Amy Gallo

The Human Way to Disagree with Amy Gallo, Author, Speaker, and Contributing Editor at Harvard Business Review

Contrary to popular belief, the highest performing teams are not necessarily conflict free. In fact, healthy disagreement—or creative friction—leads to more innovation, more trust, better ideas, and higher performance. Amy Gallo, author, podcast host, and contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, sits down with Erica on this week’s episode to discuss how to disagree in a human way. This conversation equips leaders and employees alike to build trust and psychological safety in relationships and teams (the foundation of healthy conflict), navigate difficult conversations, and establish norms around disagreement. They also touch on how and why there are gender differences in disagreement and advocacy, why a hybrid work environment makes conflict more difficult, and how to approach—top down OR bottom up—disagreement on whether employees should return to the office fully or be able to keep a flexible schedule. Anyone who’s ever struggled with conflict in the workplace will find this conversation enlightening and helpful. Amy’s latest book, Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone, Even Difficult People, is out September 13th and available for pre-order now.


“That leads to what Patrick Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, calls artificial harmony. So it’s this idea that we look like we’re getting along, we’re all nodding and agreeing, but then there’s this sort of simmering tension or resentment that’s underneath the surface that never comes up. Or comes up sideways, and you have these big explosions.”

“You need trust in order to have disagreements. You need to respect the other person in order to voice your disagreement. You need to have a sense of belonging and safety. And when you don’t have those things, whether it’s in a marriage or on a team, it’s going to look like everything’s fine, because disagreements aren’t coming up, but things often are very, very wrong. And you’re not going to get all of the benefits of disagreeing, right you know, [like] innovation. What Linda Hill at Harvard Business School calls creative friction, that comes with you and I disagreeing, we’re gonna come up with a better idea if we surface our underlying assumptions, and we articulate our point of view, and we go to bat for our ideas and then collaborate and integrate each of our ideas into something better, right? We get better work outcomes. We also tend to have stronger relationships because to disagree you need to have trust, and once actually have disagreed, you do have a conflict and you’ve worked through it, you’ve set the precedent that our relationship will survive even if we disagree.”

“Having difficult conversations, having disagreements are table stakes when it comes to trying to create inclusive work environments.”

“One of the basic things is, as a leader, if you haven’t said out loud, ‘We will not always see eye to eye, and I think that is a good thing,’ say that tomorrow to your team. Because you have to lay the groundwork that disagreement is a normal, inevitable part of other human beings interacting. And it’s not going to be shut down if it comes up. We’re going to hear it, we’re going to listen to it. And setting norms around how do we do that.”

“Part of me believes we need to reclaim this language that’s always negative. To me, conflict is when our needs, wants, desires are not aligned. And we have to figure out how to align them or how to get to an answer where at least some of those desires, wants, and needs are met, but maybe not all of them.”

“You need to be crystal clear about why you actually want people back [in the office]. What purpose is it serving for the organization, for them as employees? You know, people have gotten used to being able to pick up their kids from school or at the bus stop. You’re asking them to disrupt a routine that they’ve gotten used to and, as you say, have been able to do their jobs just as well.”

“Given what the labor market looks like right now, I would be very hesitant to enforce something that’s going to make a lot of people unhappy. There are people who are willing to leave over [forced RTO], and a lot have.”


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Pre-order Amy’s book, Getting Along