifies a detail, the latter does so by making disagreement seem absurd.
  • Write down what you’re saying, while you’re saying it. Keep real-time notes in meetings. The simple act of writing-while-speaking has many benefits: it slows your speech to avoid mindless rambling and prevent heated arguments, it promotes thoughtfulness and durability of what you’re saying, it gives others a visual anchor to the point you’re making.
  • Give people a chance to give feedback on changes. People are going to share their concerns whether they see a final change or a proposal, but with the latter they’ll be more included in the process. You can also avoid a whole class of frustration from people who just wanted a chance to give feedback (though actually don’t want to give feedback). Practically, instead of saying “here’s a new thing”, simply say “here’s a new proposal we’re finalizing before the end of week, please reach out if you have any concerns”.
  • Miscellaneous: joke less, laugh less, stop gossiping.