Disagreements are inevitable in the workforce. There are several ways to disagree with your boss, but you need to use the right method.
How you handle conflict with your boss speaks volumes about your character. There are a few ways we can deal with disagreements that will enhance your ability to work well while still disagreeing with a decision.
Here are four ways to help:
Disagree Privately. Promote Publicly
As a platoon leader in the Army, I had an excellent team leader that helped me learn this lesson. He and I disagreed on the layout of our tents in a training exercise. He argued that we did not need a tent to eat because the troops could eat in their sleeping tents.
I countered that I didn’t want food in the tents to avoid bugs and critters getting into the sleeping tents. He was upset with the decision and marched off to his team.
When he arrived at his team, he publicly affirmed the decision to put up the eating tent. Not only did he put the tent up quickly, but he did it with a positive attitude and even encouraged his soldiers to work hard without complaint. His example stuck with me, and I learned a valuable lesson in disagreeing privately while promoting publicly.
Explain Bad News. Give Solutions
Bad news does not get better with time. If you have bad news to deliver to your boss, be candid. Then, provide solutions with a highlighted recommendation. This way, even if you disagree with the boss’s decision, you contributed to the decision-making process at a minimum.
Likewise, it’s tough to face your team when your boss orders a decision you don’t want to execute. It’s frustrating for you, but it’ll be more frustrating for your subordinates because they’ll be the ones executing the task.
One time, my company commander told me I had to transfer good soldiers from my platoon to another platoon within the company. In exchange, I would receive soldiers who were injured, recovering from injury, or soldiers who had failed physical fitness assessments.
When I notified my good soldiers about the transfer order, they were visibly upset and asked to stay. Although I was agitated with the company commander’s decision, I told these excellent soldiers everything they needed to know about their next platoon.
I outwardly supported the company commander’s soldier transition plan even when I privately disagreed. The soldiers we sent away did great things in the other platoon. Similarly, the soldiers I received did well in some regard. Some got promoted and reenlisted, while others decided to transition to civilian life.
That wasn’t the first time I disagreed with a decision, and it won’t be the last.
Discuss. Don’t Argue
Disagreements are inevitable but don’t complain when you’re talking to your boss. Whining will lead to arguing. Instead, present the problem, the solution your boss implemented with its corresponding effects, and then develop a second solution. Foster a discussion instead of stirring up an argument.
One good example of using the ‘discuss’ method was United States Marine Corps General (R), James Mattis. In his book Call Sign Chaos, Mattis faced several decisions as a commander in Iraq that he believed would hinder the mission’s progress.
Mattis asked for candid feedback on decisions he made. If something didn’t go well, he wanted to know. Discussing solutions was the key to mission success for General Mattis.
Conversely, when Mattis had to carry out a decision he didn’t like, he would state his concern and propose a solution. If that didn’t work, he ensured that the agreed-upon decision became successful.
That doesn’t always mean blindly accept any decision. People can negotiate. That time for negotiation is in private, before the final decision, with the right people. However, when your boss gives the final decision, then support your boss and the tasks that follow.
Explain ‘Why’ To Your Boss And Subordinates
We’re growing up in the ‘why’ generation where tasks require explanations. It’s one thing to say ‘just do it’ and another thing entirely to explain why. It may be frustrating, but would you rather have someone order you to do something without explanation, or would you want someone to sit down and patiently explain why something needs to happen?
The Army uses the term ‘Commander’s Intent’ to explain the purpose behind a mission. A commander’s intent has three parts: purpose, key tasks, and end-state.
-Purpose: The purpose is the reason for accomplishing the mission; why is this unit conducting this operation?
-Key tasks: Key Tasks are the things that must happen to accomplish the mission. These tasks can be tricky to develop. You have to ask: what has to happen to achieve mission success? Usually, you’ll have between three and five key tasks.
-End-State: This is the essential part. The end-state is your end-picture. If you took a photo of the mission/project when everything is all done, how would it look?
Simon Sinek adequately described this concept in his book Start With Why. People perform well when they have a task and purpose, as described in Sinek’s book.
Remember only one thing: don’t complain. You’re always being evaluated as a leader, a peer, and a subordinate, and griping about the decision will not help you.
Instead, find that purpose. Manage your expectations with your team so they can achieve success even through disagreement. Discuss your concerns with your boss and professionally offer other solutions. Your contributions are meaningful, and you can help sway decisions in the future.
How would you handle this? What would you do/have done if a decision came down where you disagreed but still had to work? Let me know in the comments section down below.
Thanks for reading!
Call Sign Chaos by GEN (R) James Mattis. Read a review here.
Start With Why by Simon Sinek. Read a review here.
Featured Image: Photo by Agugus de Richelieu
1: Photo by Ketut Subiyanto
2: Photo by Polina Zimmerman
3: Photo by Christina Morillo
4: Photo by Moose Photos