How to Disagree with a Superior: Recommendations

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How to Disagree with a Superior: Recommendations
Anneke Zwart, Student (University), Netherlands, Moderator
Disagreeing with someone who is more powerful than you (e.g., your manager) can put you in a difficult situation. You have to carefully think about WHAT to say and more importantly the WAY you express your disagreements.
Gallo (2016) puts forward 9 tips with regard to disagreeing with your manager:
  1. BE REALISTIC ABOUT THE RISKS: Because people tend to think in worst-case scenarios, they overestimate the risks involved in openly disagreeing with their superiors. You should also think carefully about the risks of NOT 'speaking up'. After that, you can more realistically weigh the possible positive and negative outcomes.
  2. TIMING: Once the above risk assessment concludes that speaking up is the better option, then it is important to carefully think about the timing of speaking up. You might need more time to rethink the issue. You may benefit from getting more insights or views from colleagues, and develop your 'army' in case there are lots of opposing views. The setting is also important in timing: try to discuss the issue privately rather than publicly.
  3. SHARED GOALS: If you are able to connect your thoughts on the issue to a shared goal of you and your superior, your chances of being heard and able to convince the other party are higher. By contextualizing your statements, people will see in what way your thoughts contribute to the shared goals.
  4. ASK PERMISSION: Announce that you are disagreeing and ask your superior for permission to set out your arguments. It will provide your superior with some psychological safety and control.
  5. BE CALM: Although the idea of openly disagreeing with your superior may make you nervous, that will only undercut the message. So try to find ways to remain calm: taking deep breaths, slowing pace etc. can help.
  6. VALIDATION: Start by articulating the views of the other(s) first. This will create a strong basis for the discussion.
  7. DON'T JUDGE: Carefully choose the words you want to use to share your thoughts. It is particularly important to focus on the facts, stay neutral and avoid ‘judgement words’.
  8. POLITENESS: Slightly understating your confidence in your thoughts will leave some space for dialogue. Show others that you are aware of the fact that your view is just another opinion and openly invite them to present other views.
  9. ACKNOWLEDGE THE POWER OF YOUR SUPERIOR: One should not backtrack on one's views, but at the same time the final decision will be made by your superior and it is important to acknowledge that.
⇒ Do you have a further tip on how to handle the situation of having a different opinion than your boss? Please share your experiences...

Source: Gallo, A. “How to Disagree with Someone More Powerful than You” HBR March 2016.

How to Disagree with the Superior
anuradha, Career Consultant, India, Member
The above mentioned points are absolutely relevant. However, I would like to add that the points to be discussed with the superior can be accentuated with relevant EXAMPLES.
Also, while speaking, the tone should be assertive and the focus on the most important points.

Eulogy of Julius Caesar is the Perfect Case Study
C.L. Kappagomtula, Professor, Malaysia, Member
Yes, when you have to disagree with your superiors, the perfect example to follow is the style/delivery of the eulogy by Mark Anthony at the funeral of Julius Caesar. The scales could be masterly turned towards the evil deeds of Brutus, while all along the speech, he was referred to 'yet, Brutus is an honorable man'. Gift of the jab helps anyone to masterly point out the mistakes/fallacy of superiors while taking any decision without offending him/her.
TIME, FORUM, and MOOD of the superior at the time of broaching a sensitive issue are all important AMBIANCE FACTORS. The best ambiance is a one to one dialogue maintaining privacy and meeting the superior 'face to face'.

Don´t Disagree; Instead Ask a Key Question
Javier Elenes, Business Consultant, Mexico, Member
I recommend you do not disagree with a superior.
Rather, enrich his/her thinking process with a KEY QUESTION in relation to the effects of his/her current point of view.
In brief ask to your manager, in private, if he is fully aware of the effects of his/her ideas.

How to Disagree with a Superior
David Lee, Business Consultant, United Kingdom, Member
Anneke and the subsequent responders provide a comprehensive technique for handling the challenge of disagreeing with a superior. All I would add, as with all negotiation, there is the danger of trying to list too many reasons of ever decreasing relevance and merit to negate the alternative reasoning. STICK TO A FEW POWERFUL, COMPELLING REASONS rather than many, some of which could be seen as flimsy. Any weakness in your "reasons why" will be challenged. Stick with the powerful, indisputable reasons and leave no room for rational debate. Should you need to concede over a few weak points your whole case will be questioned.

Healthy Debate May Resolve
srinivas, Lecturer, India, Member
A subordinate in disagreement may be having a valid point which is critical to decision making. If the argument is not based on facts then it may be conveyed to the subordinate instead of judging a person. To me constructive criticism is another form of God.

Disagreeing with Superior
Bashe, Manager, South Africa, Member
Great article. I recently used the 9 points, in particular remaining CALM and being FACTUAL. Always stay RESPECTFUL but state your concerns.

Disagreeing When You Have Technical Arguments
Juan Perez Eras, Accountant, Mexico, Member
The WORST THING IS TO REMAIN SILENT when you are not agreeing with an issue, when you know you have good technical arguments.

Disagreement with your Supervisor
Afshan Ali, HR Consultant, Pakistan, Member
It is useful to ASSESS THE USUAL LEADERSHIP STYLE of your supervisor before starting a disagreement. An autocratic boss will have an extreme reaction on disagreement. in contrast to one who has adopted a democratic style.

Disagreeing with a Superior
Dwarica, Student (University), Trinidad and Tobago, Member
Interesting article.
Sometimes we should assess whether or not expressing our disagreement COULD ACTUALLY RESULT IN A CHANGE of the opinion of the superior on the issue. This can then guide our (the subordinate) action.
PERMISSION to express ones disagreement will set the tone.

Disagreement in the Form of Constructive Criticism after Preparation
srinivas, Lecturer, India, Member
As per experiential system CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM should be provided after sufficient preparation at the physical, intellectual, negative, positive emotions, conscious and subconscious layers of being has been conducted.
Simply criticizing by naming and blaming is not a part of constructive criticism, I suppose.

Balthasar Gracian's Quote on Advising a Prince
Adrian Green, Coach, United Kingdom, Member
@Nathalie De Broux: Hello Nathalie! I trust all is well with you. Nice to see you on this discussion forum! The speech to which @C.L. Kappagomtula refers is the famous 'Friends Roman Country Lend me your ears speech by Marc Antony at the death of Ceasar.
The topic is an interesting one indeed and often comes up in coaching conversations especially at a leadership level. I think solutions are highly SITUATIONAL and many FACTORS MUST BE CONSIDERED depending on the situation, like: relationship with boss, stress levels involved, importance of the topic, timing, other stakeholders involved, the emotional intelligence and communication skills of the superior in question etc etc. However as Balthasar Gracian, a 17th century Spanish, Jesuit and philosopher, once wrote:
“When you advise a Prince, you should appear to be reminding him of something he had forgotten, rather than the light he was unable to see".

Always Agree with your Superior (in Public)... Before Disagreeing (In Private)
Emmanuel Mwirichia, Manager, Kenya, Member
Firstly, remember your superior is probably dealing with numerous FACTORS THAT YOU MAY NOT BE AWARE OF.
Because of that, do not antagonize them in public, but rather choose to do so in private. By articulating your points, cognizant of the fact that they may have additional information you don't, you are an asset because you highlight certain things they may not have considered and in essence make your boss look better overall.

Diplomacy is Key
Benjamin Motlhabane, Consultant, South Africa, Member
I see a lot of disagreements in my current place of employment. It is not healthy at all. Some people tend do it to show off and unfortunately some managers are feeding this behavior.
I subscribe to having discussions in private especially where there is potential for disagreement. If anything, respect the office and BE DIPLOMATIC because one day you might have to occupy it….

Agree to Disagree
Kabesha, Zambia, Member
First state the point of view of your superior and reengineer it by presenting new solutions. Confidently and respectfully backup your facts with evidence and SHOW THE IMPACT OF YOUR IDEAS to the organisation.
For example, if wrong measurements were presented, for instance, and you are sure there is need to refactor them, and these measurements are required and you know your calculations are right you need to agree to disagree by presenting your new revelations and why your findings/results will help reduce or remove the risks at hand and the benefits therefrom.

A State of Equanimity by the Boss is Key
srinivas, Lecturer, India, Member
There is a saying that to maintain a good relation one has to follow the following principle "Satyam bruyat, priyam bruyath. Na bruhi satyam apriyat".The meaning is: "State what is the truth, state what is to the liking and do not state a truth which is not to be his/her liking", whether in private or in public if one follows this principle then one can maintain a cordial relationship with the boss.
However in the interest of the organisation, one should be allowed to state an unlikable truth and IF THE BOSS IS RATIONAL THEN HE SHOULD WANT TO KNOW THE OBJECTIVE FACTS. Of course the decision lies with the boss, however if he does not want you to express your feelings if you feel the decision is going against the organisation within your limited knowledge then he is doing a great injustice to you.
Here I think a state of equanimity is required to be attained by the boss whenever there is a disagreement in objectively assessing the situation. It is easy to be said than done, however such a state is possible.

Superiority Itself is Debatable
oostvoorn, Coach, Netherlands, Member
I’m convinced that no person is superior to another. Of course there are people who are more powerful than you (and might be in a position to harm you). If there is any threat of any kind of harm in a work relation if you would disagree with someone, you should alter the situation before you start the argument. Find another job, stick to your values, prevent becoming a (potential) victim. Arguing in the threat of possible or perceived harm of a more powerful person, is never a wise way to go.
GOOD PREPARATION (i.e. the 9 tips) is always wise. However it might be extremely difficult for people who find it difficult to stay calm….

Disagreeing with the Boss/Superior
Dil Prasad Shrestha, PhD, Management Consultant, Nepal, Member
I think it depends on the NATURE OF THE JOB and the legitimacy of POWER/AUTHORITY the superior has.
For example, in developing countries, the cases of a government job and a private sector job are entirely different. In government, one can easily disagree with his/her boss/superior because the boss/superior cannot take serious action. Whereas in the private sector, one usually cannot disagree with his/her boss/superior because the boss/superior can take serious action up to firing/terminating you from the job.
Also it depends on the ATTITUDE of the senior (and junior as well). If they are open, positive and free and frank, a healthy debate with disagreement can be had.

Disagree versus Experience
Mumtaz Uddin Ahmed, Management Consultant, Pakistan, Member
If the supervisor is experienced, (s)he can raise an OPPORTUNITY TO EXPRESS DISAGREEMENT. He should explain and give confidence to express disagreement.
When a professional relation has been built with the supervisor, this will help to avoid a conflict.

Polite / Friendly
Sascha A. Carlin
Hi all… Anneke, what you listed is how anyone should behave when disagreeing with anyone else - at least in a white collar setting - regardless of your or their status. Whether #9 is important is determined by your superior.
Be polite, that is what Gallo ultimately says. And she's right of course. You should ALWAYS BE POLITE towards anyone. You don't have to be friendly all the time, but you always have to be polite.

Analyze the Situation and its Impact Objectively
Chander Shenoy, Business Consultant, India, Premium Member
Galo's tips are quite comprehensive and very relevant. To disagree with your boss is one thing, expressing it is yet another. So when you disagree, you need to analyze how serious is the disagreement in terms of its IMPACT on:
  1. Organisational goals;
  2. Financial goals;
  3. Your own career prospects;
  4. Your relationship with your boss.
You could do a quick (perhaps mental) SWOT analysis. Your value system and your convictions certainly do matter.

Solving Conflicts And/or Disagreements with a Manager
Jacques-Alain TIAKO, Manager, France, Member
1. PREPARATION of the Face-to-Face meeting with the manager
A. First of all, anticipate the discussion with the manager without having negative thinking on his perception. It is necessary to think about how the disagreement situation appeared and to not react immediately as well if it is possible. We must avoid any negative reaction due to stress and take time to think about arguments we will expose during the face-to-face meeting with the manager without falling into paranoia.
B. Subsequently, prepare precise and factual explanations for each disagreement. The goal is to be as relevant as possible on the reasons that lead us to express our concerns. Then propose solutions that could be consensual alternatives to theses disagreements.
2. FACE-TO-FACE MEETING with the manager
A. Wait half a day or a whole day so as not to react immediately and be angry. The discussion has to be done face to face with the manager and not by e-mail or instant/text/WhatsApp messaging. The goal is to be able to roll out the observations, arguments and proposals prepared previously while putting aside any emotional aspect.
B. Avoid any judgment of the manager and any form of aggressiveness so that the exchange remains based on the substance of disagreements. That is why it may be advisable also to use the inclusive term "WE" rather than "YOU" more directive to show that the proposed solutions and alternatives are intended to improve the organization or the process without questioning of the manager.
C. If you are interrupted by the manager, do not hesitate to stop the speech and let him express his arguments. During this time do not forget to take notes if he is putting some facts on the table or other solutions and alternatives.
D. At the end of the face-to-face meeting, it is important to let the manager react and conclude to be sure of the quality of the message he received from you. In addition, if there are still some disagreements remaining, you can try together to mitigate them in a positive way.

How to Disagree with a Superior
William Stadler, Manager, United States, Member
This is a valuable lesson and all the feedback here is relevant. It seems we all face the challenge knowing when to speak in opposition. It's probably safe to say, not often.
Even if we've indeed determined that the Superior will be assisted enough to care about a contrary viewpoint, I would still stress to try to HUMBLY AND OBJECTIVELY STATE YOUR OPINION IN PRIVATE and back it with factual, data-driven examples. Sometimes a close confidant can help.

Disagreement with a Superior: Assertivity and Empathy
GUADALUPE GABRIEL, Manager, Mexico, Member
@Anuradha: I agree and suggest following rule of thumb:
If we unite both ingredients, each with its emotional, personal and social implications, we can archive a perfect model of communication with others. The basic of this model is very simple:
- Oone of the pillars is based on the sincerity and clarity of the assertiveness with regard to their own needs.
- The second fundamental pillar lies in the understanding and help of empathy regarding active listening to others.
In this way any person who uses this model to communicate whit society, will obtain the benefits of each skill separately, added to the benefits of having established an effective communication, fluid and symbiotic, the results of the relationship between empathy an assertiveness.

Only Present your Strongest Points
Dr Hyacinth C. Abara, Student (Other), Norway, Member
Thank you, @David Lee. Your recommendation strikes me as very pertinent. Disagreeing with a superior is like trying to market your own contrary idea to them. And as with marketing anything, you need to present the STRONGEST SELLING POINTS.

Superior is Probably more Experienced
Nagarajan.S, Manager, Singapore, Member
Practically your superior should be someone that is more experienced than you. That's probably the reason why he/she is on top of you in the organization. So normally, YOU SHOULD HAVE TRUST IN YOUR SUPERIOR. And, you really have to validate and justify your points of disagreement very carefully.
In an organization issues like this tend to happen and they should happen. They must be handled with professional ethics by both parties, because both of them are interdependent on each other.

Theoretical Aspects and Practical Solutions of Disagreeing with your Manager
Ashutosh Narayan, Student (MBA), Member
By reading the main article one can learn the THEORETICAL ASPECTS. And PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS or rather real life solutions can be found in the comment sections. I find this really enriching!
I'm proud to be a part of such a learning group.

How to Disagree with a Centralized Superior/Boss
RAJNARAYANAN B, Teacher, India, Member
While having all these thoughts we also need to consider the superior style, since some people always tend to be centralized (autocratic). Being a learning person we have to understand the situation and react accordingly to what is the best option.

Quote from Steve Jobs on Smart People
Engel, Project Manager, Germany, Member
Beside all the wise advises about integrity and timing just a quote from Steve Jobs:
"It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."

Disagreeing with your Superior
NYAMEKA MAKITSHI, Manager, South Africa, Member
First it is important to understand what the Superior meant by his arguments. Then one can accept what he or she says, but during the discussion raise facts which will make him or her understand that your point of view is the preferable one. At this moment you will be reasoning with your superior and you will have made your point.

Disagreeing with Democratic and Autocratic Leaders
Dennis, Student (University), Zimbabwe, Member
I agree with @Afshan Ali that disagreeing with you superior is situational and depends on the leadership style of the superior:
  • AUTOCRATIC LEADERSHIP does not appreciate the contribution of subordinates, so with this type it pays to be silent at all.
  • If DEMOCRATIC principles are applied by a manager, there is a room of being understood by the superior, and your contribution can considered. But it is still wise to disagree in a respectable way.
All in all in juxtaposing disagreeing with superior should be minimal and valuing the recommendations of the superior.

First Agree to Disagree with your Superior
Abu Bakarr Dumbuya, Student (MBA), Sierra Leone, Member
It is no crime to disagree with your superior, but the basic rule is that first we should agree to disagree. Then expressing the disagreement could be in the FORM of a suggestion or recommendation rather than completely nullifying the point made by your boss.
It could be very offensive to say to your boss in public that you do not agree with him. This will risk you losing your job.

Disagreeing with your Superior Benefits from Trust and Relationship
Amar Deep Seetohul, Manager, Mauritius, Member
Among the 10 subordinates who report to me directly, there are 3 who have created such a relationship that they have a certain special and particular way to convey to me the points on which they disagree with me. In almost all cases these three will easily convince me and often the disagreement is resolved within minutes of explanations given. Whereas for others I think they find it extremely difficult to tackle this situation.
What I can conclude is that the element of trust is primordial.
If your Superior does not trust you, you better build this element first and then try to disagree on things that you are surely convinced of their rightfulness. So TRUST coupled with a GOOD WORK RELATIONSHIP is very important in my view.
The 9 points mentioned by the Anneke are for sure very relevant and pertinent.

Ego Limits Ability to Listen
Juan Perez Eras, Accountant, Mexico, Member
@Nagarajan.S: In certain occasions, leaders of organization tend to belittle subordinates with opinions who have different opinions and their ego limits their ability to listen.
Then the risk and dilemma is for the subordinate who expresses his disagreement even when having reasoned arguments.
Experience of the manager is important and giving space for dissenting opinions should be the correct way to make decisions.

Create a Document (Handout)
S. Lago, Business Consultant, Canada, Member
I agree with the above comments that have been made regarding how to effectively disagree with a superior. The conversations one has depend on what the disagreement is about.
The discussion should focus on the issue, not the person, focusing on collective goal(s).
Taking some time to process the issue and collect your thoughts and evidence is prudent. WRITING DOWN THE ISSUES/POINTS IN SOME DOCUMENT and why you disagree with facts/citations/historical actions and how they impact the business/follow the mission statement/impact ROI, yada yada (Editor: ~blah, blah) is important. Taking your notes will help the discussion to remain on track when you meet with your superior in private and if written in a businesslike proposal structure, you can LEAVE THE DOCUMENT WITH YOUR SUPERIOR TO READ AND MULL OVER (Editor: ~ponder, think over). Reading a document after a discussion can provide them with another opportunity to review the issues/facts, ruminate on them and perhaps generate further dialogue on the topic. It also provides documentation if things head south :/.

Disagreeing with the Superior in Writing
Andre-Ambrosio ABRAMCZUK, Teacher, Brazil, Member
Once I heard about a boss who allowed his subordinates to disagree with him if they presented their reasons in writing. One day, one of the subordinates wrote him a memo beginning as follows: "Although I respect your intelligence and ability, I must tell you that your idea sucks for the following reasons:…"
To everyone's surprise, the boss agreed with the subordinate.

Cultural Aspects of Disagreeing with Someone Else
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
Nice contributions, everybody! This page has become a really good resource for disagreeing with senior managers, etc.
Yet another aspect is CULTURE. Although I believe most of the above ideas are valid across the world, there are also certainly cultural differences. Both company cultures and national cultures can be quite different from each other.
For example, in countries with a high power distance (like perhaps China, Japan, Korea, Germany, other Asian countries), you should be even more careful when disagreeing with a higher ranking person than in countries where hierarchy is perceived as less important and people are more informal and open for exchanging ideas, working towards consensus (like the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden).
But even in these last countries, showing respect to more senior people before and while disagreeing with them remains a healthy and necessary precaution. I always find it surprising how people are finding it hard to receive criticism, even when it was meant to be constructive. And even when it is done in a respectful way and even when it is done in private.
Think about it: How good are YOU in handling the situation when people disagree with you or even criticize you…?

Put Yourself in your Boss's Shoes
Chander Shenoy, Business Consultant, India, Premium Member
@Jaap de Jonge: That's indeed a very good remark, Jaap (Cultural Differences) which can be discussed at length. The ways you should handle disagreement with your boss can be as diverse as the cultures across the world or within the organisation.
Thankfully, if you and your boss are working long enough in the organisation, both would have synchronized the cultures to some extent, or at least each one knows the cultural preferences of the other and hence can adjust / fine-tune his behavior.
The last line of your comment: "How good are YOU in handling the situation when people disagree with you or even criticize you…?" - is akin PUTTING YOURSELF INTO YOUR BOSS'S SHOES. Use a bit of 'Scenario Building' and with a reasonable good knowledge of your Boss's temperament and attitudes, perhaps the answer lies there for you to see and you can then decide to disagree or not.

Disagree with the Organisation in Mind
Musiyandaka Donna, Student (University), Zimbabwe, Member
When disagreeing, it is also important to think of the effects of what you want to say on the organisation's goals and productiveness. Orient the points of disagreement towards the benefits to the organisation, so that your boss understands you have a bigger picture in mind.

No Best Way to Disagree with any Superior
Gavril, Management Consultant, Albania, Member
I worked with both open minded superiors as well as the opposite type. Lessons learned are important to understand the specific circumstances of any case.
In the end, the best route to success depends on the superior, what type of subordinate' behavior he wants, and on the subordinate's choice and character and willingness to act carefully respecting the superior's power, and the culture and values of the organization.
I agree that one should avoid open public disagreement.
A clever subordinate should find intelligent ways to influence his boss on his ideas and respect his decisions.

To Dissent is Part of Loyalty
Delfor Ibarra, Consultant, Argentina, Member
However, it is the way of transmitting dissent that makes it fertile or conflicting. While it is the superior himself who should filter the value of the disagreement and subtract it from the mode, in the concrete interaction is when the importance of innumerable contributions is lost and discomfort is generated; hence, a healthy recipe to bring discordant contributions to the boss, is to do it with serene humility, without passion or anger and under the profile of one more alternative among many others: it is the most convenient wrap of our opinion, since it complies with the commitment to openness, participation and simultaneous discretion.
Sin embargo, es la forma de transmitir el disenso lo que lo hace fértil o conflictivo. Si bien es el propio superior quien debiera filtrar el valor del desacuerdo y sustraerlo del modo, en la interacción concreta es cuando se pierde la importancia de innumerables contribuciones y se genera malestar; de ahí que una saludable receta para acercar contribuciones discordantes al jefe, es hacerlo con serena humildad, sin apasionamientos o enojos y bajo el perfil de una alternativa más entre tantas otras: es la envoltura más conveniente de nuestra opinión, ya que se cumple con el compromiso de apertura, participación y simultánea discreción.

Disagreeing with a Trump-like Superior
Borje Vickberg, Sweden, Member
Interesting ideas and reflexions. However as was mentioned by others, there are limitations depending on the character of your superior.
Think about it: Can any of these disagreement tips be applied if your superior is President Donald Trump-like?

No One is Always Right and that Includes Yourself!
Francis, Manager, Thailand, Member
Disagreement happens everyday but always remember no one is always correct, yourself included. And the majority might be wrong too!
So you must be open just as you want your bosses to be open towards your point of view.
The above should add a point on basic principles on disagreement: that you might be wrong. Make it clear before you start discussing with your boss and that you will accept his decision and just want to share your view, which will "break down the walls" before it is being reacted by your boss. After all what you want to achieve is to express your disagreement and at the same time stay in the job!
So share your view, if not accepted then execute your boss's order.

Gracias Francis!
Delfor Ibarra, Consultant, Argentina, Member
@Francis: It is possible that my point of view in Spanish does not reach to express my total agreement with your vision of the disagreements. In fact, when I suggest protecting dissent by distinguishing it as one among many other alternatives valid or not, it is that I resign all kinds of certainties in favor of a warmer reception on the part of the eventual interlocutor (superior). I agree with you that, as Pascal said, every conclusion is nothing but the fatigue of thought. Thank you again for paying your attention to my humble contribution.
Es possible que mi punto de vista en Español no alcance a expresar mi total acuerdo con tu visión de lo desacuerdos. En realidad, cuando sugiero proteger el disenso distinguiéndolo como una entre tantas otras alternativas válidas o no, es que resigno todo tipo de certezas en favor de una recepción más cálida por parte del eventual interlocutor,(superior). Coincido contigo en que, como dijera Pascal, toda conclusión no es sino la fatiga del pensamiento. Gracias nuevamente por haber prestadp tu atención a mi humilde contribución.

Motivate your Disagreement with Org Goals
Chander Shenoy, Business Consultant, India, Premium Member
@Musiyandaka Donna: I agree that if you link disagreements to organizational goals this is likely to simmer down any negative / adverse reactions of the boss.
But doing this requires tact, which young professionals need to develop.

How to Disagree with a Superior
Leslie Leckie, Student (University), Jamaica, Member
It is indeed important for staff members to realize that they can actually disagree with superiors. However, it is also important to know one's superior well enough in order to articulate an appropriate response.
I found that proposing a well-researched option to the superior's view often works.

Disagreeing with a Line Senior: Itemized Response Approach
Maurice Hogarth, Consultant, United Kingdom, Premium Member
A person may be “senior” to me (as manager or client) but not “superior” for I am not “inferior”. We are equal as human beings. (Aren’t we?)
If disagreeing with someone I use the ‘Itemized Response’ approach (based on synectics):
  • First give recognition to their point, proposal, or idea by identifying and expressing your “LIKES” in terms of its success in relation to the issue being targeted.
  • NEVER say “I disagree” or seem negative. Criticism of an idea is frequently taken as a personal attack.
  • State your CONCERNS ‘positively’ with the words: “My concern is (or: I wonder) HOW TO … (ensure, obtain, overcome, prevent, get support…” etc. in relation to the aspect you believe needs a re-think or is a potential barrier to success).
    For example: "My concern is how to prevent schedule disruption. From your point of view, which would give you less trouble a or b?" Note you are making things ‘easier’ for the other person not rejecting.
Using this itemized response approach, you enable the other person to re-think or re-fit their requirement to your work situation without loss of face or argument.

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