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How to Disagree with Your Boss -- Without Losing Your Job

How to Disagree with Your Boss -- Without Losing Your Job

By Denene Brox

You're at your weekly staff meeting, and you've just presented your brilliant idea on how to boost productivity and save money. But then your boss shoots down your idea with a vague reason or two. You know you're right and your boss is wrong. So should you remain quiet or stand up for your idea?

Joseph Grenny, co-author of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, says that with the right set of skills, you can respectfully disagree with your boss, without damaging the relationship and without risking your job.

Here are some tips:

Speak Up

First, recognize that your opinion counts. "The ability to master crucial conversations is vitally important in the workplace," says Grenny. "Those who have difficulty confronting others negatively impact their organization."

Emily Bennington, co-author of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job, agrees that learning how to speak up is vital to success. "As you move up in your career, it's important to understand how to handle difficult conversations," Bennington says. "The sooner we can all learn to solve problems rationally through mature dialogue, the better."

Make Sure Your Concern is 'Boss-Worthy'

While being assertive is important, don't bring every little issue to your boss -- be selective.

"When bosses are bombarded with interpersonal issues between colleagues, they feel like they are babysitting more than leading," Grenny says. "Always try to resolve issues with your colleagues before running to the boss."

Larger concerns that impact your performance or the performance of the organization are boss-worthy, as are times when you need to own up to a mistake.

"Always tell your boss when you've made a mistake that could potentially damage a relationship with a customer or client," says Bennington. "A good boss would rather hear about a problem before it becomes a fire."

Get a Room

If you disagree with a decision your boss has made, the worst thing you can do is voice your opinion in front of others or fire off a heated email.

"Make sure you pick the right moment," says career consultant Andrea Kay. "It may not be a good idea to challenge your boss in a meeting."

And don't just burst into your boss's office; request an appointment in a private place. "It's always better to have it face-to-face," Bennington says. "And if there's a high degree of emotion involved, email is not your medium."

Start on a Positive Note

Don't start the conversation with the negative. Kick things off by complimenting something about the situation that is working, advises Bennington. Then clarify your intentions, concerns and recommendations to make it better.

"If your boss becomes defensive, pause for a moment and check in," Grenny suggests. "Reassure them of your positive intentions and allow them to express any concerns they have."

Stay Company-Focused

Always stay company-focused, says Kay, by asking thoughtful questions and presenting various ways a situation will impact the organization.

Finally, don't be discouraged if your boss ultimately fails to change his mind. Remember that voicing your opinion is good for the company and lets your boss know that you care about the success of the organization.

[Denene Brox is a Kansas City-based freelance writer who regularly covers career and business topics.]

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