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Dazzle your managers with ‘constructive disagreement’

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in HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Issue: How to exert influence over people who don't report to you.

Benefit: Fend off bad ideas without developing a reputation as "difficult" or discouraging future good ideas.

Action: Practice the three steps of constructive disagreement with family and friends before going "live" in the workplace.

ORLANDO, Fla. , A senior manager asks you to change the format of a monthly report you produce. This manager has come to you with good ideas in the past, but this isn't one of them.

How do you disagree with the manager without incurring his wrath ... or shutting off a valuable source of future good ideas?

By practicing the gentle, but effective, art of what HR consultant Sandy Allgeier calls "constructive disagreement."

"Three steps can help you disagree in a way that communicates that you want the person to continue sharing ideas," she told HR professionals gathered for the Society for Human Resource Management's annual conference. The three steps:

  1. Identify the value of the idea. Find something in the person's idea that you see value in. Example: "What I like about your idea is that the report would be shorter."
  2. Explain your concerns about the idea. Example: "What concerns me is that the important turnover figures would not be emphasized."
  3. Discuss alternatives for retaining the value of the person's idea while eliminating your reservations. "Offer the person an alternative," Allgeier says, "and get the other person's reaction to it." Example: "Maybe I could include a summary column for the turnover figures but stay within your format. What do you think?"

The key to success with effective disagreement is in the word "constructive," says Allgeier. "Typically, in cases of disagreement, energy is focused on where people disagree. Instead, you should focus your energy on finding common ground first, then creating alternative solutions that meet both parties' needs."

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