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Topics: Governance
How to Disagree with a Superior? Recommendations?
Recommendations?
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Anonymous
Jan 20, 2018 11:41 AM
Replying to Najam Mumtaz
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Gather support or team up, supported by data of course.
I would fire an employee who does this. Ganging up on the boss is a sign of weakness and disruptive
@ Mounir. I was not talking about ganging up against someone. It is gathering support or convincing stakeholders after doing your own research regarding pros and cons, backed with data or past experiences.
Fortunately, it had always worked for me without being getting fired so far.
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1 reply by Anton Oosthuizen
Jan 22, 2018 12:19 AM
Anton Oosthuizen
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I fully agree with Najam. Facts are your number one supporter if you need to convey a message but I've been in many situations where this is just not enough because, believe it or not, you still have plenty of 'I am the boss and I know best' managers out there. PLENTY. If you ever find yourself in this situation then having support from the broader team helps a lot. This is easier said than done because even after the 'victory' you might end up with a wounded superior i.e. vindictive. So the bottom line is disagreement with a superior should be handled with caution if you do not have another job lined up ;). If your superior is a true leader then no worried, present the facts and you are done.
George-
In my world, producing the best Project, not PM (my) Ego is the guiding factor-always. I respect and enjoy the opposing viewpoints and the disagreements; those exchanges usually end up producing the best solutions to challenges on the Project. My staff all know this about me, so when they disagree with me they are usually armed with some good proof and ammunition- as you should be.
Also, they know I do not tolerate simple criticism alone. Anyone who can point out a problem must be prepared to offer an alternative or solution to that problem.
Attitude is the key for you; as a staff we have resolved many fatal design errors through conflict and debate, and avoided big headaches later during execution. However, we never get personal-we keep focused on the technical aspects and outcomes only.

I hope you are lucky enough to have a boss that recognizes:

"For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate." mh

Good Luck!
Gather team support and respect on subject, backing of facts and understand human psychology of your ecosystem before disagreeing might be helpful. Emotional leadership of individual PM can also help in effective delivery disagreements !
Anonymous
Jan 21, 2018 5:43 AM
Replying to Najam Mumtaz
...
@ Mounir. I was not talking about ganging up against someone. It is gathering support or convincing stakeholders after doing your own research regarding pros and cons, backed with data or past experiences.
Fortunately, it had always worked for me without being getting fired so far.
Najam

Sometime things are black and white and sometime gray. To me this is black and white. If I disagree with my manager about something, I must have good reasons and I feel obligated to share my views. If my manager and I have a good relation, he will respect my opinion and will exchange views to find out the best solution; maybe mine, maybe his, or maybe a blend or something totally different.

Why would I need to go to my colleague for justifications to back me up? If I do, then I do not have enough argument and I would be looking for support. In that case, what should have been a topic between my manager and I become an office topic.

Obviously, if things are so complicated that require further analysis, then why would I disagree? I would say something like, boss, I am not sure here. Give me some time to do further research and I will get back to you. Another word, this uncertainty and not disagreement.

Anyway, I said what I will do and I have done it. You have done it the other way and it worked for you. What that means, once again, this is a proof that there are Best Practices, what works in one organization or culture may not work in another.
I agree with a few others here.
My recommendations: -
1. Reflect on your own view of the topic first, are your intentions legitimate and authentic, are you missing the "obvious", do you need further evidence or a second opinion.
2. Where possible discuss the issue outside of a meeting... doing so in a meeting is less likely to get a satisfactory response ... not many people are comfortable loosing face infront of others.
3. Confirm to your supervisor your intention of your disagreement, remind your supervisor that whilst we may have different views on this, you are only raising your concern out of mutual benefit for both your supervisor and yourself.
4. Ask your supervisor for what evidence/facts they base their view on, ask them if more evidence/facts needs to be found or considered prior to a final judgement. Ask they suggest where these other evidence/facts can be gathered from.
5. If in a meeting and "expert/s" are present, direct the topic to them first by highlighting their years of experience and expertise on the topic being discussed and ask them for their view. If the discussion is one-on-one between you and your supervisor, breaking the stalemate with a third party view may bring the discussion away from personnel opinions to evidence/factual points.
6. Query the necessity to make a decision "right now", can the decision wait for a day/week/month, give your supervisor some time to reflect on the different evidence/facts being presented.
First of all it is important to understand your superior. If you are lucky to have one who understands healthy disagreement is good for the company you are lucky. I have had a variety. My previous CIO would get very mad at anyone that disagreed with him in front of others, even if it was over a minor issue. I also have a conflict adverse manager that gets very defensive if you disagree with her and will shut you down. I have a customer that will tell you he is always right and then a few meetings later spout your ideas as his own.
Truthfully these type of managers, I have often found myself using child psychology. Stroke their ego, offer your idea as a suggestion, give them the information and make them think it is their idea.
If you are working with a superior who is open to disagreements, then respectfully provided any data he/she needs to back your "side" is all you need. They may decide to not change their course and then you will need to just agree to disagree.
This thread has generated a LOT of good answers so far!
I skimmed them so I'm not sure if someone already mentioned this, but understanding your superior's motivations is key. In business, people often make decisions for reasons that have nothing to do with a project's well-being, such as ego, spite, trying to establish a power base, etc. If your superior acts for reasons like these, s/he won't be swayed by any amount of data or logical reasons you present.
Bosses like this tend to verbally instruct their subordinates to perform questionable activities of which they can later deny knowledge. If you have this type of boss you should record your disagreement along with your logical reasons for doing so in an email, so you can follow their instructions, yet have proof you weren't complicit in whatever they ordered you to do.
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Jan 21, 2018 3:37 PM
Sante Vergini
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As Eric pointed out, an email is a good way to record the difference of opinion It should be worded very carefully though.
Jan 21, 2018 11:51 AM
Replying to Eric Simms
...
This thread has generated a LOT of good answers so far!
I skimmed them so I'm not sure if someone already mentioned this, but understanding your superior's motivations is key. In business, people often make decisions for reasons that have nothing to do with a project's well-being, such as ego, spite, trying to establish a power base, etc. If your superior acts for reasons like these, s/he won't be swayed by any amount of data or logical reasons you present.
Bosses like this tend to verbally instruct their subordinates to perform questionable activities of which they can later deny knowledge. If you have this type of boss you should record your disagreement along with your logical reasons for doing so in an email, so you can follow their instructions, yet have proof you weren't complicit in whatever they ordered you to do.
As Eric pointed out, an email is a good way to record the difference of opinion It should be worded very carefully though.
Jan 21, 2018 5:43 AM
Replying to Najam Mumtaz
...
@ Mounir. I was not talking about ganging up against someone. It is gathering support or convincing stakeholders after doing your own research regarding pros and cons, backed with data or past experiences.
Fortunately, it had always worked for me without being getting fired so far.
I fully agree with Najam. Facts are your number one supporter if you need to convey a message but I've been in many situations where this is just not enough because, believe it or not, you still have plenty of 'I am the boss and I know best' managers out there. PLENTY. If you ever find yourself in this situation then having support from the broader team helps a lot. This is easier said than done because even after the 'victory' you might end up with a wounded superior i.e. vindictive. So the bottom line is disagreement with a superior should be handled with caution if you do not have another job lined up ;). If your superior is a true leader then no worried, present the facts and you are done.
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