how to disagree with your boss

So have you ever been in a situation where your boss says something or asks your team to do something that you are not totally aligned with, but you have NO IDEA how to disagree with your boss or voice your opinion without causing a stir?

It’s very awkward, isn’t it? Disagreeing with someone that literally has the ability to fire you if they don’t like what they hear.

And if you are the type of person (like me) that really does not like conflict – then this one is going to be super HARD!

But sometimes it’s necessary to tactfully disagree with your boss because well… (a) they aren’t going to ALWAYS be right (b) disagreement sometimes creates better ideas and (c) you have a responsibility to be open and transparent with them.

So drinking courage juice is going to be necessary at times.

Now full disclosure, I’m not speaking from my soapbox on this matter. I’ve had to engage in these types of conversations a couple of times.

And I’ll be honest, there were other times that I fumbled all the way through it and came out wondering – why in the world did I say anything?

There were times when it backfired much like I expected, which is burned into my mind.

But there were also times where I got it right and it was so worth it afterward.

During the times where it turned out to be a success, I learned a few things – and definitely learned a lot from when it didn’t go perfectly as well!  So I wanted to pass on a few nuggets to you so that you don’t have to go through the same fumbles that I did. 

Head over to MakTV to watch the latest episode where I’m sharing a few tips on how to prepare and how to engage in the conversation.


Would you prefer to read rather than watch? Not to worry! You can read the blog post below.

But first, to really help you stand out in your new role I highly recommend downloading the New Manager Starter Kit. A free downloadable interactive guide to help you show up and stand out and take the right action steps.

Ok so as you already know, one of the toughest spots to be in is middle management because not only do you have to learn how to manage your team, you gotta learn how to manage up as well if you want to be effective at all.

And one of these really important aspects of managing up – is being able to speak up either on behalf of your team, their workload, your workload and what’s realistic in terms of timelines.

So this topic of being able to disagree with your boss is something that you really want to pay close attention to.

Here are a few tips that might help you!

Adjust your mindset

A lot of managers I speak to – and I remember being in this spot as well – are fearful to voice their opinion if it’s in direct opposition to what their superior has said.

And that’s totally understandable. I mean, depending on what’s important to you whether it’s the fear of not having a paycheque because you could be let go – or maybe the fear of not being respected by your boss – is a legitimate concern.

But you have to remember that you were chosen for this role for a reason and in order for you to fulfill the trust that was given to you, you have to try and do it to your best of your ability.

Think about it this way, your choice to not say anything could potentially be damaging because if the right information doesn’t make it to the top – poor decisions could be made which could potentially lead to terrible outcomes for the business or your team. So, what’s worse, respectfully disagreeing with your boss or failing the organization?

So you having a different opinion, or seeing something from a completely different perspective isn’t a bad thing and you should just consider this as you trying to get your message across to someone that needs to hear it.

Be tactful

Learn to present what you have to say with tact.

Now tact according to the dictionary means having a keen sense of what to do or what to say in a difficult or delicate situation in order to maintain good relations with others and to avoid offence.

Which is exactly what you are trying to do in this situation.

So tact is really two fold, it first involves you choosing your words carefully.

So wouldn’t want to just blurt out that you are in disagreement with what’s being said because it’s for the greater good.

The words that you say mean something and have an affect on how it’s received so it’s extremely important that you stop and think through what you want to say before you say it.

The second part of tact is how it’s being said.

There’s a very well known bible verse that I’ve spoken about on the channel before that says that we want our words to be seasoned with salt.

That’s because salt is what enhances the flavour of food making it appealing.

So if you want what you have to say to be received well then you have to carefully consider how you say it so that it appeals to the other party.

Use questions

Questions are super helpful because it allows you to the root without making anyone feel as though they are being challenged.

Asking questions allows you to understand their reasons and viewpoint so that you have a better understanding of their why which will allow you to reframe how you present your own reasoning.

Think about it this way, when you understand why someone says or do what they do then you become better equipped to influence change because you aren’t dealing with the symptoms that you are seeing.

Plus it just lays the groundwork for collaboration instead of defence. And you want them to collaborate with you not get their backs up and not HEAR what you have to say.

Consider your timing

Depending on your relationship certain times might not be the best.

Now I say depending on your relationship because if there is a trusting environment and the expectation of your boss is that you guys push back – then bringing up your opposing view during a meeting isn’t going to be that big of a deal.

But if the culture doesn’t lend to that – then a team meeting probably isn’t the best time to be sharing your view.

Just going back to that example of how salt enhances food. Having a well seasoned meal is great but if you try to give it to someone that maybe just had a big meal or is sick, chances are it’s not gonna be received well, because of the fact that it is not a good time. Your timing matters and it should be considered when voicing your difference of opinion.

Present solutions

Some people are amazing at skipping the problem and getting straight to the solution.

And some people’s eyes are more keen on finding the problem.

Which honestly is fine, it’s just personality style and the way you see things. But what I will say is that you should be presenting solutions and that should be your habit anyways but especially when you disagree.

What good is it to them if you are disagreeing for disagreement’s sake, you need to state the issue but also state one or two other possible solutions that they can consider as their thinking through things.

There you have it five quick tips that will help you to disagree with your boss in a way that helps you get your point across and doesn’t make the situation worse.