I’m not talking about politics here. The ins and outs of voting in a modern democracy is well outside the remit of this blog. I’m talking about voting in a work context. Sticky dots on post-it notes, fist of five (raising your fingers to show how support or otherwise), secret ballets etc. etc.
I’m sure there are valid circumstances where voting makes sense. I can’t think of any right now but I’m sure there are.
However in the bulk of situations where you have a group of people trying to get to the bottom of some thorny issues, or even figure out what the thorny issues are, then voting tends to guarantee a few rather dull outcomes. So what is my problem with voting?
1. Voting kills diversity. Voting is a great tool for silencing the minority voice ensuring only majority issues get discussed.
2. Voting leads to premature consensus. The group thinks that some kind of agreement has been reached because everyone has had their chance to vote, but voting can’t replace discussion.
3. Voting creates artificial harmony. Voting is a great tool for avoiding conflict. People can hide behind their scores out of 10, but once people leave the room, you won’t have achieved commitment from everyone about the decisions reached.
4. Voting gets to the average. If you want to discuss the thing in the middle, the average, the mediocre then use voting. But for my money the interesting stuff lies at the edges, the outliers, the best and worst.
5. Voting gets gamed. Once people see how voting is working, they will game the process to get their issues discussed. And unless the voting is truly blind (it rarely is in a work situation) then you’ll get more consensus building as people follow others voting patterns.
So if you see me in a meeting and my eyes glaze over next time someone suggests we vote on something you’ll know why!