Is Agreeably Disagreeing Possible?
Disagreeing with someone in a higher position can be uncomfortable, but it’s important to be able to speak your mind. If you aren’t sure how to respectfully disagree with your boss, check out this piece I wrote a couple of years ago about a Harvard Business Review article with some great tips.
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Sometimes it’s incredibly hard to disagree with your boss, especially if you haven’t initially discussed a format for how to do that when the going gets rough. This excellent article from the Harvard Business Review explains the things you need to do to make it work.
First, the author makes an excellent recommendation: establish the ground rules for respectful disagreement with your boss BEFORE it actually occurs. Your boss needs to know that you respect them and their position, but there are likely to be times when you simply don’t agree with them. By initially discussing at the beginning of your relationship how you’ll be approaching disagreement with them, you’re making it far more likely that you’ll be heard and your point of view considered when the time comes.
Secondly, when it comes time to disagree, the article talks about the need to make your intentions clear just beforehand. One way to do that is by using “I’m not / I Am” language right before you disagree. For example, you might say, “I’m not trying to disrespect you or undermine your authority, I’m trying to give you another perspective that might help you meet your goals.” Very often, if your boss knows that you’re disagreeing with them not because you’re trying to disrespect them, but because you want to help them get their goals accomplished, they’re much more apt to listen to your objections.
So, the main points are: it is possible to agreeably disagree with your boss; you just have to have agreed beforehand on how that’s going to happen, and you have to remind them of your intent to respect and help them.