3 Ways to Tactfully Disagree with Your Boss

Decision-making, especially in leadership and in business, is both rational and emotional. If decisions only ever needed to be logical, nobody would ever disagree (or our work would be outsourced to robots). Thus, a diverse set of perspectives is often valuable to good decision-making.

When you question your boss’s judgment, or if the issue is regarding something that you feel you should not let go, have the courage to disagree. Having an open yet mature and professional dialogue can result in a learning moment for everyone involved. Voicing your opinion is almost always good for your organization. When you disagree, keep the following in mind:

Consider That You Are Both Right

Perhaps this is your area of expertise or perhaps you have done very thorough research. Or what you know comes from what you experience day-to-day carrying out your work. What you know should certainly be acknowledged and not discounted, but ultimately, it also may not matter. As Jeff Haden writes, “Data is accurate, but your boss is right.” While this does not mean that you are wrong, it may mean that your information is not particularly relevant at this point in time.

Focus on the Right Things

Task-based conflict is productive, while relationship-focused conflict is destructive. When a disagreement becomes heated, keep your focus on the topic and keep the conversation centered on the goal and mission of your organization. Attacking someone’s education, experience, judgment (… or lack thereof), distracts and dilutes the conversation.

Make Your Stance Known

Speak your point-of-view, but to increase the chance of a truly honest dialogue, do it in private and face-to-face. During the conversation, listen more than you talk. You don’t know what you don’t know, but if you stay open-minded and don’t hold too tightly to your perspective, you can exert influence even if you don’t have all the facts. Last, but perhaps the most important, remember why you want to disagree in the first place. Remember that the desired end result is doing work you feel good about while maintaining a good relationship—not being right or winning.














Eva Rykrsmith

Eva Rykrsmith is an organizational psychology practitioner. Her passion lies in bringing a psychology perspective to the business world, with the mission of creating a high-performance environment. Follow her @EvaRykr.

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