Across from me, I see the look of determination in their eyes. Their hands wave frantically in the air and flecks of saliva fly out of their mouth as they try to make their point clear. I sit back, waiting. I’m already building a solid argument in my mind to counter whatever it is they just said that I can drop like a bomb as soon as they’re done speaking. Yes, they’re making some very good points, but I see a few flaws in their logic, just as they’ve seen a few flaws in mine. And then, it happens. They close their mouth and look at me questioningly. I open my mouth with a feeling of pure bliss.
But why though? Why do I enjoy arguing with colleagues so much? Is it arrogance. Maybe. Am I that stubborn? Well that certainly plays a part. But there’s another reason, which is actually pretty simple. I want to succeed. I want the agency I work at to succeed. I want to create the best work possible, not only for clients, but for myself.
So where does arguing with colleagues factor into this? Well, arguments are about challenging each other to see things a different way. You see something one way. Your opponent sees something another way. Clearly you both have your reasons, otherwise you wouldn’t be arguing in the first place. Instead of viewing arguments as something toxic, you should be viewing them as a way to push everyone towards better ideas and better executions… if you’re arguing the right way.
So how does one argue with colleagues the right way?
Arguing with colleagues, just like arguing with loved ones, should come from a place of mutual respect. You should be going in assuming that you know some things better than them, and they know some things better than you. The point of the argument should never be to win. It should be to find a way to take the best parts from each of your arguments and make them work together to create a better piece of work. That way, you’re both winners.
1. Don’t get angry with someone when they disagree with you. As soon as someone gets angry, the whole dance becomes pointless and someone’s feelings will get hurt. Not good for work. Not good for morale in general.
2. Avoid turning your arguments into shouting matches. There’s no point. Arguing isn’t about shouting. It’s about presenting valid points in an efficient way to convince someone of something. If you start shouting, you should just stop, because things will spiral out of control fast.
3. Make sure that you continue to move things forward. If the argument stagnates and you no longer find yourselves remaining flexible, then it’s also time to stop.
If you’re doing all these things right, it will lead to increased productivity, better work and a more efficient working environment. If you’re not arguing with colleagues, there’s definitely something wrong. If no one is disagreeing about anything, then there might be a serious problem with your employees. Either you’ve managed to hire the same person several times, or worse yet, you have people who are too afraid to express their opinion, which might speak volumes about the culture in your office.
Which brings me to my final point… for arguments in the workplace AND for the workplace in general.
4. Surround yourself with people who think differently to you. If your employees think exactly the same way you do, there will be no one to challenge you. No one to spark up the conversation. No one to help develop your ideas and help you make them better. And most importantly, no one to argue with. Something to think about when you’re hiring new people.
So the next time you feel your pulse racing as you read a memo or open an email that you don’t agree with, start thinking about how the impending argument can work to help make your work better, and then argue away, because arguments are awesome.