Managing a Disagreement with Your Boss

Managing a Disagreement with Your Boss

Sometimes our passion (or our ego) gets the best of us, and we find ourselves arguing with someone in authority. Sometimes that person in authority is our boss. What should you do when you have openly disagreed with yours?

You have worked diligently on a project or assignment. You have spent hours doing research, seeking input, and drafting and editing the proposal. You were excited to present it at the staff meeting, and thought others would be excited, too. Most of all, you thought your boss would be impressed.

It seemed to be going well, when your boss turned to the budget requirements and rejected it outright. You were stung by her response that “we could never afford this.”

You felt she didn’t understand the timing of the phase-in and, unfortunately, you said, “I don’t think you understand ….” She was immediately irritated and dismissive.

What action is required? First of all, you need to apologize. The next time you see her, simply say, “I want to apologize. I didn’t mean any disrespect.” If she is still listening, You might add something like, “I may have been too close to the project, or, “I guess I left my enthusiasm get in the way.” Full stop. Don’t continue to plead your case or press your idea.

At some future point you may get the opportunity to revise your plan, or to offer further explanation. Or perhaps coworkers may see the value and encourage the boss to take another look.

There are several important lessons here. Before you tackle the next project, ask if there are specific budget parameters that should be followed. Talk with other staff, particularly ones who have been there longer than you. Ask if the project has been tried before and why it didn’t succeed. You might ask a trusted colleague if there is a certain presentation or report style your boss prefers. Would giving her an advance copy or executive summary help?

Finally, even with a positive relationship with your boss, always remember there is a power differential.  It doesn’ matter how passionate or angry you feel at the moment, think carefully about the words you use, and never forget that you are speaking to the person in authority, not a coworker.

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