Disagreements are tricky to navigate in a professional way in general. However, when you’re a defense professional that doesn’t agree with your boss, it’s even more challenging to get it right. Simply remaining constructive is potentially tough. Couple that with ensuring you don’t come across as judgmental, insulting, or condescending, and the difficulty rises.

Fortunately, there are strategies that can keep the conversation moving in the right direction and ensure the proper tone. Here’s a look at how to handle disagreeing with your boss as a defense employee.

Choose the Right Setting

When and where you express your perspective to your boss makes a difference. Often, disagreeing openly in an exposed setting – such as during a team meeting or when your boss is walking down a hall – isn’t well-received. It can leave your boss feeling vulnerable, which isn’t ideal.

Instead, consider arranging for a private one-on-one to discuss your perspective. Scheduling a meeting in your boss’s office is potentially the best choice, as it allows you to speak in person. However, remote defense employees could opt for a video or voice call instead if needed.

Skew Toward the Positive Initially

At the start of the conversation, skew toward the positive. Outline points your boss made or relating to the approach they want to use that you agree with first. This shows you’re acknowledging the strengths of their position, which is typically received as a sign of respect.

After that, you can shift to the areas you disagree with, but it’s best to use the right strategy. Describe one point where you think improvements or adjustments are necessary. Then, quickly pivot by asking your boss what they think about the idea. With that approach, you’re actively soliciting feedback instead of making demands or strong assertions. Essentially, it invites further discourse, adopting a collaborative and suggestion-oriented mindset over a declarative one.

Actively Listen to Your Boss’s Response

When your boss responds to your position, use active listening skills. After your boss outlines their perspective, paraphrase it back to ensure complete understanding. If necessary, ask clarifying questions to get a better grip on the details, and don’t worry about forming a reply until you fully understand their view.

What’s critical to remember is that defense jobs come with a degree of rigidity. As a result, you may learn that your boss relies on a process or decision due to specific requirements, such as policies or formal strategies that aren’t familiar to you. By actively listening, you may learn about obstacles or conditions that are steering your boss’s position, and that can help make their position easier to understand.

Additionally, if your boss is open to changes and able to make them, this strategy makes a positive impression. It respects your boss’s expertise and authority, which is critical when you work in the defense sector. However, it also creates opportunities for conversations that lead to beneficial improvements, all without stepping on anyone’s toes.

Ultimately, the strategies outlined above can help you constructively disagree with your boss. In turn, it allows you to avoid missteps that could harm your reputation, all while allowing you to elevate your defense employer.

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