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Six Tips for Tough Conversations With Your Manager

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I am working for a manager who has political views that are very different from mine, and we also sometimes differ on how to complete our department's work. I know not to bring my personal views into the workplace, but, other than not talking to each other, how can we work together successfully?

A: Different points of view can make working together uncomfortable, but it doesn't mean you need to quit. You're right to keep personal views to yourself—especially if you know you and your manager see things from different perspectives. You don't have to agree on non-work-related issues.

When you have a different opinion from your manager on work-related topics, you should speak up, but do it in a way that your boss doesn't lose face with the rest of the team.

Here are some tips to help you survive a difficult conversation with your manager:

  1. Work to ensure that you and your manager have a trusting relationship. You do this by performing at your best, being accountable for your work and your mistakes, and always having your manager's back.

  2. Find a time for the difficult conversation when you're sure you will have your manager's full attention.

  3. When you have a different opinion from your manager on work-related topics, you should speak up, but do it in a way that your boss doesn't lose face with the rest of the team.

     

  4. Choose carefully what you bring forward. Don't run to your manager every time you have a difference of opinion. If you've made a mistake, own up to it. If you see something happening that affects a member or customer in a negative way, speak up.

  5. Hold these discussions in person and in private. You can use email to set up the meeting, but wait until you're face to face before you bring up where you disagree. Be clear about what the issue is and how you would approach it differently. Have data or other facts to support your argument, and try to stay positive, even if your manager gets defensive.

  6. Focus on what you see as best for your department and the organization, not on what's best for you.

  7. Be gracious if your manager still doesn't see the issue your way. And if your manager does change his or her mind, don't gloat or let on to coworkers that you were instrumental in the change. Hopefully, your manager will give you credit, but if not, it's between you and your manager.

If you follow these steps, you'll likely be able to work with your manager and strengthen your relationship. You may find that by bringing up your disagreements in a productive way, you increase your value to your organization.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]

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