How to disagree with someone more powerful than you
This is as common as it could get. Your boss may have what they think is a great idea, but you think it really isn’t all that great. It’s unrealistic and way too ambitious, and your colleagues agree with you—however, how do you say this to your boss? Disagreeing with a colleague can be tasking by itself. However, when it takes a step further, and now you’re in a position where you will have to disagree with your boss, what do you do? What is the best way to disagree with someone more powerful than you in the workplace, that you disagree with them?
As intimidating as it can be, these are some of the life skills that one has to learn. It’s important to know these things because it’s never right to run away from a situation especially when you know you can handle it. We are always hesitant on taking a stand on situations where it involves an awkward conversation or intimidating conversation. Especially with a superior.
Here’s how to disagree with someone more powerful than you.
#1. Know your risks
We tend to overestimate these risks in our heads, which ends up making us avoid these conversations entirely. However, before you imagine and make up scenarios in your mind that can go wrong, try and figure out what can happen in actuality.
You’re not going to get fired, you’re not going to make a lifelong nemesis out of your boss. Try and see what the risks are if you do not disagree—the entirety of the situation. Try to visit the situation realistically, and take the required course of action after that.
#2. Speak of the greater good
Before you try and tell your superior that you disagree with them, make notes underlining the bigger picture. Your conversation is going to be way more effective if you can bridge your disagreement with a greater consequence that can come out of your boss’s terrible idea.
When you can make points where your disagreement is linked to the development of a shared goal with your superior, it can bring you brownie points.
#3. See if you have to wait
Once you know the risks you are taking with disagreeing with your superior, and what can happen if you don’t, think the problem through. Speak to your group and colleagues about the same and make sense of what they think. It’s heading closer to a green signal if they disagree as well, and you might want to gather more points.
Try and delay it for a bit, because stating your disagreement right after a meeting or a particular conversation can be considered rude. Having this discussion in private with the superior that you disagree with will make sure that your point is head.
#4. Speak to your superior
First, try and see if they are okay with you wanting to disagree with them. Ask them for permission so that it is safe for you to voice your disagreement. Some superiors or managers are not openly accepting to people disagreeing with them, and it is always good to clear the air before doing so.
You will be seen as someone who is confident and someone who voices opinions—and this is not a bad thing at all.
#5. Do not judge
Be careful about your choice of words. Do not use overtly strong words, which may give your boss the wrong idea. These words can be taken personally or misunderstood—and this is not what you are aiming for. What you want is to have strong communication with your superior about a disagreement, anything gone haywire here is not recommended.
Explain the problem in great detail and make it an honest disagreement, with a polite tone.
#6. Be calm
Do not lose your temper. This is one of the most essential points in tackling such a situation. You cannot lose your calm or feel anxious midway. Try and be calm while handling this conversation with your superior, and make sure you can see that they are grasping what you are intending to say.
Do not showcase your nervousness or do not speak too fast. Calmness will get you far.
#7. They are the boss
In the end, acknowledge that they are the boss and that the decision rests in their hands. They are in the position of power, and it is your duty to acknowledge that. Tell them that they are the ones who can make the call and that you will respect their decision.
Even though it might be a daunting task, being assertive at work in this way can lead you to become more irreplaceable at work. Stay strong and keep moving forward.