The Object Principle – How we disagree well, together

So, you’re having a conversation with your boss and he or she says something that you don’t agree with. You voice your dissent and your boss tells you to “Shut the f#*k! up!” as they remind you who’s the boss, in front your fellow staff members. What do you do?

It’s the times that we disagree that we are the more likely to experience anger, from both ourselves and others. Pretty obvious, right?

Rather than focusing directly on anger, this presentation will look more at how we got there. That is, looking at the cause; dissent and disagreement, rather than the symptom, which we believe is anger.

If disagreeing  with superiors, without fear of retribution, is a critical issue that every innovative organisation faces, then creating a safe environment that not only tackles this problem but actively encourages dissent, is the holy grail, we believe.

Creating a Safe Environment to Disagree

“We believe that thoughtful, unemotional disagreement by independent thinkers can be converted into believability-weighted decision making, that is smarter and more effective than the sum of its parts.”  Principles by Ray Dalio.

Ray Dalio’s use of “unemotional disagreement” for making smarter decisions is commendable, but what happens to the 99% of us who usually experience, on some level, “emotional disagreement”? For such occasions we are proposing the use of The Object Principle and believe it starts with a safe and regulated environment. Firstly, to create such an environment, we believe that it needs to be lead from the top down, and before the company is really formed. Executives, founders and investors are going to have to make a number of strategic agreements to support our proposal that encourages such open dissent.

Disagree Vs Object

To “Disagree” is basically not agreeing with how the other person has interpreted the facts or data. To “Object” however, is about disagreeing with how the other behaves while delivering their interpretation. This idea of splitting a dispute into the two components,  interpreting data and delivering this interpretation, is crucial in understanding a disagreement, as we will see later, and is the secret sauce for our Object Principle.

Disagree

Fundamentally we all have biases, so working out what is true and what is not is always going to be a difficult proposition. “Calling out” someone’s biased proposition and proposing our own is also difficult because it could be that our view is the biased one. Therefore, we propose that everyone in the organisation recognizes this and agrees to simply state that we “don’t agree” or “disagree” measured by our agreed-to moderators (DECARRT – see Moderators & Jargon below), rather than pointing out that the other person is wrong or accusing them of being biased. Prefacing our arguments and proposals with “I think” or “in my view” goes a long way to remind us all that these are just our opinions or interpretations of the data rather than being the absolute factual data, which ultimately may never actually exist.

Object

During this disclosure of our dissent it is possible or even likely that it is not always going to be received well. As in our example in the introduction, the response to our dissent could even be quite hostile. At this point the descenting person can simply object to the bosses behavior using DCOS ie Dare to Caution, Object and finally Stop if necessary, in real-time, and on the grounds that it did not conform to DECARRT. Anger and the resultant abuse being a dead giveaway, in this instance.

Complain

Complaining is sort of a combination of objecting and disagreeing, only instead of being in real-time and direct it is usually after the fact and indirect and usually has a degree of anger resentment and abuse associated with it. We consider this is the poor man’s objection and usually results in malicious gossiping within the organisation.

MODERATORS & Jargon

Moderators: DECARRT are our agreed-to moderators and require us to be mindful of them when engaging with our proposals and disagreeing with other’s proposals.
Daring, Enjoyable, Considered, Accountable, Responsible, Reasonable, Transparent

DCOS: is the name we give for activating an objection for unacceptable behavior relative to DECARRT.
DCOS stands for Daring, Caution, Object, Stop and needs to be use consecutively ie
we cannot Object or Stop without using a caution first. Basically it is 3 strikes and we are out. Or similar to a free kick, yellow card and red card in soccer.
Being accountable for DCOS requires the offender to:
Acknowledge a Caution
Say sorry for an Objection
Give an acceptable apology for a Stop.

Acceptable Apology: Where the receiver has the option to simply accept or reject the apology on what ever grounds and consists of the offender stating:
1. What they did
2. Why they did it
3. What they will do next time

ALIN = Angry, Lie Ignore or Nag
Failing to use our agreed to moderators will result in Anger, Lies, Ignoring or Nagging and should result in us DARING to one of our Objections DCOS starting at a CAUTION, next up is to OBJECT, and finally is STOP.

Put It All Together

object_principle-2

So, back to our initial question, what do we do when our boss tells us to shut the f up?Imagine we had our agreements in place, within our organisation, to encourage dissent, this is how it would proceed. Instead of the abused getting (ALIN) Angry in this case, the offended could CAUTION, using and unemotional statement of “I caution you” should be sufficient to to let your boss know that his or her behavior is unacceptable. Your boss can then choose to inquire why there is an objection and has a choice to acknowledge the caution, which was on the grounds that his or her reaction to the dissent was not according to our DECARRT moderators (not enjoyable or considered for example). If the boss can acknowledge the poor behavior we can continue the discussion. However if your boss did not think your caution was sustainable or warranted, the offended could OBJECT next and ultimately STOP the discussion.

Resolve an Impasse

After the discussion was stopped, part of the Object Principle requires the objector to try resolve the issue with your boss on a one-on-one basis. If unsuccessful the objector can bring a witness or two to establish the issue. If successful, at this stage the boss would be required to give a more Acceptable Apology (see Moderators & Jargon). Or, if still unresolved, the objector can bring the boss before the organisation’s team of peers. If still unresolved the peers can decide if the boss had acted outside our moderators and ultimately decide their fate, with the power to remove the boss from their position. One would hope we would never need such drastic action but such assigned powers are part of our Object Principle.

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