Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn
Courtesy of Ruder Finn, Inc.
By Kathy Bloomgarden
December 16, 2014

MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you disagree with your boss? is written by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

It is important to speak up, and this sometimes means disagreeing with your boss. Getting disagreements on the table make it possible to challenge a problem and gain alignment – without this, teams can’t move forward in the same direction. Also, tensions get buried and that eventually creates problems. With markets changing so fast, and many business models in transition, real debates on strategy, direction, and targets are extremely critical today.

But how do you challenge the boss? Personalities are different so there will always be variations on how to approach this type of discussion, but I think there are three points that are essential to every conversation:

1.) Present the facts. Start the conversation with an analytical assessment of how you came to your conclusion and why your perspective is different. Steer clear of framing your points as opinion or emotionally-based.

2.) Think it through. Chart out the risks and benefits of both paths – your recommendation and that of your boss’. Don’t leave room for surprises!

3.) Own what you’re suggesting. Be transparent about what you can deliver, over what timeframe, and what resources you will need. It’s important to be specific and clear.

The most dangerous elements of disagreeing with your boss are emotionally charged conversations, lack of clarity on why you disagree, and confusion about the choices on the table. Don’t get caught in these traps, and your chances of having a productive talk will be greatly enhanced.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How do you disagree with your boss?

How to argue effectively at work by Kathy Collins, Chief Marketing Officer of H&R Block.

5 ways to (nicely) disagree with your boss Barbara Dyer, President and CEO of The Hitachi Foundation.

Why it’s always ok to disagree with your boss by Pontish Yeramyan, founder and CEO of Gap International.

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