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How to Disagree with Your Manager and Not Get Fired

Inevitably, every agency professional is going to disagree with their manager on a client campaign strategy, project direction, project scope, etc. If you’re looking to get fired, this is the perfect opportunity to explain to your manager—in detail—how much of an idiot he or she is, along with which slow, dim-witted animal they most resemble.

For everyone else, if done properly, these are moments that can both demonstrate your value to the account team, and strengthen the relationship between you and your manager.

Below, we’ve outlined four steps to effectively disagree with your agency manager without inadvertently getting fired.

1. Speak Up

WFM_Blog_Speak-UpWhether it’s your intelligence, work ethic, or a specialized skill, you’re on the account team for a reason. You need to be confident enough to speak up when you disagree with a manager or colleague. 

According to Monster.com’s Career Advice blog, the first thing any employee must recognize is that their opinion counts. Learning to speak up is vital to expressing your value to the team, as well as to the success of the overall account. (Managers don’t always have the right answers.)

2. Ask Questions

WFM_Blog_QuestionIn all likelihood, your manager has several years more experience than you working at the agency, and potentially even with the client. Use a disagreement as an opportunity to learn from them. 

Their decision-making rationale is likely derived from their own valid, real-world experiences. Even if you think you know the answer, ask questions about how they came to the decision they did, and why your recommendation is not better.

By asking questions, you can bring up your opinion in a non-confrontational way, while helping to foster a mentor / mentee relationship that may serve you well in the long run.

3. Back Up Your Point with Data

WFM_Blog_Data

Ever try to change someone’s opinion by passionately explaining your own opinion? How well did that work out for you?

You need to back up your argument with facts, expert insight and data. According to Time Magazine, “A worker who frames her disagreement as a logical, thoughtful argument in favor of a better approach to a situation or a new idea will be heard gladly and win serious points with their boss.”

Use available technologies, such as analytics tools or project management and time tracking, to validate your suggestion and show how your argument may help achieve an agency or client objective.

4. Eliminate Emotion

WFM_Blog_EmotionThe moment you put your manager on the defensive, you’ve basically blown your chances of getting your argument heard. To avoid this, have a conversation with your manager about how they prefer to be approached when there is a difference of opinion. Do this when the situation is calm and cordial, and find out:

  • How a disagreement should be presented. 
  • When it should be brought up. 
  • Whether they prefer to be contacted privately or among the team.

According to Harvard Business Review, this psychological contract becomes a powerful reference point when emotions run high. After all, a boss is much less likely to take offense to disagreement if he or she has invited it in the first place.”

Remember, you’re allowed to have an opinion, and should be encouraged to voice it. However, it’s up to you to deliver it in a way that gets heard—and when it is the best solution, acted upon.

What are some ways you’ve effectively disagreed with a manager without being fired? Or, even better, what are some ways you’ve disagreed that got you fired? It’s always good to learn from other’s mistakes.