What do you do? Do you cave in and do it his or her way knowing it is going to fail? Do you plunge ahead with your approach, knowing he or she won’t like it?
Neither answer is good for your career or for your business. So, how should a hard-working, talented, and dedicated employee respond?
How you approach this prickly problem has a lot to do with the relationship between you and your supervisor and with your experience base, but there are some basic questions to answer that may help you break the loggerjam. I am assuming in this discussion that there is no harassment issue or other underlying problem and that you both disagree, perhaps strongly, on the right approach.
Question number one: Have I done this before? Is there evidence that would support my position?
Question number two: Is there evidence that supports your boss’s position? If you consulted with other experts in the field (without telling them you are in disagreement with your boss) which approach would they favor?
Question number 3: Can you both be right? Is there some compromise you could make that would take the best of both of your approaches?
After thinking this issue through, you may be more willing to change slightly but what about your boss? Is there a way to get him or her to budge? Yes, if you do it right.
In the meeting, thank your supervisor for taking the time to discuss the project. Tell him or her you have been considering the approaches. Then state what you believe is your boss’s approach and state its merits. (There has to be something good you can say about it, however much you think it is wrong.) When he or she agrees, then say, there are just a couple of things we should do to improve upon the approach.
When he or she asks what, suggest one small thing that you think would open up the discussion and allow you to propose an alternative. If he or she is amenable, work in a second suggestion. Keep the discussion going, making it a give-and-take as opposed to an argument. Keep it about the business, keep to the facts and keep calm. If you get emotional, your argument will lose its impact.
Prepare for this meeting by thinking out the key elements you want to discuss and perhaps modify. If you get to some areas where you simply can’t agree, then unless it is life threatening, dishonest or career breaking, see if there is some common ground on which you can agree. Don’t threaten, and don’t cower. Treat your boss with respect and you will get it in return.
Hopefully this exchange will help you see both sides of the issue and make whatever endeavor you are working on that much stronger. But if you can’t agree then you have two choices. Either you follow what boss says or you tell him or her you want to try the alternative and are willing to live with the consequences.
If at that point, he or she still says no, then again, unless it involves safety or integrity, you need to do it his or her way and give it your all. You will gain more respect by taking something you don’t necessarily agree with and making it a success, than by taking it on and secretly hoping it will fail. Whether is it because of the approach or not, being associated with a failure is never good for your career.