So, something at work has come up.

Your boss has introduced a new goal for the quarter that you find infeasible. Your supervisor wants to begin an incentive program that you think will have little impact on the staff. Your branch manager wants to consider a new marketing campaign that falls a little short financially.

You find legitimate reason to disagree with the decision, but cannot find the ground to stand up. How do you voice your opinion? What are the consequences? Is bringing up the conflicting perspective worth the potential risks?

At Crosworks, we hope you are always in the position at work to appropriately voice opinion, and comfortable in a space where diversity of thought is celebrated rather than squelched. However, there are considerations when approaching a superior in the workplace with a dissenting opinion. We outline key points to consider below.

9 Steps to Prepare to Disagree

  1. Put the situation in perspective
    • The first thing you want to analyze in these situations is whether there is a real threat to speaking up. In many cases, it is unlikely to result in any demotion, or loss of respect, but depending on the relationship, you will need more caution. Try to get a second opinion; ask a coworker what they think about the change, but remember to stay respectful and to seek their authentic point of view. If you are really passionate about speaking up, with a genuine concern for the company, it is worth bringing up and the more perspective you can gain the better you can prepare your approach.
  2. Accept the possible outcomes
    • From the very start of any disagreement, come to terms with whatever may result. If you are acting out of genuine concern, you should feel that the variety of outcomes that are acceptable. Furthermore, understand that if the conflict does not go your way, you will have done your part and and accept the decision.
  3. Find an alternative solution, or at least a common thread
    • Never approach the discussion without thinking through possible solutions. Even if the best alternative is maintaining the current status quo, voice an idea that could spark a new way to drive the desired outcome. Have an option that follows your reasoning, and be prepared to bring it to the table prior to confronting your superior. If you cannot think of any better possibilities, then rely on commonalities between your goals and your superior’s. This can be in the form of the company’s well-being, the future of the employees, or another connection. Your disagreement should directly correlate to this “connection.” Finding something in common will normalize the discussion, and open the conflict up to more positive debate and brainstorming.
  4. Be polite in approaching the topic
    • Be aware of the words you use in addressing the conflict, and avoid any terms that may seem offensive, or judgmental. Words like hastyignorantimmature, wrongpoor, and other seemingly judgmental words can immediately sink your argument. Maintain the dignity of the conflict, and keep it professional. Voice your opinion without shutting down the opposition; use logic and research to support your argument, rather than put down the other side.
  5. Maintain your position with poise and confidence, but be respectful
    • Like the last mentioned, keep in mind your position in the argument, but be confident as well. Coming off meek or insecure will only characterize the argument equally as ill-informed. The more preparation or logical evidence you have, the more confident you will be.
  6. Try to create an atmosphere open for discussion
    • Throughout the conversation, ask questions, ask for their opinion, and ask for their input. Make it a comprehensive and productive discussion, which will create a positive atmosphere. Make it feel as if you are on the same team of the debate, rather than going neck and neck against one another.
  7. Have legitimate reason beyond “gut feeling”
    • This is a crucial aspect. Come with evidence! The worst thing you can do for your argument is voice an opinion on instinct, or vague perspective. Reiterate that your side is an opinion, but an opinion based on fact. Anecdotal evidence, or past experience, is a great supplement.
  8. Reassure your trust in their authority
    • When you are nearing the end of the discussion, reiterate your trust in their final decision. Do not make them think you are a threat to their authority – that could result in very negative consequences. Be genuine about your respect for their position, and their choice. And, be open to further discussion if that is what is best.
  9. Respect their final decision
    • After telling them you will respect their decision, stick to your promise. Do not judge their final choice, and do not discuss your disappointment with coworkers. This could also result in very unfortunate consequences, and can create a negative and unproductive office culture.