How To Disagree With Your Boss
It is always a difficult position to be in – you hear the idea and you automatically think “that is never going to work!” but to avoid a bad atmosphere and to not annoy them you say nothing.
What do you say when you disagree with someone who has more power than you do? How do you decide whether it is worth speaking up? And if you do, what exactly should you say?
Assess the risks in speaking up – but be realistic!
There is a natural temptation to say nothing because we automatically fear the worst in the reaction we expect. We all over play the risks involved in speaking up. A more realistic approach would be to expect a little surprise from the other party but this must be balanced out against the risks of NOT speaking up. Your Boss would never forgive you if you let a project or idea that will clearly fail move on without some measured criticism or objective discussion! Either way you must plan and follow through by either objecting/raising concerns or letting it go.
Is waiting a strategy?
After thinking about the above point you could opt to resist jumping in and wait until there is a better time to voice your opinion. There is a danger in diving in, feet first so to speak and a more reasoned response is to map put your objections and present them later, when things have cooled somewhat. This may also involve consulting with other colleagues first to see if they too share your reservations: this then presents a united front to the change or new idea and this will add weight to your reservations. It is also far less threatening than just you making the point.
Put yourself in their shoes!
In putting forward the idea, what is your Boss trying to achieve? Are there shared goals that you both are working towards which you can harness to raise your objections to the idea? In this way, you will come across as more objective and with a more strategic view of the wider picture. Make sure the link that you are trying to establish is clear and objective, which will give your point of view increased importance and weight.
Be polite – ask permission to disagree
This may sound overly clumsy but it will always be a good lead into your argument. This will allow your Boss to make a choice and will increase your confidence as you will not appear either very challenging or obstructive.
Use appropriate body language!
However stressed or passionate you feel at this point remain calm! It is critically important that you remain neutral in your body language – and in your language too! Poor body language undercuts your message and paints a picture that you almost certainly did not want to communicate.
Validate your points
What exactly is it that you are challenging? State your concerns clearly, accurately and carefully to lay the bedrock for a measured and mature discussion on the matter.
Never be tempted to just launch into a landslide of passion and frustration when you hear of something that you think just will not work. When you have thought about the issue then by all means move on to expressing your concerns, but watch your language carefully. Always try to deliver an honest appraisal of the situation BUT only when you have considered your response carefully.
Acknowledge their authority
Ultimately, the person in power is probably going to make the final decision, so you have to acknowledge that. Always remind the Boss that you have your opinion and are happy to share this when called upon to do so and that you have the best interests of the organisation at heart.
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