You’ve heard it before and I’ll say it again – you spend one-third of your life at work. While that saying is one of those “yeah, yeah, I know type deals” you should really let that sink in.
One-third of your life is a massive chunk of time. If you work full time this is equivalent to 80 entire days at work per year. Wow! While there are more and more people who seem to be working in a contractor type lifestyle, the majority of us work with other co-workers or employees.
Whether we work in a huge corporate office building alongside 1,000 other employees or in a family owned business with 5 other folks, we bump elbows with other people at work on a regular basis.
As tends to happen when interacting with other humans, we disagree from time to time. What we will be discussing here is how to disagree respectfully to get what you really want at work.
I’ve been in the work force post college for 25 years. I’ve really had what I define as 2 careers.
My first career, which lasted 12 years, was managing larger and larger retail stores. At the height of that I managed 80 other coworkers in 3 locations and about $6M in annual revenue. Along the way I had a variety of bosses I didn’t exactly see eye to eye with.
In my 2nd career which is at the 14 year mark I’ve worked in a variety of corporate environments ranging from 40 other coworkers to north of 1,000 in my building. Needless to say I’ve had more than my share of disagreements.
Do I always get what I want? No. But I’ve gotten a lot smarter about it. I’ve learned how to disagree respectfully to get what I want, at least most of the time.
Who do we disagree with?
At work you’ve got a variety of coworkers you could potentially argue or disagree with.
Your own group
If you work with other people who do what you do, like a group of 10 business analysts, that’s one group that you might lock horns with from time to time.
Speaking from experience, I’ve worked around sales and recruiting folks for over a decade. Some of them I got along with swimmingly, others I barely spoke to because we disagreed on how to do most everything.
If you are a business analyst, you are probably working with other departments on projects, which means you could potentially disagree with the other departments. This is more prevalent in larger corporate type environments.
I’ve been in work situations where an entire group didn’t really care much for another group. The two groups had to interact on a lot of projects and seemed to bicker and disagree about every little thing along the way.
Project or team leads
Disagreeing with project or team leads is not uncommon. If you’ve ever worked on a larger initiative, you’ve probably seen this dynamic in play.
Anywhere from 4 – 25 people are on a project team. There is typically one project leader or similar type person who is driving the bus.
Now if this person is someone who is skilled at managing teams then there is usually no problem. But if this person is more of a “my way or the highway” type person you’re probably in for some long heated discussions.
Many of us disagree with our bosses. I feel like I could write an entire article on this. Some of us are blessed with motivating and encouraging bosses who support our growth and development. Some of us aren’t.
Let’s just put it that way. This is one of the toughest situations to learn to disagree respectfully in. But it is certainly doable.
The most common reasons people disagree
The short version of why we disagree is because we are human. As such we all have our own opinions on how things should be done, our own experiences, our own motivating factors, our own insecurities, etc.
We are all uniquely different and have a different perspective on things. We see the world through our own individual lens of life.
This is true of any situation where there are more than just ourselves involved. Our spouse, friends, parent’s, kids, fellow commuters, heck even at the grocery store.
This all applies at work as well. Some big motivators for disagreeing at work include:
The need for power
Everyone likes to feel some form of control over their lives and this is true at work as well. And this is fine to a point.
The challenges arise when someone is exerting their power over others on a regular basis. The need for all the credit, the need to always be right, the need to be seen as the mover and shaker.
We all know people who are skilled at playing the victim card. Anything that doesn’t go their way is always someone else’s fault.
This is a great tactic for the perpetual victim because they never have to take responsibility for their own lives.
Of course a side effect is they blame other people for things (whether it’s true or not) and this can lead to disagreement and dissent.
We’ve always done it this way
This is something we can all most likely identify with.
When there’s a variety of experience levels doing a similar job, many times you get the newer folks asking “why do we do it this way” and “I’ve done it a different way and it’s better because….”. They tend to disagree with the people who have done a certain process or system for a long time and aren’t receptive to change.
And then there are people who do it their own way which is fine in some instances but probably not in others.
Lack of communication
This one is huge. When someone only receives part of the information for a job, they are supposed to do what they think they were supposed to, not necessarily what the requester had in mind.
You get the “I told you that I wanted ____________ (fill in the blank) and that’s not what you gave me”. This one is prevalent everywhere due to everyone being so busy all the time and let’s be honest, many people aren’t great communicators.
Say I am a CFO and I have a certain vision for the direction of the company. I work fairly closely with the COO who has a different vision for the company.
Since we have to work towards a similar goal but we see the goal as different, we are going to argue. A lot.
If we don’t agree on the direction and general strategy of the goal, we should both be working towards somewhere where it’s not going to be a fun place to be.
As we are about to see arguing about having different visions isn’t all bad, especially when both sides are passionate about success.
How disagreeing helps you get what you really want
When working towards a common shared goal, the fact that you argue and disagree about something means you care about it. So keep this in mind the next time you and your boss disagree on how something should be done.
You are working towards achieving some success for the company. Remember this and don’t be afraid to point this fact out to your boss(or whoever) you are disagreeing with.
Despite the fact you are disagreeing about how to get to a certain goal, you are working towards a goal that’s important to you. Working toward what you want.
Don’t take it personal. Again, this is great advice for life in general but certainly true in this situation. We are all see life differently. My experiences shape how I see situations, the same is true for you.
Remember that and don’t take it personal when someone disagrees with you. Keep voicing your opinions and it will help you in your quest to get what you want.
When you disagree respectfully, you also gain……wait for it, respect. Earning respect helps you get what you want as well. This is because others see you as someone who is willing to fight for what they feel is important. And this will help you get what you want.
When you disagree respectfully at work, you learn how to manage your boss. You figure out how far you can push, how much you can disagree.
When you are able to disagree in a respectful manner, a good boss will respect that and think of you as someone who brings new ideas to the table. Once you learn how to manage your boss effectively, at least most of time, it helps you get what you want. And having a boss in your court is invaluable.
Finally, when you are able to disagree respectfully, it will help you manage your career better.
If you feel you are underpaid, it becomes easier to have that conversation with your manager. If you feel like you’re doing 3/4 of the work on a project and that slacker Larry is barely doing 1/4, you are able to articulate this better to Larry or your boss.
The ability to disagree respectfully will help you in all areas of managing your career.
When is it beneficial to disagree?
More often that that you’d initially think. Remember this key piece of information when disagreements or arguments happen at work: