The Minority Voice – Stewarding One’s Response when One is in the Minority

We will all at some point get out-voted.   Expect it; assume it.   You will not always get your way; you will not always vote with the majority; you will not always have your supervisor agree with you.   You made your case on the assembly floor or in the board room; you made your case to the person to whom you report.  But, you got outvoted or your supervisor thanked you for your perspective but chose to act in a way that did not reflect your convictions or perspective.    This happens.   No one goes through life without being outvoted at some point; no one works within an organization without finding that an action is taken that one disagrees with. 

Wise women and men who are in the minority know how to respond.  When they are in the majority or in the key power position as a supervisor, they respect and value the minority voice [as I stressed in the last blog].  But then when they are in the minority they also know that they must respond in a manner that respects the will of the majority or the right and authority of the supervisor to make the final call.  They affirm and respect the process and the outcome,  And at that point, they have one of three options. 

First, they can quietly accept the outcome and leave it be.   This is an honourable option.   Al Gore waited for the re-count of the Florida votes in the US presidential election and when the Supreme Court decided in favour of George Bush, it was the end of the discussion for Gore.  In a masterful example of deference to the due process, he quietly accepted that the Supreme Court had spoken.  End of the issue.   In like manner, John McCain gave a brilliant and gracious concession speech when he lost the election to Barrak Obama.   The American people had spoken, he insisted; and now Mr Obama was his president. 

Second, in some case we have the option to be “the loyal opposition”, to use an expression that comes parliamentary governance.   We accept the outcome but then contribute to the on-going deliberative process in a respectful manner that keeps a minority voice present to the conversation.   This has to be done respectfully and not stridently; and there is nothing gained by weeks or months later saying “I told you so” – always a useless comment.  Rather, this is the voice that keeps us honest, you might say – the voice or perspective that while perhaps I disagree with it, I need to keep on my radar.   I know, for example, that there is a minority voice on senior leadership team, but while in the end the decision has been made where they were outvoted, what they were offering by way of perspective needs to be kept in mind. 

And third, there is the option that we simply leave – graciously.   If you cannot agree with what your supervisor has done, you let it be . . . or you choose to as appropriate remain as one who keeps a perspective present to the process and the institution, or you accept that in good conscience you need to step down.  This is not a sign of weakness, necessarily, unless of course you quit and take your toys away every time you do not get your way.   And we must insist;  if you leave, leave graciously without burning bridges.   Leave with an affirmation that we do not know where things will be in a year or two or more.   Don’t throw mud; don’t leave with a curse.  There will be sadness, but leave with no bitterness.   Leave and as you are able, leave a blessing,   But leave if you must.  

Institutional Intelligence is the capacity to work effectively within organizations.