yes boss compressedCan you tell me a time when you disagreed with your boss? Are you one of those who think that it is career hara-kiri? Or you believe that your upward trajectory can flatten into a plateau if you disagree with your boss? Do you avoid disagreeing with your boss even when you know that your point of view is valid and will benefit the organization? Or even cause harm to the organization? Don’t worry, there are many who are sailing in this ship called INS “I Agree with You Boss”.

Disagreements and conflicts are verity of professional life. The workplace setting is a fertile breeding ground for conflicts.  Recognizing and addressing factors like – disagreements, differing values, and poor communication – can have a positive impact.

I have heard enough that promotions and career prospects, especially to senior positions, are not based on merit, performance or expertise, but rather on being aligned with the thoughts of the entrepreneur or the decision maker. Or in other words, being a ‘Yes Man’. This is a myth, barring unprofessionally managed organizations. Professional managers know that disagreements are healthy and beneficial for the health of the organization. Nevertheless, the way one puts forth his case during a disagreement is an important aspect to be considered.


When you want to get into the disagreement mode, keep at the back of your mind that your boss got to that position because of some combination of experience, expertise, and training. That however doesn’t mean you should always agree with every decision your boss makes. Your boss is also human and therefore also prone to error. Have the courage and guts to disagree, but disagree in an agreeable manner. A disagreement should not be a high-decibel combat, a distasteful argument or a duel of spicy-hot words.

How do you do that? To get the knack of disagreeing, here are a few tips.

To engage in a healthy disagreement, first get the full trust and faith of your boss. Create a Value Proposition of ‘Brand You’ which communicates that you possess the right balance of integrity and competence.

It is always beneficial to have a good relationship with those in authority. Develop positive relations with your boss. That doesn’t mean you should become his buddy – far from it. Get to know him better. Excel in your job. Under-promise and over-deliver. Keep your commitments. Take his guidance to work on your strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, there is no “magic bullet” to make your relationship wonderful.

Work on developing a very high level of emotional intelligence, especially the empathy element. Mentally, be in the chair of your boss for a while. Before you make your disagreement statement, reflect on the possible reasons of his thinking. Once you empathize, you will be in a position to present your case in a non-conflicting and non-argumentative manner.

One more Value Proposition of ‘Brand You’ – be perceived as a good listener. When you lodge your disagreement, your boss knows that you have first listened to him. This will make him receptive to your alternate idea. You really need to work hard on this.

Learning to disagree with your boss, without sounding insulting or making him look stupid or foolish is an imperative. This is one skill you must master. Don’t start by saying: “I don’t agree!” Instead you may ask him the reasons behind for his thinking. Listen to what he says. Ponder over what he has said. If you still don’t agree, you may start your disagreement by saying: “Can I express an alternate view point?” “Do I have your permission to differ as I am looking at this issue from a different perspective?” Once you have his permission, put across your point in respectful manner.

Do you recall the six honest serving men of Rudyard Kipling?

I KEEP six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.

I send them over land and sea,

I send them east and west;

But after they have worked for me,

I give them all a rest.

Analyze what your boss is saying before disagreeing with him. Why is your boss saying so? What made him say so?   Who could have provoked him to say whatever he has said. Where did he get the information to take this stand? Once you analyze, you will be able to put your counter view in a non-conflicting mode.

At times, your disagreement may not have been valid. So next time when you disagree, mentally acknowledge his anxiety. When your disagreement has been supplanted by another superior logic, have the courtesy to say: “Yes, my disagreement is not valid. I did not think of this before presenting my case.” This will certainly make your boss more receptive to your disagreements.

Wrote William Jennings Bryan “The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear.” In any disagreement interface, encircle yourself with self confidence and courage. You can display your self-confidence in many ways.

a) Knowledge of the subject matter: have mastery over it. Prepare yourself ahead before you put forth your disagreement. Self-confidence comes when you are thorough and knowledgeable on the subject.

b) Body language: Your body language can instantly demonstrate self-assuredness, or it can scream insecurity.

c) Your tone of voice: have an assertive tone of voice. Aggressive or submissive tone could spell disaster.

d) Communicate effectively: More than what you say how you say is more important. You can influence others subtly by how you say rather than what you say.

e) Overall attitude, behavior and personality: keep it pleasant and agreeable. A pleasant personality will distinguish you and make your case appealing.

f) Do not be apologetic while disagreeing: or you have already lost the debate.

To grow in self-confidence, surround yourself with positive people. They help you build your self-esteem because they themselves have a strong sense of self-esteem.

Disagreement, even a passionate disagreement is healthy, otherwise a debate, brain storming or a flow of ideas are not possible.  But it should not be a ‘shouting match’. An honest disagreement is one is a step forward for the progress of your organization.

When you follow these eight steps, even during a disagreement, your boss will even adore you and think you hung the moon and stars.

Vivek Hattangadi

Vivek Hattangadi

Chief Mentor at ‘The Enablers’


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