There is a decent amount of research showing that agreeableness (as measured by the five factor personality test) is not always associated with strong professional outcomes.
Specifically, agreeableness can reduce results orientation and create opportunities to be taken advantage of by colleagues who better use power to achieve their desired ends.
That being said, agreeableness need not be all bad: to the extent that it helps cultivate large, loose networks, agreeableness is likely of use to leaders in attracting talent and coalition members, especially in the non-profit sector.
Many times, I’ll be in a conversation with a colleague, grantee, or potential grantee and there will be a small war going on my head: part of me wants to nod my head, smile, and ask probing but pleasant questions – while another party of me wants to dig in very hard on everything that might be wrong about what we’re discussing.
I have a strong desire to be both emotionally agreeable and intellectually disagreeable.
Which begs the question: is it possible to be emotionally agreeable while being intellectually disagreeable?
I’m not sure. But here’s some things I try to do:
- Utilize processes that create a safe space for intellectual aggression (i.e., assigning someone to be the devil’s advocate in a meeting).
- Using hedging phrases such as “I might have this wrong, but….” that soften the blows of intellectual aggression.
- Trying to separate my empathy for a person with my disagreement with her ideas – so that my intellectual disagreeableness does not bleed into full blown personal animosity.
If you have any other tools, let me know.
I struggle to get the balance right.
Sometimes I feel like I’m too agreeable, and sometimes I feel like I’m too intellectually aggressive.