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Team-Building: The Loyal Opposition
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Team-Building: The Loyal Opposition - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: The Loyal Opposition

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: The Loyal Opposition

In parliamentary government, The Loyal Opposition is a term applied to those members of the minority, non-governing party who differ with the ruling party but iterate their continued belief in the government itself, a kind of good-faith expression of support for the system while disagreeing with the specific, current direction of that system.

A Loyal Opposition in any organization can be a valuable commodity.  It can provides checks and balances for positions of power, a voice for the minority and disenfranchised, and necessary speed bumps so that popular momentum doesn’t bypass established protocols and safeguards.  At worst, a Loyal Opposition can be described as troll-like, seeking only to get a rise out of colleagues and coworkers.  Slightly less negative is the Devil’s Advocate label, a name often given when the opposition seeks not to contribute to a better product, but simply to bring up points of view that may be overlooked.  A Loyal Opposition at its best, however, is fully invested in the mission of the organization, believing in that mission while disagreeing at times with the way that mission is addressed. 

Knowing whether your team has a mischievous pot-stirrer or a truly Loyal Opposition can be difficult to discern, but one sure giveaway is how fervently that opposition works as a member of the team even when disagreeing with it.  Many loyal opposers, believing in the system, mostly want their opposing suggestions acknowledged and considered seriously; when those suggestions are voted down or overruled, the good ones accept defeat and work toward best possible outcomes despite their disagreement.

Is the Loyal Opposition good for your organization or bad?  A lot depends on how it is viewed by the Loyal Agreers.  Do they see the opposition as valued members of the team, or is there bitterness and resentment?  This is one of those rare moments where perception can be more meaningful than reality.  If you see the Loyal Opposition one way but your team sees it another, you may want to step in and advocate for the opposition, modeling for your team tolerance and acceptance of different points of view while moving toward common goals.  Keep a finger on the vibe of the whole team if you’re one to root for your own Loyal Opposition.

The ultimate question, one which you may have to ask yourself and others repeatedly, is whether your Loyal Opposition is divisive or contributive, whether it makes you and your team better or worse.  You may have to make tough decisions if you repeatedly come up with the wrong answers, but be careful, especially if your Loyal Opposition is valued by the rest of the organization.  It may cause you a few more headaches along the way, but nobody is right all the time—not even you—and the emperor needs someone to point out sometimes that he wears no clothes.


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