• Career Management: 8 Tips for Disagreeing with the Boss

    Copyright (c) 2011

    Disagreeing with other people, without taking a body count or courting disaster, is something most people try to avoid as much as possible. Nevertheless, we recognize that we can’t always agree with everything that comes our way – even if it comes from the boss. Many of us think that disagreement with the boss is one of those career-limiting moves to be avoided as all costs. Think again.

    Most managers want to think they’ve hired brilliant people who can think and act well on the company’s behalf. That includes not letting them or anyone else drive off a metaphorical cliff. That means you are being paid to use your brain AND mouth. The diversity that takes place in the workplace isn’t just about race or religion; it’s about ideas, perspectives and insight. If you are truly engaging in what is taking place at work, it’s not possible to agree with the boss 100% of the time. You can disagree with the boss and make that disagreement a win-win for both of you. You can win because you can make it career enhancing. The boss can win because they will come off as an engaging manager and get a much better end result.

    Here are 8 tips to turn disagreement into a great thing for your career:

    Disagree, but don’t be disagreeable. When something strikes you as wrong or out of line, keep your emotions in check. No one, especially the boss, will appreciate an emotionally charged rebuttal. People tend to mirror each other’s energy level; and if you turn red and flap your arms, it will be met with equal intensity.

    Don’t make it personal. The conversation will go much better if you are addressing the issue or topic and not making your disagreement about the person, your boss.

    Be clear about what you don’t agree with. If you can’t articulate what is troubling you about something, wait until you can be clear. If you can’t be clear, you will not have a conversation that will make any sense to the recipient. A confusing conversation will not leave a great impression.

    Offer alternatives. Nothing falls flatter than squashing an idea only to have nothing to replace it with. If you can’t think up a better idea, then what good is the disagreement? Sure, you might not like the idea, but if you can’t come up with something else, then go with what you have. You have to solve problems to be an asset.

    Take things private. Depending on the setting and issue, you may need to take your disagreement to a private setting with your boss. This allows you to cover whatever you need to, have a discussion and keep both of you looking good to the rest of the office. You never want to embarrass the boss; if you do, they will remember much too long. They will appreciate your sensitivity and professionalism when you have the insight to know when it’s time to have a private discussion.

    Seek to understand. Many conflicts and disagreements are rooted in a failure to communicate and understand the other person. When something does arise that doesn’t hit you right, ask questions and gain clarity. You may discover that you do agree after all. Doing this will also help you avoid discomfort.

    No one likes “yes” people. This is more than simply sucking up to the boss. This is agreeing with the boss at the cost of your character, values and career. You might think it will enhance your career, but it will back-fire against you as the higher ups see that your contributions are limited.

    Disagree and commit. The biggest issue that managers have when employees disagree is their becoming insubordinate and undermining efforts. If you have followed all of these steps and you still have disagreement, then it’s time for you to disagree and commit yourself to whatever is being proposed. After all, the idea or direction might really work out well. Your manager will think you are truly a professional if you can work through your disagreement, offer solutions and be able to “get on board”.

    Certainly, out there in the universe are managers with fragile egos who can’t tolerate anyone disagreeing with their mandates or directions. They too will only get just so far in their career. Anytime you limit the free flow of thought and contribution, you limit the possibilities. You need to screen for these people in your job search. If you wound up with a boss like that, you should consider a different group or job. But for most managers, they enjoy discussion and debate as a means of developing great ideas and direction. They understand that disagreement is part of the process.

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