When The Boss Is Wrong

By Douglas Weinstein
Published on: June 2, 2017

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Ever sit in on a meeting and have your boss lay out a plan that you immediately thought was a terrible idea? We’ve all been there. Not every plan has been properly vetted and thought through completely. You can handle a situation like this in one of two ways – you can fly off the handle and speak up “that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard” or you can take a deep breath and act in a more professional manner. Here are a few suggestions if you choose the professional route:

  1. What’s the objective? Figure out what your boss’s end game is. What is he trying to get at? Where is he leading the team? What is his motivation? Once you understand his intention, you’ll be in a better position to evaluate the plan. Once you understand the goal, you’ll be in a better position to offer positive feedback.
  2. Timing is everything. Make sure you pick your moment properly. You might not want to disagree in the middle of the meeting and get everyone sidetracked. You might want to have a private discussion to share your views, once you’ve had time to reflect on things. Regardless, always ask permission to disagree and begin by acknowledging the objective – “I understand you want to get our sales number to x, but I’m not sure your plan will be as effective as it could be. May I suggest something a little bit different that will achieve the same outcome?”
  3. Offer your opinion. Don’t make the discussion, private or public, personal. Your boss is just trying to do his job, it’s not like he’s deliberately trying to tank the company. Not every idea is a good one. So don’t make anything personal. Offer your own opinion and make your case in a calm and professional manner.
  4. Listen. A good manager will try to explain more of their ‘behind-the-scenes’ thinking process when confronted by an employee who is questioning some or all of a new agenda. You need to listen and realize that you might not (and probably don’t!) know all of the reasons why your boss is laying out a new plan that strikes you as odd. So listen, you might learn something.
  5. Don’t be afraid to question authority. Never shy away from speaking up when you think you have a good case to make. Senior managers (good ones, anyway) welcome input and will respond positively if presented with a calm, dispassionate alternative proposal. You aren’t going to get fired for disagreeing with your boss.
Douglas Weinstein

Douglas Weinstein

Doug is the Editor and co-founder of the Technology Insider Group and Technology Designer Magazine. Previously, he was the Executive Director and co-founder of the Elf Foundation, a non-profit organization that created Room of Magic entertainment theaters in children's hospitals across North America.

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