Friday, 16 October 2009

Is this a five minute argument, or the full half hour?

New research suggests (oh, how I groan whenever I hear that phrase….) that having an almighty ding-dong with your work colleagues could be beneficial for all concerned.

According to strategy consultants Cognosis
(and I can feel another groan on the way …) a heated argument can encourage a robust exchange of ideas, leading to innovation and improvement in policy and vision (can this man possibly fit any more management jargon and buzzwords into one sentence, I hear you ask?)

“Great strategy emerges when people are encouraged to challenge the status quo, ask awkward questions and examine 'sacred cows'," says the report based on a survey of more than 1,000 executives from across the business world.

Helpfully, the Cognosis report also includes handy hints on how to argue effectively:

  • Direct, assertive, high-energy exchanges can trigger breakthrough thinking
  • No personal agendas
  • Listen, ask 'why', try to understand other viewpoints
  • Use open and encouraging body language, not defensive or closed
  • Raised voices may be OK but keep tone civil
  • Don't think winners/losers, explore ideas to co-create winners/winners
  • Ensure there's an agreed deadline for resolution

Responses to the research has been mixed. One workplace psychologist (yes, it’s time for a third and final groan) commented “This has clearly been dreamt up by people who are in control of their thinking, their bodies and their emotions, but the rest of the world is not so angelic”

Can a blazing row at work be productive?

So, come on you horrible lot: answer these questions and share your views.

  • Do you agree with the suggestion that a good row in the office might be a positive thing?
  • What's the difference between arguing and challenging constructively?
  • Is any form of aggression in the workplace unacceptable?
  • Are there some work environments where a "full and frank exchange of views" may be more acceptable than others?
  • Is aggression ever appropriate for a workplace leader?


  1. Gosh, three groans in one blog – is this a record?

    Since when did ‘challenging the status quo, asking awkward questions and examining sacred cows’ have to be done in an argumentative way?

    To me an argument is a discussion in which emotions are heightened and logic has started to melt away. I think healthy debate can be invigorating however an argument signifies a loss of control.

    I guess it’s all semantics – want to argue or challenge me on that one?


  2. Sure that the Monty Python fans around will know (and I quote...)

    "An argument isn't just contradiction, it's a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition. If I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position. Argument is an intellectual process"

  3. Oh no, not another boy who has a Monty Python quote for all situations - have enough of that at home. Surely some areas of life should be designated as Monty Python free zones. All I can say Mr Salisbury is that you aren’t the Messiah, you’re a very naughty boy!