What to Do When You Disagree With Your Boss, in Four Steps

What to Do When You Disagree With Your Boss, in Four Steps
Photo: fizkes, Shutterstock

Throughout the course of your career, there are going to be times when you disagree with your boss. Some of these disagreements may be minor, like disliking a strategy, while others might be more serious, like knowing that a large project is destined for failure. If you find yourself disagreeing with your boss, what should you do? It depends on the situation, but will inevitably require weighing some options.

Four steps to take when you disagree with your boss

According to Amy Drader, a management consultant at Growth Partner Consulting, there are a few important strategies you need to employ when you find yourself disagreeing with your boss’s decisions. As she explains in a recent article, there are four things you need to make sure you do if you find yourself at odds with your boss.

The first is to avoid making a fundamental attribution error, which is when we assign a personality flaw or other behavioural trait to our boss’s decisions, rather than allowing for a legitimate context or reason for their actions. They’re probably not actually an evil super villain trying to destroy lives.

The second is to make the effort to consider multiple perspectives, which includes assessing your boss’s strengths and identifying potential pressures they might be facing from their higher-ups. This will help give context to what your boss is thinking and why.

As Drader advised in her article, “When your boss makes a decision you disagree with, take a step back and consider multiple perspectives from varying angles. New insight will certainly emerge that will impact how you and your team move forward.”

The third is to focus on the results, rather than the process, as there are many different ways of successfully completing a project, which include how you might do something, but can also include how your boss does something. Just because you don’t like the process doesn’t always mean that the results won’t be successful.

Finally, Drader suggests offering to help your boss, as that can be a way to build trust while also giving you the opportunity to offer input on what you feel might be the best strategy for success.

Use these strategies to bring up your concerns with your boss

If you find yourself in a position where you feel it’s absolutely critical to bring up your concerns, there are ways to do it tactfully.

As Amy Gallo, author of the book The HBR Guide To Dealing With Conflict, wrote for Harvard Business Review, when thinking about disagreeing with your boss, it’s important to weigh the risks of speaking up versus not speaking up.

If not speaking up means the project might fail, that is bad for everyone, including your boss, and is probably worth the risk. You and your boss may not agree on how to do a project, but you both want it to be successful.

Once you decide to have that conversation with your boss, effective strategies for disagreeing include understanding their preferred communication style, designating a specific time to bring up your concerns, finding a way to preface the conversation with positives, and avoiding assigning blame to anyone.

As long as you’re careful about how you have this conversation and your boss is a reasonable person, there’s a good chance you can find a solution that works for everyone.

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