Why it's time to hire people you disagree with

Picture of goats headbutting

Hiring staff who challenge you can be beneficial for your organisation. Here's why - and where you can find them.

It's likely the headline on this article has already stirred up some resistant feelings within you. Disagreeing with staff — or anyone for that matter — doesn't sound like a fun thing to welcome into your workplace. Yet, hiring people who challenge you is actually beneficial to your work environment.

Think about this. Why do you hire new staff? Do you bring on senior-level personnel merely to have them execute your orders? Or do you hire them based on the knowledge you hope they can bring to your organisation? In most cases, the answer is the latter.

However, many managers still lean toward hiring staff who think like them, agree with them, and fail to challenge them or bring new thinking to the business. In other words, you hire the person you like most in the interview – the one you naturally agree with.

But your company needs diversity. (When we talk about diversity in this case, we’re not just talking about race, gender or sexual orientation. In fact, organisations are often better at hiring ethnically and gender-diverse teams than they are at recruiting diverse teams of different skills, attitudes, interests, backgrounds, and experiences.) You need to foster an environment for healthy discussion, left-field ideas, a variety of experiences and, yes, disagreement. After all, it’s the grit in the shell that creates the oyster.

Why is difference important?

While your pride may not enjoy this too much, research suggests that the most productive teams are those that can disagree and constructively work toward solutions with all ideas in mind.

Entrepreneur magazine’s Dr David G. Javitch says,  “differences can cause people to think, act and feel in new and different ways. Innovation, productivity, morale, and satisfaction can increase when diversity exists in a collaborative atmosphere. The keywords here are ‘collaboration’ and ‘innovation’.”

“Differing opinions can spark new thoughts and ideas for processes, procedures, products, and services...”

The harsh truth is that you are not perfect. No-one is. Everyone needs their ideas challenged — business owners and directors included (perhaps even more so). Diversity will keep your thoughts and approaches fresh and ensure your business is always pushing beyond your competitors. With humility and openness to objecting ideas come the opportunity for growth – as an individual and as an organisation.

FURTHER READING: How we’re beating bias and you can, too

Hiring the best person for the job

One of the big problems, according to human behaviour expert and master executive coach, Kimberly Giles, in Forbes is subconscious bias — or “hiring people who are just like you”. Giles suggests that when we find commonality in others we tend to exaggerate it, thus misreading people and putting them in the wrong positions.

In American Sociological Review, Lauren A. Rivera of Northwestern University’s Management and Organizations Department says this bias is prevalent “because when we don’t have a rigorous, replicable set of criteria from which to evaluate a potential hire’s merit, we fall back on our most immediate instrument: ourselves”.

It is fair to suggest, then, that the best way to approach your next mining recruitment activity is to thoroughly plan the process and approach ahead of time. Don’t leave things until the last minute where you’re going to fall back on your intuition, which is going to lead you to hire, well… you.

FURTHER READING: 4 reasons to outsource to a recruitment consultant

Two essential tips to nip bias in the bud

Assess your team dynamic and what is missing

Every team will have gaps. Assess this before you commence the hiring process and look at what skills and personality characteristics will help fill your gaps.

Come up with a personality profile and craft interview questions based on this

Having a personality profile and asking careful interview questions will help you identify a person who fits the job, whether you like them or not.

Ultimately, most differences in people are superficial. What matters is a shared vision and the desire to do great work.

If you’re a mining industry hiring manager or recruiter, get in touch to find out more about MPI’s mining recruitment services . We’ve been specialist mining industry recruiters for more than 22 years.

Stephanie O'Brien
Mining People International