The usual rule to any negotiation or argument is either to convince the other or simply agree to disagree. That’s probably what ends up happening in most cases so that no one’s left disgruntled. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same. But sometimes the situation isn’t that easy and you’re not content with the outcome. It bugs you for a while and you’re left thinking about it over and over again. After a while of going over it in your head you find yourself unable to put it to rest and so you need to discuss it further. However, when it’s your boss who you can’t seem to agree with the argument or debate can be difficult. Particularly when it’s to tell your boss they are wrong.
How do you tell your boss they are wrong? Do you even do it? Or do you play along and just agree to their way of things. After all, it’s not you who’s calling the shots. Neither is your neck on the line. So why take up this challenge and go head on with your boss? Why pick a fight and ruin your position in the team? Why lose your boss’ favor by disagreeing with them?
To be honest, whatever the outcome may be, whether your boss agrees with you or doesn’t, or whether they appreciate your candidness or not, staying silent isn’t going to help you, your boss, the team or your company. Hence, it’s important you speak up and speak truthfully. Here’s how you can go about telling your boss they are wrong:
1. Time It
What’s the purpose of telling your boss they are wrong? Is it to prove to everyone that you’re smarter than your boss? Or is it to show how divided the team is? I doubt it’s either of these. Mainly it’s to make sure your boss doesn’t make a mistake and the decisions they make beneficial for the company and the team. Hence, when conveying your thoughts make sure you’re doing it in private rather than around others. The last thing you want to do is embarrass your boss around their peers, or even their own boss! Your message will definitely be better well received by your boss when it’s less threatening to their reputation.
2. Apply Diplomacy
Instead of blatantly disagreeing with your boss, try a little diplomacy in your approach. You want to soften the blow and not make it appear as an unwise oversight on their part. Of course you don’t want them to think that you’re being shrewd or a know-it-all, but at the same time you want to make sure they’re looking at things from all angles. Apply humility and show respect. The delivery of your message is key when telling your boss they are wrong, otherwise you’ll be testing their patience and rubbing them the wrong way. You could start with “maybe you’ve thought about this but…”
3. Be Thorough
Challenging your boss has to be something that’s well thought out. You need to get your facts straight, do all your homework and background checks and do a sanity check as well. Make sure you’ve gone over the reasoning of your objection. Before approaching your boss and breaking the news that they’re wrong you’ll have to build up confidence, not just in yourself, but in your facts and figures. If you must defy your boss the last thing you want to end up is wrong yourself!
4. Be Professional
Since your objective is to prevent your boss from making a mistake, you’re not trying to get a one up on them or to prove you’re smarter. Hence, when telling your boss they are wrong make sure the language, tone, and delivery doesn’t reflect your personal views, beliefs or opinions. Present your case with the company and team’s best interest in mind and being the priority. Your focus should always remain on the larger and bigger picture rather than your personal gain.
5. Don’t Persist
While it’s important to provide your boss all sorts of information to enable their decision making, it’s equally important to know when to let go. You can’t win all battles which is why you shouldn’t press too hard upon them your views. You’ve done your role justice by speaking up, now it’s up to your boss to make the right choice. If it contradicts what you were hoping for or believe is wrong then that’s how it’s going to be. Persisting further will only damage your relationship with your boss. Hence, you should drop the argument and live to fight another day.
Team members should have the courage to approach their bosses and present all facts, give their feedback and share their perspective on matters that are being discussed. It would be greatly unfair for the boss to make uninformed decisions. Similarly, bosses should provide their team members every opportunity to speak up. They should have the courage to face resistance and make calculated judgments based on all facts. Sure, ultimately the decision will be what the boss decides, but your part, as a member of the team, is to ensure you get your thoughts out there and tell your boss they are wrong whenever the moment arises.