You’re sitting in a team meeting with your boss, who introduces a new project or idea. And you disagree with it – strongly, even. How do you professionally disagree with your boss without getting fired?
When managing conflict and a disagreement with your boss, here are eight steps to consider:
1. Think about where your boss might be coming from.
Try to understand why your boss came up with that specific idea and put yourself in their shoes. One helpful question to ask is, “What’s the intention and motive behind this?” If you still disagree, try to visualize why other ideas may not have worked as well.
2. Check yourself and think about where you’re coming from.
Take a moment to think about your current mood and where you might be coming from. A person's mental and emotional state can influence their thinking process, choices, and what they agree or disagree with.
Checking ourselves can help us make sure that something else isn’t negatively impacting our judgment in the workplace. It’s important to remain calm and respectful while voicing concern, especially with our supervisor.
3. Find an appropriate setting.
Where you confront your boss plays a considerable role in how he or she will react to what you have to say. A private setting can optimize focus and increase exchanges of ideas and openness for all parties. After all, Jesus tells us, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” While disagreement is not necessarily rooted in sin, public confrontation can lead to your boss shutting down or damage your rapport.
4. Find an appropriate time.
Timing is everything. Ask your boss if it’s a good time to talk. When managing conflicting ideas, it’s important that both people are able to receive and listen to what the other has to say. If your boss seems stressed or busy, your message might not be well received.
Remember that bosses are human too, and they might not always be ready to take in criticism.
5. Keep your history with your boss in mind.
How you approach your boss depends on the type of relationship you have with him or her. If you have a history of disagreeing or arguing with your boss, the way a new disagreement is delivered will matter even more. If you haven’t spoken much with your boss, though, building rapport before voicing disagreement could be vital.
6. Be well prepared.
Take the time to do any research you need to so you can explain the full scope of your disagreement. And if you’re an expert in your field, your years of experience will give you a gut feeling when something isn’t right. Trust your instincts.
7. Be bold – but avoid pointing fingers.
Stating what you believe – especially if you disagree with a superior – takes courage. Be bold in stating your opinion, but also be respectful. Being accusatory or judgmental doesn’t help.
8. Accept the outcome.
You did it – you talked to your boss and voiced your disagreement. Good work! Now, take some time to think about the outcome of your conversation. Whether your boss understood your perspective or not, try to accept the outcome and learn from the experience.
Approaching disagreement is an art. Depending on how we see it, disagreement can be a great opportunity to explore new ideas, go outside of our comfort zone, and explore the workplace from new lenses.