My boss makes quick decisions, often before adequate due diligence has been done. Weeks ago, he made a decision about a business unit (the one I manage) that I do not agree with. It is a big decision that will lead to the loss of six to 10 jobs.
I have one last opportunity to describe my concerns about his decision. Should I push my position and stand my ground, even though I know that all he wants to hear is that he was right and we are on the right track?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Founder, Made You Think Coaching, Toronto
Clearly this is bugging you so if you do nothing about it, it could result in resentment toward your boss and your relationship could start to rot. That doesn’t make for a fun place to spend 40-plus hours a week.
Whether he takes your advice is not in your control; what is in your control is sticking up for what you believe in. Then you will know you have done what you can. Don’t assume he will not listen – there’s a chance he’s scared to death about making this decision.
I recommend you follow a few simple steps to open this conversation in a way that will keep him from becoming defensive. First, ask his permission to have a discussion. People are much more open to a conversation when it is not forced upon them. Second, make the issue about you, not him (for example, don’t say he’s doing the wrong thing). Third, don’t act like you know more than he does. Finally, make the benefit about him.
For example: “Boss, do you have a minute to talk? I’m concerned about something and I’d like to get your input. I’m worried this big decision will be tricky for me to explain to staff. I’m concerned they may not feel like we put enough due diligence into it. Could you help me figure out how to approach this? Then I think we’ll be better prepared when this goes down.”
During the conversation you will have a chance to voice your concerns if you wish to do so head-on.
Is this guaranteed to work? Nope. But it will give you the chance to say your piece in a way that is non-aggressive, respectful, and shows that he’s still the boss in your eyes.
THE SECOND ANSWER
Associate professor, industrial/organizational psychology, University of Windsor
Before you go pushing your position and standing your ground, like a general at war, remember that this is not a battle but an attempt at a meeting of minds.
Most people want to hear that they’re right. Although it’s true that effective leaders avoid surrounding themselves with toadies – instead soliciting diverse opinions sometimes contrary to their own – the basic human desire to be understood and seen as competent do not go away.
So, first, try to understand the reasons behind his decision and invite him to correct you if your assumptions about his decision are wrong. You don’t ultimately have to agree with his course of action, but you must at least try to understand where he’s coming from, acknowledging points of commonality and showing that you have an open mind.
If you try to immediately push your agenda, that will only put him on the defensive and invite argument and push-back, reactions you’re trying to avoid. Nor do you want to start a fight until the facts are established. Too often, disagreeing parties simply assume how the other side came to their point of view without actually checking their assumptions by simply asking. Labour negotiations go off the rails for the same reason.
What you’re looking for is an alternative solution in which both of you can achieve your respective – and shared – goals. Therefore, make sure you actually have an alternative solution. Don’t simply be an obstacle to his plans.
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