How to Disagree With Your Boss
At odds with your manager? Consider these tips to effectively state your case.
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If you've ever thought that your boss's so-called "brilliant" idea was slightly lacking, here are the dos and don'ts of disagreeing without disaster:
- DO find something complimentary to say about her proposal -- there's got to be at least one positive aspect! "Acknowledging her point of view goes a long way toward getting her to listen to your point of view," says Anne Fisher, author of If My Career's on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map? (William Morrow, 2001).
- DON'T tell her the idea stinks. Instead, zero in on how her approach might adversely affect what she's trying to accomplish: "If we hire a Spanish-speaking manager, he'll be able to communicate with all the Latino employees, which is great. But did you know that a considerable percentage of the employees in that plant are Brazilian and speak Portuguese, so a Spanish-speaking manager wouldn't be able to communicate with them?"
- DO marshal your facts. The more you can support your case, the more persuasive you'll be. Hard facts make an especially strong shield if your boss is used to intimidating people into blithering incoherence. Conversely, if your boss is secretly insecure, your facts give her the ammunition she needs to change her mind.
- DON'T have this conversation in public. Making the boss look bad in front of other people is job suicide. "I've seen this happen, and the person's career never recovered," says Fisher.
- DO be pleasant when you disagree. After all, Fisher points out, there's always the chance you could be wrong. "If you're nice about it, she'll probably forgive you. If you're not, she may get vindictive."