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Rooftop Slushie

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What Do You Do If You Disagree With Your Boss?

Boss or not, there's always that inevitable question on how to resolve conflicts at work during behavioral interviews..

I never knew how to answer this question πŸ˜‚, so I asked one engineering manager (Dios) at Facebook who is heavily involved in the hiring process on how to better answer this question. He gave some great pointers, which I'd like to share here even though it's short:

1. Use data to win arguments
Can you tell a story about using product data to bring objective data to a subjective debate?

2. Express empathy
Good answers will sound more like "I think doing it this way is more in-line with our goals, and here's why", and less like "I think you're wrong and that's a bad idea."

3. Highlight that debate and disagreement is healthy and improve teams
Of course there is a healthy debate and unhealthy debate. Make it really clear that you use disagreements as an opportunity to learn OR influence others, not to win arguments.

4. Step back and understand everyone's point of view
Perhaps there's a good reason for the disagreement that you can learn from. Maybe there are other factors worth considering. This will help take some of the emotion out of the conversation and bring you back to a rational place.

πŸ‘» Curious how everyone else would answer this question!

ps. If anyone's interested, Dios also wrote about how to write a better resume here (completely free to read upon sign-up). I'm currently working at a startup where we help job seekers to get interview/career advice from tech employees.

More to come!

Discussion (21)

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jkhaui profile image
Jordan Lee

Been experiencing this a lot recently. Initially, I would put a lot of thought into conveying a contrarian viewpoint in a civil manner if the issue was something I felt strongly about. Now I realise there's no point bothering unless you have a stake in the company, cos no one will appreciate your efforts anyway. Especially not when your boss goes with their gut over data.

Want us to prioritise speed and hacky work-arounds over properly built infrastructure? Sure, you're the boss. Want that navbar designed in a way that breaks every known UI/UX best practice? Again, you're the boss

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andrewharpin profile image
Andrew Harpin

I.e. toxic work environment.

Speed over quality will always come back to bite them.

The technical debt will build up to the point where it becomes unmanageable, the business reputation will be destroyed and customers will leave.

Quick fixes work for short term issues, but consistent unrealistic deadline targets are detrimental to the business.

Usually as a result of overselling the capabilities of the business.

A customer informed of a realistic deadline and cost, early in the project will be be more understanding and a respect will build, especially if you can achieve the desired result.

It also means that future work will be more efficient for the company and the customer due to that lack of technical debt, as you achieved they will come back for more business and build the company a reputation for delivering quality, on time.

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elmuerte profile image
Michiel Hendriks

Speed over quality will always come back to bite them.

That's assuming they have not moved on to the higher paid position by that time.

And when the fire is put at their feet, it's their subordinates who are to blame.

Thread Thread
andrewharpin profile image
Andrew Harpin

I see your perspective, we need to meet business goals.

I agree, within reason, but apportioning blame is not constructive, the focus should be on the solution and fixing the problem, not singling people out due to some minor timing issue, due to some typically arbitrary timing set by the customer.

Obviously there are extreme cases where blame is necessary.

They do sometimes have business requirements, that need a specific timing and that is normal.

But if the modus operandi for the business is speed over quality, it will eventually burn them.

As with most things in life, there needs to be appropriate balance.

Now everyone's perspective is different and it will always be a matter of opinion.

Thread Thread
elmuerte profile image
Michiel Hendriks

Quality attributes are business requirements. They are just the ones easily forgotten/ignored. Customers request functionality (they ask for this), but they expect quality (they do not ask about this).

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frogthanos profile image
Athanasios

I understand how you feel, I have been through similar situations at my previous job.

But I came realized that I owed it to my professional self to always give my viewpoint and opinion about expertise related matters, even if they get completely disregarded. This way I go on record and nobody can backtrack and point the finger to me if something goes wrong. I did my part and I warned you. (the boss)

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coly010 profile image
Colum Ferry

Here's a related question.

Should your boss be your boss if they aren't open to hearing out and talking through your opinion?

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andrewharpin profile image
Andrew Harpin

Difference between a boss and a leader

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murrayvarey profile image
MurrayVarey

Really good point!

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mrsaeeddev profile image
Saeed Ahmad

On a serious note, I think one should listen to Boss' point of view as well. Supplementing one's arguments with things which have impact and good effect on business and operations of a company can make your boss agree to your point. Also, in terms of a project, you may come with concrete reasons for choosing a tech stack, devising a process or any other thing related to this. In terms of startups, I think most important thing is creating 'value' which will ultimately result in increased customer engagement and revenue. So, if you are in a startup, you can devise ways to link 'value' thing in your business model to revenue. That way disagreements can be minimised. What do you think?

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forkbomb profile image
Joe Buckle

In some scenarios, simple responses like "You hired me as the expert and therefore I say we do it this way" can earn you respect as you're willing to take responsibility.
If I had a boss that I never agreed with and was unwilling to take on board my feedback I wouldn't be working there long ;)

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murrayvarey profile image
MurrayVarey
  1. Step back and understand everyone's point of view

I would start at this. Why is your boss disagreeing?

Your boss might well have a good point. Or you may actually agree overall, but are quibbling over details. Either of these can be helped by taking a step back.

Sometimes your boss might feel the need to save face. That's not something to dismiss -- we've all been there. In which case, look for a way to help them out (without necessarily saying as much).

Other times, your boss might just be a jerk. In which case it's probably time for a new boss.

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omiossec profile image
Olivier Miossec

Hi,

I run in this situation several times. My advises, try to understand the situation not only from your boss's position but also in term of delivery to the final client. More important, it's important to demonstrate your position, not only with data, but with POC.
A long time ago, my CTO did not like my technical choices. I wanted something he knew, something more mainstream. I run POC, I go beyond what's needed. It help him to understand the true value of what I did and finally I got the support from direction.

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andrewharpin profile image
Andrew Harpin

POC has multiple definitions, you may wish to clarify

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

It depends on what type of reasons you are disagreeing with your boss?

Looking for a common ground that both of you agree on is always a good start and avoiding personal attacks.

"A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall." So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey which catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the highroad to his reason." - Abraham Lincoln

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thbe profile image
thbe

I think those points can help but based on my longterm experience so far I would focus on other areas because even if most discussions look technical, in fact, it's about the social part of the game:

  • The most important step is, tell your boss that you disagree! Don't tell your colleagues that you disagree with the decision and hope one of them will tell the boss. Tell it your boss directly, ideally one on one without a further audience.

  • Try to convince him but don't be emotional, use simple facts and if he disagrees, he disagrees. This is not the end of the world! It's his role to make the call, regardless of whether you like it or not and he will be responsible for the call. Remember, sometimes it could also be a test to see who can deal best with decisions he doesn't like.

  • And finally, concentrate on the next steps that needs to be done, you can't fix the past, you can only change the future. Even if you are not happy with the previous decision, try to make the best out of it. It will not be the last decision you'll face in your life, there are plenty to come and staying positive and focused will bring you in a much better position when the next disagreement pops up.

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richardeschloss profile image
Richard Schloss • Edited on

I would say step 4 should be step 0. Listen first, then present your case using the Socratic method if you still think you have one. Give the boss the benefit of the doubt and assume a lot of thought has already been given to your concerns. A good boss would be open-minded and open to improving things. A good boss is your champion, defends you when you are not looking, even when it may not always seem like it. Assume it's not easy being the boss.

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thepeoplesbourgeois profile image
Josh

All of this works quite a bit better than what I did, which was "get fired" πŸ˜‚

😭

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mrsaeeddev profile image
Saeed Ahmad

Based upon my experience, I think I can never agree with my boss πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

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rooftopslushie profile image
Rooftop Slushie Author

Hahah love this answer!

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ • Edited on

According to the great A. Hirschman, you have really only 3 basic options:

Exit, Voice and Loyalty

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exit,_Voice,...