It’s not career suicide to disagree with your boss. In fact, confident managers want employees who will disagree with them appropriately. Disagreement creates better ideas and solves problems. Disagreement creates positive relationships and promotes the personal growth and development of employees.
Disagreement Is Easier in a Participative Work Culture
That said, disagreeing with your boss is much easier if your organization’s work culture supports divergent opinions and points of view. In these kinds of organizations, involved, engaged employees are encouraged to offer their opinions and ideas because the organization wants to take advantage of employees' talents, skills, and experience.
However, you should never forget that bosses are human, too, and have their own particular management style. That management style can range from dictatorial to so hands-off that they are out-of-touch. The important thing is to know your boss and his or her leadership style to properly assess how much disagreement will be appreciated and tolerated.
How to Prepare for Disagreement With Your Manager
How you approach disagreement is critical when you want to disagree with your manager. A respectful, thoughtful approach will always trump an aggressive, demanding approach. Having facts available that support your case is also helpful.
Researching the area of disagreement, benchmarking the practices of other companies, and talking with your industry contacts is homework that you should do before approaching your boss. That way, noncompetitive best practices will bring the necessary verification to support your viewpoint. Armed with data and facts, the discussion won't be just about what you think versus what your boss thinks.
Especially when the decision involves serious business issues that might require disruptive change management strategies, financial commitments, and emotional energy from employees, your opinion needs facts to support it.
10 Key Actions to Take to Prepare for Disagreeing
In order to have the most successful outcome for your disagreement discussion with your boss, here are ten actions employees have taken that have provided the best disagreement results. Adhering to all or some of these will make disagreeing with your boss easier, safer, and more likely to get you the result you're looking for. Employees who succeed in serious disagreement have these factors in common.
They built the relationship first.
Disagreement with your manager is easier when you have created a trusting, respectful relationship first. Thus, when these employees disagreed, they had a good relationship to start.
They had a record of success and made the boss look good.
The manager had some faith that their recommendations would work out because of the positive experiences they have had in the past when they listened to this employee's recommendations. The employee had a track record.
They had a history of practicing personal courage.
The manager knew the employee could be depended upon to speak out for the good of the business. The employee disagreed when they really thought they were in the right and they weren't just disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing.
They exhibited a commitment to the overall success of the business,
The manager had experienced the employee's commitment to the business in the past so they knew the recommendation was not just due to their personal aggrandizement, fiefdoms, or career promotion. They avoided making recommendations that helped one team or department and ignored others, or the whole.
They were straightforward and didn’t play games.
These employees were straightforward about what they believed and why. They brought facts to the table. Even if they sought allies to agree with their position, they were upfront about it and therefore could be trusted.
They didn’t make the boss feel like an idiot.
No part of the disagreement was personal in nature, and no name-calling, sarcasm, or disparagement was used. The disagreement came across as a logical approach to the problem and in the best interests of the team. They started the discussion by identifying their areas of agreement with the manager.
They used the boss as a mentor.
No matter how much they disagreed with the boss, he or she still did something right to be in a managerial position. They asked themselves what they could learn from their boss and sought time with their boss to discuss issues and approaches.
Their business ethics and relationships were above reproach.
They were people the boss could comfortably support and defend because their reputation for ethical behavior was known and respected.
They didn’t go around the boss to his or her boss to plead their case.
The employees went straight to their manager with disagreements or questions. Hr or she wasn’t blindsided by their boss and the reporting employee who disagreed.
They were good communicators who could express themselves convincingly with evidence and rationale to support their case.
They knew that “I think” or “I feel” were not enough to affect the critical direction. They needed to present hard data and relevant facts. They were able to demonstrate that they had researched their solution thoroughly, including benchmarking other similar companies in their industry.
The Bottom Line
Use these tips to prepare for the day—and it will come if you are a good employee, the kind of employee that most bosses want—when you want (or need) to disagree with your boss.