It can seem quite daunting to challenge your boss. You try to avoid any confrontations because thoughts like ‘may be they will misunderstand me’ or ‘he/she might take an offence’ sprout in the tiniest corners of your mind. Now, being afraid of disagreeing with your boss is naturally your first auto-response, but if you think you have a valid point to make then there’s no way you should be holding yourself back. So, how should you really go out there and disagree with your boss respectfully as well as productively?
Perfect your style and substance
First, make sure you are disagreeing for right reasons. Once you’ve made sure of that try to focus on not just the content of your argument, but how you present it too. Watch your tone of voice and do not get defensive even if you think that’s a right thing to do. Stay calm and composed so that you don’t seem threatening. Also watch your body language. Neither get intimidated by your boss nor trouble them with an aggressive stance.
State how your intentions are aligned to theirs. Perhaps if you think your way is better, prove it with facts and figures. If they become defensive then you need to lower your guard and let them know the context in which you speak.
Phrase it right
Often arguments are taken as a personal critique, especially when the intention is to prove they are being ‘silly’ or ‘know nothing’. It increases the possibility of your boss feeling judged and criticized. This is where you will need to cautiously word your arguments. Use phrases like, “I may be wrong, but I believe…”, “I could have misheard, but is this what you mean…”, “I apologise to raising a question right now, but can you…” or “I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I have a slightly different take”. If you notice a pattern, each statement is non-threatening and doesn’t pin blame on them. You are being as polite as possible and without inviting any kind of trouble making yourself heard.
Don’t challenge them publically
The stakes are high when you engage in an argument publically. So, choose your battleground wisely. If you think a discussion may escalate into an argument then head straight to a meeting room. Discontinue arguing in public despite their repeated urge to continue right in the middle of the office. Instead, propose a mutually agreeable time and date for a meeting to take things further. This extends to email battles as well.
When there is an entire world marked on an email you don’t need to pick a fight in front of everybody. If you are separated by continents then speak over a video call or if you work in the same office then just knock into their room to clarify.
Accept and step back
You may have tried everything to prove your point, but it could have been a lack of judgement on your part or theirs that you couldn’t settle down on a common outcome. Accept that you tried your best to prove your point, but couldn’t. At any cost don’t nurse a grudge against them. Very respectfully and with no hint of sarcasm conclude the conversation with ‘I trust and respect your decision’.
Try applying these if you find yourself in the middle of an argument with your manager. You will learn that there’s nothing to lose if you keep calm.