The Right To Argue With Your Boss

the right to argue

Do you have the right to question or even argue with your boss?  In most cases, people would say ‘are you kidding!!'.  Without the right to argue, how can management even hope to avoid the potholes and cliffs that we all face.  In the case of innovation, the right to argue is paramount to creating a ‘creative culture' that delivers results.

Face it, if you are truly pushing the boundary and creating entirely new areas of business, you will not be able to rely on your experience to get you through the challenges.  Your only hope is to use the collective intelligence of the entire team and this means giving each and every team member the right to argue – the right to challenge the assumptions, your intuition and yes even your decision.

I've seen too many managers resist (or even become hostile) being questioned by their team members  If a staff member were to challenge this manager in front of the ‘big boss', most would call this a ‘career limiting move'.  If you are the one doing the arguing, diplomacy  could be the best advice I could give you.  At the same time, don't set back and let your manager drive off the cliff. Be ready to support your rationale for challenging the decision/direction your manager is taking.  Don't just argue for the fun of arguing.

Personally, I look upon arguing as one key way for team members to express their passion and opinion.  I would much rather have someone express their views openly rather than keeping quite.  In my experience, those that keep quiet are the first ones to run for cover when things go wrong.  They use their silence (“I didn't agree with the direction from the beginning but I wasn't given the opportunity to present”) to give them an out.

As Alan Kay said in many meetings, your get a 10 IQ point credit for having an opinion.  So … share your opinion and challenge your boss.

And if you get fired, post your resume as a comment to this post.  You never know, a fellow reader might have a better job for you anyway.


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3 thoughts on “The Right To Argue With Your Boss

  1. I’ve been on both sides – when I managed a team in India I used to get so frustrated that they wouldn’t “argue” with me. I used to tell them, I’m not necessarily the expert here, feel free to disagree!
    On the other hand though, once you’ve argued your point, it’s time to move on even if your point wasn’t considered important enough to change the final decision. I’ve seen people get bad reputations by continuing to argue a point long after a decision has been made.

  2. Managers who do not encourage open dialogue are limiting the value of their team. Team members who don’t voice opposing views are denying their management potentially valuable insights. Strong managers respect those who contribute constructively expressed viewpoints. As Einstein said, “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”

  3. My thought on disagreeing with my “chain of command” is this:
    People cannot make a good decision without all the information pertaining to that decision, including my viewpoint! However, disagreement AFTER the decision is made is simply being disagreeable.

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