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Career Hints – 5 ways to overcome a disagreement with your supervisor

Career Hints – 5 ways to overcome a disagreement with your supervisor

Most of us have experienced a disagreement with our supervisor at some point in our careers. While these events may seem traumatic at the time, the reality is that if you handle the situation correctly it may actually be beneficial, because our actions show that we can negotiate our way through difficult situations and arrive at mutually acceptable outcomes.

1. Define the problem

Have you ever had one of those moments where you argue about everything except the issue in question? You’re certainly not alone.

When you’re in a position of disagreement, the first and most important thing to do is to take a moment to reflect and identify the core issue(s). Be objective; sit down with a piece of paper and write out everything you think is an issue, then rank the most to least important. The real issue is usually looking right back at you from the top of the list.

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    External validation is valuable. Find a trusted colleague or friend, explain the situation, and show them the top three items on your list. Ask what they would focus on, and listen hard to their answers to decide if you’d change your ranking.

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    Sometimes the list technique also helps us to understand that we’re just over-reacting and there is no core problem that needs to be addressed. If so, perhaps having a discussion with your trusted colleague or friend is a good idea. They may have some insights to share.

    Remember, 90% of conflict is just inadequate or ineffective communication. By defining the problem, you may find that you’re just not communicating well; a relatively easy and short term problem to fix.

    2. Find Common Ground

    “I think in most relationships that have problems, there’s fault on both sides. And in order for it to work, there has to be some common ground that’s shared. And it’s not just one person making amends.” – Michael Gary Scott from “The Office”.

    For every two things you and your supervisor disagree on there are probably twenty that you actually do agree on. Focus on the common ground first, then start talking about the points of disagreement in a safe and private forum, rather than just going into whatever it is that’s making you feel reactive.

    Often the points of agreement mediate the points of disagreement; for example, you may not agree on a specific item of the dress code, but you do agree on the need for the company to be professional and successful. Bring out your support for professionalism as a mediating factor for your disagreement about the item of clothing and the conversation will be more productive. Who knows? Maybe both parties can find things they can change.

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    3. See the Other Point of View

    “The war… was an unnecessary condition of affairs, and might have been avoided if forbearance and wisdom had been practiced on both sides.” – General Lee.

    Your supervisor has a point of view. By actively listening to them express that point of view, you are signaling a willingness to listen and engage, as well as a respect for their authority. You don’t have to agree with what they are saying, but you do need to listen and take their view into account.

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      If you’ve already identified what you believe the core problem is, you might test the waters to see if your supervisor agrees with your number one issue being the primary area of concern. If they don’t, then you need to add their concerns to the list of issues you made to consider their points.

      4. Set Boundaries

      “All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

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        There are things you and your supervisor will not agree on. These usually include illegal situations such as sexual harassment and discrimination, but you may have ethical boundaries of your own that you simply cannot cross. Know what these are, and keep them in the forefront of your mind as you talk to your supervisor.

        5. Escalate if Absolutely Necessary

        “Between an uncontrolled escalation and passivity, there is a demanding road of responsibility that we must follow.” – Dominique de Villepin

        Most companies offer several ways of resolving conflict between supervisors and workers, including employee assistance programs (EAP), human resources intervention, and even third party mediators, that can all be valuable resources when you feel like you are “stuck”.

        I rarely recommend going “up the chain” to your supervisor’s supervisor because this can be seen as an aggressive move that puts your supervisor into the complex position of having to manage both you and their boss – a situation sure to cause conflict in itself.

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        Employees often do well to start with an off the record discussion with their Employee Assistance Program to help them frame their thoughts, before working with human resources to address the issue. The only exception to this case is when you believe something illegal is occurring in which case it is your obligation to notify HR or your internal compliance officer immediately.

        The role of HR is to take both the company’s and the employee’s interests and attempt to mediate a mutually acceptable solution wherever possible. It’s a complex role where you can’t make everyone happy, and skillful practitioners are in high demand.

        Remember your HR representative is a person who should be treated with respect if you expect them to work on your behalf.  Outbursts of emotion should be checked at the door, and your best chance of resolution is being seen as willing to work with your supervisor to find mutually acceptable outcomes.

        To Sum Up

        “Human beings are born solitary, but everywhere they are in chains – daisy chains – of interactivity. Social actions are makeshift forms, often courageous, sometimes ridiculous, always strange. And in a way, every social action is a negotiation, a compromise between ‘his,’ ‘her’ or ‘their’ wish and yours.” – Andy Warhol

        Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

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        More by this author

        Colin Rhodes

        Chief Technology Officer

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        Last Updated on April 8, 2020

        9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

        9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

        Congratulations, you’re starting a new job! You’re feeling relieved that the interviews and the wait for a decision from the hiring manager is over, and you’ve finally signed the offer.

        Feelings of fear and anticipation may surface now as you think about starting work on Monday. Or you may feel really confident if you have plenty of work experience.

        Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones. It’s very common for seasoned professionals to overestimate themselves due to the breadth of their experience.

        Companies offer different depths of on-boarding experiences.[1] Ultimately, success in your career depends on you.

        Below are 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career.

        1. Your Work Starts Before Your First Day

        When you prepared for your interview, you likely did some research about the company. Now it’s time to go more in depth.

        • How would your manager like you to prepare for your first day? What are his/her expectations?
        • What other information can your manager provide so that you can start learning more about the role or company?
        • What company policies or reports can you review that can get you acclimatized to your new job and work environment?

        You’ll need to embrace a lot of new people and information when you start your new job. What you learn before your first day at work can help you feel more grounded and prepare your mind to process new information.

        2. Know Your Role and the Organization

        Review the job posting and know your responsibilities. Sometimes, job postings are simplified versions of the job description. Ask your manager or human resources if there is a detailed job description of your role.

        Once you understand your key responsibilities and accountabilities, ask yourself:

        • What questions do you have about the role?
        • What information do you need to do your job effectively?
        • Who do you need to meet and start building relationships with?

        Continue to increase your knowledge and do your research through the company Intranet site, organizational charts, the media, LinkedIn profiles, the industry and who your company competitors are.

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        This is not a one time event. Continue to do this throughout your time with the company. Every team or project you engage with will evolve and change.

        Keep current and be ready to adapt by using your observational skills to be aware of changes to your work environment and people’s behaviour.

        3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work

        Understanding your work culture is key to help you succeed in your career.

        Many of these unwritten rules will not be listed on company policies. This means you’ll need to use all of your senses to observe the environment and the people within it.

        What should you wear? See what your peers and leaders are wearing. Notice everything from their jewelry down to their shoes. Once you have a good idea of the dress code you can then infuse your own style.

        What are your hours of work? What do you notice about start, break and end times? Are your observations different from what you learned at the interview? What questions do you have based on your observations? Asking for clarity will help you make informed decisions and thrive in a new work setting.

        What are the main communication channels?[2] What communication mediums do people use (phone, email, in-person, video)? Does the medium change in different work situations? What is your manager’s communication style and preference? These observations will help you better navigate your work environment and thrive in the workplace.

        4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions

        You got the job, you’re feeling confident and are eager to show how you can contribute. Check the type of language you are using when you’re approaching your work and sharing your experiences.

        I’ve heard many new employees say:

        • “I used to do this at ‘X’ company …”
        • “When I worked at “X” company we implemented this really effective process …”
        • “We did this at my other company … how come you guys are not …”
        • “Why are you doing that … we used to do this …”

        People usually don’t want to hear about your past company. The experiences that you had in the past are different in this new environment.

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        Remember to:

        • Notice your assumptions
        • Focus on your own work
        • Ask questions, and
        • Learn more about the situation before offering suggestions.

        You can then better position yourself as a trusted resource that makes informed decisions tailored to business needs.

        5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification

        Contrary to common belief, asking questions when you’re starting a new job is not a vulnerability.

        Asking relevant questions related to your job and the company:

        • Helps you clarify expectations
        • Shows that you’ve done your research
        • Demonstrates your initiative to learn

        Seeking to clarify and understand your environment and the people within it will help you become more effective at your job.

        6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand

        Starting a new job is the perfect time to set clear expectations with your manager and colleagues. Your actions and behaviors at work tells others about your work style and how you like to operate. So it’s essential to get clear on what feels natural to you at work and ensure that your own values are aligned with your work actions.

        Here are a few questions to reflect on so that you can clearly articulate your intentions and follow through with consistent actions:

        Where do you need to set expectations? Reflect on lessons learned from your previous work experiences. What types of expectations do you need to set so that you can succeed?

        Why are you setting these expectations? You’ll likely need to provide context and justify why you’re setting these boundaries. Are your expectations reasonable? What are the impacts on the business?

        What are your values? If you value work life balance, but you’re answering emails on weekends and during your vacation time, people will continue to expect this from you. What boundaries do you need to set for yourself at work?

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        What do you want to be known for? This question requires some deep reflection. Do you want to be known as a leader who develops and empowers others? Maybe you want to be known for someone who creates an environment of respect where everyone can openly share ideas. Or maybe you want to be someone who challenges people to get outside their comfort zones?

        7. Manage Up, Down, and Across

        Understanding the work styles of those around you is key to a successful career. Particularly how you communicate and interact with your immediate manager.

        Here are a few key questions to consider:

        • How can you make your manager’s job easier?
        • What can you do to anticipate her/his needs?
        • How can you keep them informed (and prepared) so they don’t get caught off-guard?
        • What are your strengths? How can you communicate these to him/her so that they fully understand your capabilities?

        These questions can also apply if you manage a team or if you deal with multiple stakeholders.

        8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company

        It’s important to keep learning from diverse groups and individuals within the company. You’ll get different perspectives about the organization and others may be able to help you succeed in your role.

        What types of relationships do you need to build? Why are you building this relationship?

        Here are some examples of workplace relationships:

        • Immediate Manager. He/she controls your work assignments. The work can shape the success of your career.
        • Mentors. These are people who are knowledgeable about their field and the company. They are willing to share their experiences with you to help you navigate the workplace and even your career.
        • Direct Reports. Your staff can influence how successful you are at meeting your goals.
        • Mentees. They are another resource to help you keep informed about the organization and your opportunity to develop others.

        Other workplace relationships include team members, stakeholders, or strategic partners/sponsors that will advocate for your work.

        Learn more in this article: 10 Ways to Build Positive And Effective Work Relationships

        9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

        “Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama

        You are part of an ecosystem that has gotten you to where you are today. Every single person and each moment that you have encountered with someone has shaped who you are – both positive and negative.

        Here’s How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

        Make sure you continue to nurture the relationships that you value and show gratitude to those who have helped you achieve your goals.

        Summing It Up

        There are many aspects of your career that you are in control of. Observe, listen, and make informed decisions. Career success depends on your actions.

        Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones.

        Here are the 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career:

        1. Your Work Starts Before Your 1st Day
        2. Know Your Role and the Organization
        3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work
        4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions
        5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification
        6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand
        7. Manage Up, Down, and Across
        8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company
        9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

        Celebrate, enjoy your new role, and take good care of yourself!

        More Tips About Succeeding in Career

        Featured photo credit: Frank Romero via unsplash.com

        Reference

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