You know it’s important to speak up at work. But let’s be real: You contribute with the hope that your ideas will be taken seriously. It’s hard to feel that way if your boss is constantly shooting them down and taking things another direction. And it only makes matters worse if it’s not simply a difference of opinion, but you feel that they’re straight-up wrong.
When you’re at that point, all of the solutions can seem drastic: Do you just accept that you’ll hate going to work every day? Do you have a sit-down and hash out why you disagree with your boss every single time? Or do you quit, and look for a supervisor you’ll see eye-to-eye with?
Before you get to one of those options, be honest with yourself: Have you really thought about why you always disagree? Because once you have an answer to that (beyond “I like my idea more”), you’ll have a better sense of what to do next.
1. YOUR BOSS IS TRYING TO CHANGE THINGS
If you’re in the “don’t fix what isn’t broken” club, it’s hard to get on board with someone changing things, apparently just for the sake of it. It’s frustrating that your new boss is implementing new strategies when things have been going just fine.
Your strategy: build credibility. If your main complaint is that her approach is different, your best course of action is to do it her way across all projects.
Wait! Before you click out in frustration, I’m not suggesting this as a forever change. Rather, it’s to help you decide when to push back–and make a stronger argument when you do.
If you refuse to try any new approaches, your case is weak (and likely to be ignored), because you can’t make a true comparison. Plus, you look more like someone who’s stuck in their ways than someone who cares about the very best way to do things.
Once you’ve tried the new strategies, you’ll be able to pick your battles–and point to specific reasons why you think a certain old process works better than the new one.
If you still think the new approaches suck and that your manager is ignoring your feedback, you’ll have less regrets when you start looking for a new role.
2. YOU THINK THERE’S A LOW LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS
Unlike the person who resists new methods, you’re at odds because you don’t want to be set up to fail. You can’t imagine “going along to get along” when the plan’s one you foresee crashing and burning. The “just try it the new way” approach can seem too risky if you’re pretty sure it’ll cost huge time or money, or lose you a client.
Your strategy: get clear on your goals. In a former job, my supervisor made sure that we knew our “role and goal” for every assignment. Because the fact is, organizations evolve and these things shift, so it’s helpful to continually make sure you’re aiming for the same target.
By inquiring about your role in the project and the goals you’re supposed to hit, you may learn that your boss’s main objective is innovating or piloting a new process–and that he’s okay with what you’d assume is a “failure,” so long as you’ve tried.
If, however, your boss has different goals, and you feel like you’re being asked to do the impossible–not in a way that adds to your professional development–but in a way makes you dread going to work, then don’t feel like you have to talk yourself into staying.
While every job can include some degree of trusting your boss even when you disagree, you should never be made to feel like your job requires you to perform daily miracles.
3. YOUR BOSS IS A MICROMANAGER
Maybe you constantly disagree with your boss because he never gives you the freedom to actually do your job. Or, if you go out and take initiative, he wants to see the project totally redone based on his vision.
Your strategy: be honest with yourself. In a recent article for Harvard Business Review, author Ron Carucci suggests that employees consider whether a boss is micromanaging them because their work isn’t up to par.
In other words, your manager is more likely to breathe down your neck that you have to do things her exact way no matter if you disagree—if your last few projects have been late, unfinished, or poorly executed.
If this rings true, then, truth talk: You’re stuck doing things her way for a bit. However, go out of your way not just to meet, but to exceed expectations, and show your full potential. Once you’ve earned back her trust, you can start suggesting innovations and pushing back with why your ideas are better.
But if your work’s been top-notch all along and she’s just a serial micromanager, tell her it’s important to you to have the opportunity to take initiative and make more of a contribution. Then, listen to her response about whether or not you’ll be able to do that in this role.
Finally, there’s another reason why people disagree with their boss–and that’s when they’re asked to do something they think is ethically questionable. This is not the time to “try it their way.” Schedule a meeting with HR (or your boss’s boss if there’s no formal HR department) and share that you disagree with what you’re being asked to do.
Of course, even when it’s not at “whistle-blower” level, we’re still talking about the manager you report to every day, and so you’d like to have a positive working relationship. So, start by seeing if you can’t try to learn more about where they’re coming from. Because, while it won’t always be easy, if you’re able to constructively work for someone with a completely different style, you’ll learn a lot.