The 5 different upward dissent strategies

The 5 different upward dissent strategies

This is the 3rd of 4 articles looking at what happens when people in organisations feel aggrieved and how the research shows, managers should deal with it.

Part 1 Psychological Contract Breaches & 3 Types of Employee Dissent

Part 2 The 3 Forms of Organisational Dissent

Part 3 The 5 Different Dissent Strategies (This article)

Part 4 Management Responses

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The 5 different (upward) dissent strategies


Previous research has identified five different upward dissent strategies (ways of dissenting to the management structure). These are:

  1. Direct factual appeal, where the employee uses observable data to back that argument and refrains from abuse and personalising their dissent.
  2. Repetition. As the title suggests this is where an employee brings up their complaint in a number of different situations and different people over a length of time. Research suggests that the most likely cause for a repetition dissent strategy is that they don’t feel that they are being listened to.
  3. Solution presentation strategy. This is considered to be constructive strategy whereby the employee suggests solutions to the issue whether or not the issue has merit.
  4. Circumvention strategies. This is where an employee chooses to escalate their complaint above the level of their immediate manager.
  5. Threatening strategies. Usually this takes the form of threatening resignation but can take other less drastic forms of threat.

These strategies can be used either in isolation or they can be used in series. The final strategies, the circumvention strategy and threatening strategy are generally considered to be escalation strategies, which are usually brought about because the individual does not feel that they are being listened to. The five strategies together represent what is known as an escalation spiral. Usually most employees, but not all, will base their dissent level on the amount and nature of negative emotion they feel in the situation.

In the last article I will look at what the research says about how managers should ideally respond to these dissent strategies.



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David Wilkinson