I have been known to be that guy. You know the one. The one who always argues the opposite even if they agree with what you are saying. It does not always make me popular with my wife but I have found it especially effective in my professional life.

This realization can provide some interesting insights into how organizations handle conflict. Healthy conflict is good but creating that conflict is not an easy task. On top of that, most people do not respond very well to confrontational situations. They take it personally and respond emotionally instead of logically.

There has to be away around this. If only we could make healthy conflict a part of our organizational culture. That is where the Chief Aggravation Officer comes in. Imagine if you had someone that pushed people to think outside of their comfort zones and the benefits that could come from deep dialog around important issues. It could reshape the entire culture of an organization to constantly evaluate the status quo and improve the decision making process.

I am not aware of any university that provides a degree in aggravation so we will have to improvise. It is also probably not feasible to have a position dedicated just too aggravating people. But there are a few skills we can teach leadership that will allow them to act more like a CAggO.

Ask Why Like a Toddler

If you have kids you are most certainly familiar with the “why” phase. They force you to explain things in such minute detail that it probably drives you crazy. But if you look back and think about it, you have probably had some aha moments during this round of inquiry. Maybe you have had to respond with “I don’t know.” That response could be a breakthrough in business and opens up an entirely new set of dialog that could lead to an innovative solution.

Play Devil’s Advocate

“That is the way it has always been done.” That will be music to the CAggO’s ears. This is a great opportunity to argue other methods and make the individual defend the current method. The CAggO would also be in charge of making sure others do the same. Who knows, someone may argue the opposite position so good they may convince themselves that it is the best way.

Celebrate Disagreements

We all have experiences and knowledge from which we form our opinions. Therefore, the chance of a group of individuals agreeing on something as complicated as a business challenge is highly unlikely. That is where the CAggO needs to make sure the individuals that disagree are heard. This will help make sure all options are considered before moving forward.

Mentor Aggravator Apprentices

Being an aggravator does not come naturally for most and not many people are willing to come out and say “I want to be better at creating conflict.” But now that you have a CAggO, individuals know just who they need to talk to if they are looking to develop this skill. Through training and mentorship you can rest assure that there is enough aggravation going on in your organization to keep it moving forward.


I hope you have figured out by now that I am mostly kidding about actually hiring this position. However, there are some important takeaways that you should consider. Healthy conflict is good and it should be a focus of leadership. It is not going to happen on its own, so you may have to adopt a few of these traits to get started.