Disagreeing with a person in a position senior to yours can enhance your career or result in your looking for new employment. The choice is yours! Being prepared with facts, understanding your company’s culture, knowing senior managers’ leadership style, being respectful, and having the right motivation all matter.
Here are a few tips that will help you prepare to present your thoughts professionally and persuasively.
Time and Place Matter:
Unless you are in a team or group meeting designed to solicit opinions and suggestions (and even then, you better read the situation carefully), a private conversation can set the stage for a more public discussion. It is the rare person who is fine with being surprised or put-on-the-spot in a public forum.
Take your cues from the leadership styles of peers and those in senior roles. Pay attention not to just what they say, but how they act. Is there a real appreciation for diverse opinions? Or, are there negative consequences? Listening and seeking clarification do not equate to agreement, but that behavior generally signals a willingness to consider other points of view.
Think like the person you are about to disagree with. Will it be obvious that your focus is on the good of the organization? Or, can he or she easily jump to the conclusion that your motivation is self-serving and/or political? Or, even worse, meant to embarrass him or her.
Before stating your opinion or suggestion, take steps to make sure you have the facts. It is possible that you don’t have all the information that someone in a senior role has access to. Asking questions is likely to be enlightening and, it can demonstrate a collaborative style.
Make the Business Case
Grab them with the facts and their hearts will follow! Verifiable data, research, benchmarking and relative comparisons can change what appears to be a feeling into a compelling business case.
Influence Versus Impact
An emotional outburst may feel good for the moment, but it will not help your credibility, and it will be long remembered. The goal is to influence change and have a positive impact, so get to the point, be well prepared, business-like, focus on results and always be respectful.
Ultimately, the final decision may not be what you hoped for. It is important to have the discipline to accept the final decision, be supportive and move on. And remember, if things don’t go well, tempting as it may be, there isn’t room for an “I told you so”. You didn’t ‘get your way’, but you very likely gained the respect of those senior to you, and that goes a long way!
It takes courage to speak up. But divergent opinions, supported by evidence-based facts, expressed timely and professionally, can result in better ideas and solutions, while demonstrating your engagement and exhibiting your commitment to the success of the organization. The type of employee most companies want!
Remember, you don’t have to be disagreeable to disagree!