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How to Disagree with Someone More Powerful than You

Whether it is an argument about where to go for dinner or a spat over who the best team is, everyone has disagreements on a regular basis. What may be problematic, and intimidating, is when these disagreements are with a person who has more power than you. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Amy Gallo explores some options when you have a different idea than your superiors.

The Thrilla over Vanilla Envelopes

It is human nature to avoid having a disagreement with someone more senior, but that does not mean you should always shy away from confrontation. Never assume that voicing your opinion will harm your relationships. Evaluate the risks involved with voicing your opinion, particularly the risks associated with not speaking your mind. The chances of you making a nemesis are slim, so stop worrying about ruining your relationship. Sometimes it is best to just dive in and voice your opinion.

After you have evaluated the risks you may find that you should simply sit on it. If it truly is an issue that needs attention though, it will help to wait until you can talk to the superior alone. This will make them feel less threatened, as well as more open to criticism. When approaching the superior person, finding a common goal can help to break the ice because then they will see you are on the same page and truly just trying to get the project done well. Additionally, it can go a long way to ask permission to disagree. Asking permission gives the superior a sense of control over the situation and develops good faith.

While stating your point, remember to keep calm. Rash anger will get you nowhere, and it may actually hurt your credibility for the future. Begin the disagreement by restating the person’s original view. This will lay the best foundation for further discussion. Additionally, never make judgments and always remember to stay humble. They are your superior and have greater authority than you; always remember to respect that.

Victor Chiu, a business development manager at Central Properties, took these principles into effect and ultimately helped his company immensely. Canadian oil prices at the time were low, which made for great conditions to purchase real estate. Patrick, his boss, sought to purchase a small plot of land in Alberta, but Victor was worried about the possibility of the company getting in over their head. Victor applied all of these ideas and showed Patrick respect, and he explained how he thought the timing was off and they could wait for a better moment to strike. Intrigued, Patrick wanted to hear Victor out, and ultimately the company held off on making the investment.

It may be scary, but disagreeing with your superiors is sometimes a necessary evil. They are only human themselves, and are just as capable of making misjudgments. You can read the original article here: https://hbr.org/2016/03/how-to-disagree-with-someone-more-powerful-than-you

About Danielle Koehler

Profile photo of Danielle Koehler
Danielle is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. She has degrees in English and human resource management from Shippensburg University.

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