Wednesday, June 12

How to Respectfully Disagree With a Coworker

Even if you are, for the most part, on the same page with someone, you’re bound to disagree with them about something sooner or later. If this doesn’t happen often—or you’re navigating the situation for the first time—it can be stressful: After all, no one wants to jeopardize a functional relationship.

While this is the case in our personal lives, it’s also true in professional settings, because having good working relationships with our colleagues can make all the difference. At the same time, going along with everything a coworker says, does, and proposes—even when you disagree—isn’t an effective strategy either (and probably won’t end well).

It’s completely fine—and totally normal—to disagree with people at work. Here are a few tips for doing so respectfully.

Having a difference of opinion with a colleague may be a bit awkward or tense in the moment, but overall, it’s something positive: If everyone agreed on everything, the status quo might be maintained indefinitely, stifling innovation and progress.

Here are some strategies for addressing disagreements at work in a respectful and productive way:

Instead of wasting time either ignoring the disagreement, or not letting your colleague know you disagree with them in the first place, bring it up as soon as you can. Be prepared to communicate not only the fact that you aren’t in agreement with a coworker’s proposal or policy, but also the reasons why you’re opposed. But…

When explaining why you disagree with your coworker, stick to practical, professional, and factual reasons, including the potential impact on the organization. Avoid making it about anything personal, like an unhealthy rivalry with a colleague, personal attacks, or furthering your own agenda.

So, you’ve identified what you disagree with your coworker about and why; now it’s time to figure out what you agree on—especially your shared goals. This will reinforce the idea that you’re actually on the same team, and ultimately, both stand to benefit from finding a solution with broad appeal—even though some compromising will likely be involved.

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