One of the topics I hear often from my clients is “How to disagree with my boss.” And it comes up often — a lot of people are not quite sure how to do it, and they’re looking for talk tracks or how to approach it. And really, at the core of how to disagree with your boss, or really with anyone, is centered on trust.
A Foundation of Trust
How much do you trust the person that when you disagree — there won’t be retaliation, that you can engage in debates, that after the debate is done, you can come to some sort of conclusion or resolution if things do go awry, that you and they have the ability to come back and apologize and forgive each other and move forward?
Two of my favorite business books — Radical Candor by Kim Scott and The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team by Patrick Lencioni. It may come as no surprise that the cornerstone — the foundation of both of those books, is built on trust. When you have a sense of trust, the idea of disagreeing — the idea of debating becomes less difficult.. Think about how maybe easy it is to disagree with your best friends, or your spouse or your loved ones. The reason that these authors surmise, and others suggest, is because you trust them well enough.
You trust that even if you show up as your ugliest, they will forgive you, they’ll accept you, etc. And what others also suggested is that the reason that disagreeing at work becomes so challenging is because we don’t have that level of trust.
It begs the question, if you don’t have the level of trust that you need in order to disagree or to debate freely, what can you do? Often, it’s on you to establish that depth of relationship, to strengthen the levels of trust, to utilize your sense of curiosity to start to bridge the gap between the lack of trust today and what it’s going to be like to trust enough for me to disagree, debate, etc.
Start Bridging the Gap
What I want to leave you with is my challenge for you. If there are people in your life that you want to debate and disagree with and you are not willing to do so — ask yourself what is at the center of trust. What about the relationship do I not trust, and how can I start to establish it?