One of the things I was reflecting on recently was the way we tend to walk around on egg shells when it comes to oppositional people. I suppose that’s the strategy that the oppositional style is intending to achieve. It is the classic idea of the new kid starting at new school. Walk up to the biggest and toughest guy in the school, punch them in the face. They will either think you are tough or crazy and either way will leave you alone. This is not acceptable, it is not something we should condone or avoid. This is challenging to do though given the nature of the bark which is normally loud and aggressive.
Unfortunately the oppositional style comes from a place from low self-belief and it largely tries to drag others down to their level. Rather than building people up and encouraging them it seeks to tear them down. People who use this style are good at picking out flaws, pointing out what’s wrong and justifying it because they wear a black hat. The problem with this is that others do not feel encouraged or engaged by this approach which impacts on closing down innovation, ideas and debate rather than encouraging it or opening it up which is required in any team or organisation.
So the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. You can either let the oppositional style become modus operandi, or as a leader you can challenge it. What we don’t challenge becomes the standard, the way we do things around here. It may be appropriate for the oppositional person but unfortunately impacts adversely on everyone that encounters this approach.
Work against your traditional instinct to avoid the tough conversation by challenging the individual to think about how they can build people up rather than tearing them down with criticism. Would you rather see negativity become the norm or thrive?