Personal character element at work!

At work a couple weeks ago, my team was designing certain software components. In one particular area, the team wanted to go one way but I argued for a different design. I “lost” and we went with the design the rest of the team wanted.

Then yesterday, some input came from other teams, and the decision was made to refactor – to switch to the exact design I had originally proposed. What did I do? Jump for joy?

No! I argued against the change – against the design I’d originally wanted! Again I “lost” and we are going forward with the refactor.

I noticed this pattern and realized that in both cases I did not feel strongly one way or another. (I couldn’t even write “lost” above without putting it in quotes!) I was really arguing because I felt someone needed to be contrarian, to defend the opposing view. Once I presented my opposition and others heard me out, I felt immediately better, as though an important role in the discussion had been fulfilled.

It seems clear to me that, within this team of folks anyway, I’ve recognized the need for the Oppose element and gravitate toward making sure it’s filled.

You can really see how this can make teams effective once they get used to working with each other, since people will automatically gravitate toward certain roles, and others will recognize those. For example, I think people on my team subconsciously recognize that I like to play Devil’s advocate and don’t worry about me taking it personally when I “lose”.

I think this is all discussed in the theory book, or at least on Melanie’s website, but I just thought it was really cool to see it in action!


I was going to find a picture of “support” to post for you, but all I could think of was underwear and decided not to. Oh well. Sounds like you’ve already judged it to be good anyway. :blush:

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To that end, Mike, how do you think things would change for you if you were to start supporting the groups ideas? How would things change for the group?

I’m not sure. I think if I just did that without good reason, I would feel like the group is missing something important, someone to challenge our ideas. However, if someone else was providing opposition, I might step into the Support role quite naturally. I can bet that would happen automatically if a new person (say a manager) joined our meeting and started questioning things.


I was just going to ask a similar question.

I could imagine two situations – one in which the team intuitively adjusts, with different “players” taking on different roles; and another in which everyone plays Support and critical thinking goes out the window.

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I was thinking that someone else would step into the role, because nature abhors a vacuum.

And if that didn’t happen, there would be a lack of confidence moving forward.

Then again, I’m sort of arguing that every decision always needs to be opposed and that is not true either.

Just realized… I’m opposing myself and will now go away.


Melanie has definitely written about this. I seem to remember the article speculating about what would happen if you watch a group of poker players to see who was fulfilling which role and then try to inhabit one of those roles for yourself, and that whoever had the role you just took would probably suddenly be thrown off their game or something. I think you should start supporting things, Mike and report back what happens😀

So does my wife! HAH! Haha…ha…uhm…:flushed:
Oh my gosh, I’m totally just kidding, I hope she never reads this. I’m just gonna go get the vacuum now and, uh, yeah…


you might wanna look at the theory of group dynamics credited to David Kantor.


Then, again, you might be the most practical. First off seeing the best aspects of a certain something, then seeing the time spent on revamping (or whatever) to do that after all was not worth it now, considering the time etc. it would take.

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That’s actually what I thought when I was making the arguments. What kind of surprised me though, was that once I made the arguments and felt like they’d been heard, it didn’t bother me in the slightest for the team to choose differently.

Maybe it’s the same perception dynamics of the brain as with a corn on the foot? We don’t even feel the pain until the day is over, and the shoes are off, and we bump against it. Even then, emotion is not a dynamic. We just grab the Dr Scholl’s pad and dot, assessing whether to use the whole or cut some off, etc. Also, a room full of people drawing, painting are used to people making choices seeking new creative experiences, in spite of more work hassle time etc. and emotion isn’t a usual dynamic.