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Why You Should Be Having Provocative Conversations in the Workplace featured image

Why You Should Be Having Provocative Conversations in the Workplace

Obviously, nobody should be having inappropriate or uncomfortable conversations in the workplace. However, that does not mean that ‘difficult’ conversations should be frowned upon or discouraged. Honestly, the term ‘difficult’ has negative connotations that do not accurately convey the kind of conversations that I will be speaking about in this article. So, if you get to the end of this article and still think of these conversations as ‘difficult’ then it is time to make a major change in your workplace culture.


Creating provocative conversations in the workplace is something too many businesses shy away from. Often, people with seniority in office environments surround themselves with Yes People and a lot of them do not even realise this is what they have done. These Yes People are usually encouraged to find solutions that will help them to become more comfortable sharing their ideas and true thoughts. If that is the kind of solution you are looking for then make sure to check out an earlier article I wrote about how to confidently share your ideas at work.

This article, however, has been written to help CEOs, managers and team leaders recognise why people agreeing with you all the time is stunting your business’s growth. Of course, we all enjoy being praised for our ideas but this fleeting admiration is only contributing to the growth of your ego. So, why do people fall into a crowd of Yes People without always realising it? How can they recognise the difference between genuine support and someone telling them what they want to hear?

One of the biggest problems creating Yes People in businesses is that organisational cultures do not align with the environments that leaders say they want to create. No business is going to actively discourage their employees from sharing ideas or speaking up when they believe there is an issue. However, this does not mean that this kind of culture has not been created through small actions or passing words. 

For example, if a business decides to offer a way where employees can share suggestions or ideas, these ideas and suggestions then actively have to be followed up on. Even if an idea is not put into action, providing feedback to your team on why this particular idea did not work this time will create a culture of confidence that ideas are respected whether they are accepted or not. If no explanation is received, your employees will start to believe any idea they have will be dismissed. Over time, a culture will be created where employees will no longer want to spend the effort sharing their ideas or speaking up when they recognise how something could be improved.

At the end of the day, this is what it all comes down to. The more employees are shot down without explanation or simply because they ‘disagreed’, the less mental energy they will want to waste on challenging ideas in the future. Therefore you cannot blame your team if it feels like they never have any innovative ideas or solutions when the culture of the business is preventing them. There is nothing wrong with surrounding yourself with like-minded people but this does not mean that these people always have to agree with every single idea you have. 

Personally, I do not believe ‘like minded’ means an individual who shares the exact same ideas as you. A like-minded person is someone who shares the same end goals or achievements but might have different or better ideas on how to get there. However, creating more provocative conversations in the workplace also does not mean encouraging perpetual disagreement. A healthy and productive balance needs to be found.

People with seniority within businesses need to realise that Yes People do not become that way just because ‘they want to suck up to the boss.’ The issue is not as simple as blaming these individuals. The culture you preach and the actual environment of your workplace need to align otherwise your employees will never feel comfortable enough to say things that could actually be the next big break for your business.

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