1. Laskowski-Jones, Linda MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, NEA-BC, FAWM, FAAN

Article Content

Being able to respectfully disagree with someone and still maintain a great relationship is an outstanding ability. I value it so much that I incorporated situational interviewing into nursing job interviews to discern who might best support an excellent work culture. As an example, I might ask, "Tell me about a situation when you disagreed with a co-worker; how did you respond?" My favorite, though, involved proposing a fictional scenario to learn how candidates react when they disagree with a leader. I asked them to pretend they were already employees and respond to an outrageous directive from me that would surely anger many staff: "I've decided that all staff members must buy and wear only puce-colored scrubs immediately."

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

Responses from surprised candidates always took one of three forms: 1) ready agreement to buy puce scrubs without further question; 2) immediate pushback in an aggressive or insulting manner, such as "Are you crazy? The staff will revolt;" or 3) a measured, professional response such as, "Can you explain your rationale? I am concerned about the staff reaction to the color choice and cost to buy all new uniforms so quickly." Which response leads me to hire the right candidate?


Response #1 scares me, especially if the interviewees are leadership candidates. These individuals might blindly follow a formal or informal leader who goes too far out on thin ice until it breaks and causes unnecessary harm. They either do not recognize the pitfalls with a directive or are too afraid to speak up.


Although not shy about speaking up, individuals who offer response #2 lack the ability to disagree in a way that maintains respectful and constructive relationships. This could portend avoidable conflict at work.


Response #3 reveals clear-thinking candidates who can point out obvious concerns in mature, professional, and thought-provoking ways. These individuals win my vote. We all need people in our lives who can honestly tell us when we may be venturing down the wrong path, hopefully before we do it. Good leaders with emotional intelligence value employees who can artfully disagree and advocate for a potentially better course of action. Such open dialogue can lead to improved outcomes.


Never be afraid to speak up-just engage your filters first to remain professional and demonstrate conduct that makes you a trusted ally as opposed to either a blind follower or a militant antagonist.


Until next time,



Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.