The Myth of Healthy Tension
Kimber Lockhart
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As a PM I’m willing to admit guilt in throwing the phrase around. I actually really appreciate your points about affiliation, recognition and values. Time and time again I’ve found myself reframing the context in working with teams that we’re all on the same boat trying to get to the same place. I think maybe the semantics behind “healthy tension” do need to be reassessed. Surfacing the right ideas through a civilized debate where they don’t border on becoming personal is ideal. But I have to admit I’ve been in positions where I don’t have the luxury of hiring teams that embody the characteristics of the values you mentioned. Nor am I in a position to fire them. So I’ve wondered: what can I do other than quit? And I’ve found myself in a position of nudging for empathy. Maybe “healthy tension” should be replaced with a new phrase like “empathetic debate” or “respectful disagreement”. As someone who once worked in policy and the public sector, I believe words matter. But I also absolutely believe work environments should be arranged where people aren’t afraid to speak up if they have strong views and strong ideas. Open to thoughts here.

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