I have encountered the following situation.

I am in a specific team in which the politics in various directions are very important. That was never my strong point.

This includes how some of the people in the team pursue their personal objectives.
I recently had a discussion with some of the members (my peers) and while my opinion on a process to follow could easily be substantiated factually as the right way, there was very strong resistance for a different direction with completely weak and vague reasons to support it.

To avoid the stalemate and for the sake of moving things forward I agreed to follow the other side's approach (more than one person but similar way of thinking between them) but I stated that I am not really believing that it is the right way to go. Regardless I went along with that idea.

Later on, I found out, after discussing with the team's manager that not actually stating of being supportive of the idea is something that is not good even though she did agree that my proposal on how to proceed made total sense and could not provide any reason why the other was favored so much and she had to admit that she saw the same flaws.

So my question is this:

I am really confused on what am I supposed to do in situations like these. Besides going along, am I supposed to lie and pretend we are going towards a great idea when it clearly is not?

How do you handle cases like these where the behavior seems to require more political handling without losing your idea of what is right?
What would be the right way to end the conversation with them so they don't feel threatened that their objectives is at stake and I don't feel like a hypocrite of supporting things I don't believe?

  • 5
    My problem with the question, and maybe the root of your problem, is you're calling this a political issue. This is just an issue with handling a difference of opinion. Mar 14 '21 at 0:08
  • Your boss may think that it's better that the meeting continues until you all agree with each other. Mar 14 '21 at 0:12
  • @GregoryCurrrie: First of all I didn't share that thought to the manager of course. The reason I think so, is because I have seen in the environment similar attitude with people trying to gain in personal ways eg promotion and the fact that they could not really provide any solid reason for their case reinforces that thought. In any case, my intention with the question is not to accuse them (i haven't actually it is just my thought) is more for me to be able to avoid the struggle with cases of feeling being used and us not doing what's best for our work for vague reasons. Does this help?
    – smith
    Mar 14 '21 at 0:17
  • @GregoryCurrie: the meeting was blocked as we could not agree. I backed down and said ok to move things as I say in the post
    – smith
    Mar 14 '21 at 0:19
  • You're basically making a (needless) accusation of your co-workers with no proof. Some people will give you downvotes for that. Mar 14 '21 at 0:24

So my question is this: I am really confused on what am I supposed to do in situations like these. Besides going along, am I supposed to lie and pretend we are going towards a great idea when it clearly is not?

It depends. Could just be that you're the lone person with the idea and others could not see - or at least assumed - the risks were minimal.

Generally speaking in a group setting, ideas are generally flowing by the group consensus not always the best way. They try it the way they all agreed, and perhaps it doesn't work out. The next step is to learn what went wrong and try to fix it.

Sometimes things like time, money, and other factors come into play that makes the better idea not feasible, or at least feasible in the future.

Best way to handle it is to know that:

  1. It is not really your product. While ultimately you may see a bad idea, the ultimate thing is it's not yours. If it was you'd have absolute control over it and you would not be here asking this question.

  2. Understand sometimes others might not see what you're seeing or at least assume the problems aren't going to be a huge risk. Best way is to voice it as best as you can. "I don't think this is a great idea because it doesn't consider...."

Sometimes when others agree with another person, the end result is vs-1 situation where you have to not only explain your idea but also it sounds like you're "against" their idea so they might immediately not like your idea purely on that ground even though they might not realize that is happening.

  1. Ultimately it may be that you have to go with the flow. Know that something is going to go wrong and be there to submit your idea.

So, meshing with a group can be difficult, especially if they have existing group dynamics. Often, it does take time for others to be seen as a true asset to the group. Generally speaking, unless you are extremely charismatic, you may just have to wait for that time to come upon you.

But, while you are waiting for that acceptance, you also want to make sure, whether well intended or no, that you aren't giving any "blocking" dynamics. The first two are very easy to fall trap to.

Blocking: this happens when team members behave in a way that disrupts the flow of information in the group. People can adopt blocking roles such as:

  • The aggressor: this person often disagrees with others, or is inappropriately outspoken.
  • The negator: this group member is often critical of others' ideas.
  • The withdrawer: this person doesn't participate in the discussion.
  • The recognition seeker: this group member is boastful, or dominates the session.
  • The joker: this person introduces humor at inappropriate times.
  • Source mindtools.com "Improving Group Dynamics"

Additionally, you can try different phrasing. "You know, I think that's a great idea, I can totally see where you're going with that. What do you think if we add/change/incorporate/etc this xxxx idea. It might/would probably benefit it in xxxx way"

  • What I am more confused about is that it is clear that the idea is weak, nevertheless, the preference is to show everything is smooth. So maybe I am misunderstanding something in regards to management, team dynamics and our responsibility to our employeer to provide the best solution we can
    – smith
    Mar 14 '21 at 9:56

This is a familiar situation. Without having a satisfactory answer, I think some analysis and understanding is still possible by saying there are two parts of the situation that can get mixed up.

A preliminary point is the possibility that your judgment may be wrong. Be very aware of this possibility. But let's say for the sake of argument you have the advantage of experience over the team, in the paricular subject.

(1) First problem is how to express disagreement, and bring up discussions of risk, without stepping on any toes or putting your interlocutors on the defensive. Part of this is group culture, part is specific interpersonal relations, part of it is timing -- people are willing to accept help at different times and resent it at other times. My partial answer to this is to have one-on-one conversations to try to figure out the individual pairwise dynamics, and figure out where there is an avenue to convey information and where there is not.

(2) Second is about management philosophy. It may very well be that the business situation rewards firefighting and punishes prevention. The expression of this reality down the chain of command can be awkward and misinterpreted as discouragement of negativity. My partial answer to this is to use any technical discretion you may have, to set tripwires, so that potentially high impact issues manifest themselves early and in a non-catastrophic way.

An intimately related pattern of behavior is: if the business incentives are to defer acknowledgment of risk as long as possible*, then what tends to happen instead (unintentionally) is that there ends up being a fear of detection of risk. Thus asking permission for choices that lead to early detection of risk (flipping the cards over too early, if you will) is likely to encounter resistance, so I would consider not drawing attention to the possibility of exposing weakness, if you suspect this fear is in play.

[*e.g., motivation at the finance level : a 50% probability of $1.00 / $0.00 is usually evaluated as worth more than a 100% probability of $0.50 ... this has profound effects ]

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Apr 18 '21 at 10:24

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