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How to argue effectively at work

Kathy Collins, CMO at H&R BlockKathy Collins, CMO at H&R Block
Kathy Collins, CMO at H&R BlockCourtesy of H&R Block

MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. This week we ask: How do you disagree with your boss? The following answer is by Kathy Collins, Chief Marketing Officer of H&R Block.

How do I disagree with my boss? Factually, respectfully, and often! My relationship with my boss, our CEO, is one of mutual trust and respect, which is a great place from which to start any disagreement. However, we don’t always see the world – or the potential impact of our decisions – the same way. He tends to make (and expect) quick decisions from the gut, but intelligently. I, on the other hand, tend to “brew” on the alternatives, the potential impacts, the long-term brand effect, and all of the dominoes that may start to fall. But, what’s really important here – is that we have built a culture of safety. Debate is encouraged. Our core value is based on “doing the right thing,” and part of that is a no-blame culture. We make good decisions and bad ones. But we learn from our mistakes, fix them, and move on.

In complete transparency, I have a very high EQ – I’m emotionally driven in many aspects of my life. However, when it comes to disagreements with my boss – I turn off the emotion, and take in the facts. Whether it’s numbers, past history, or competitive analysis — I make a point of stressing the business, brand, or financial reason for my debate. That doesn’t mean I won’t become highly animated – but only if it helps my case. And – a little humor never hurts.

The bottom line is quite simple: I wouldn’t have a job if I didn’t disagree with my boss. None of us would (or should). The best partnerships, the strongest relationships are those in which two people can disagree, but walk away feeling safe and secure. You win some, and you lose some. The real win is in knowing that you have done everything you can to do the right thing, or get the brand/business to the right place.

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

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