Can You Disagree With Your Boss and Not Lose Your Job?

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McChrystal firedPeople are losing their jobs left and right these days, and it’s not because of the economy. It’s because of what they say.

Recently, President Obama relieved Gen. Stanley McChrystal of his job as commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan because of negative remarks he and his aides made about several officials in the Obama administration that were published in a Rolling Stone magazine article. The comments made were pretty clear that the general did not agree with many of the policies and decisions made about the war in Afghanistan.

McChrystal isn’t the first U.S. general to be sacked by a Commander-in-Chief. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman are among those who have done the same during wartime. In a statement, the president gave his reasons for the decision:

The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.

While not everyone is going to be the subject of Rolling Stone feature, more and more people are airing grievances about their bosses to the public via FaceBook, Twitter and text … and getting in trouble for them. For every story you see in the newspaper about this issue, I bet there are many more that aren’t reported. Just this week, a friend told me she might have to let an employee go based on a FaceBook post.

So can you disagree with your boss without losing your job? Yes, but it’s how you do it that can make or break your employment.

Most importantly, you should address the issue directly with your boss in a respectful manner. Joseph Grenny, coauthor of “Crucial Confrontations,” gives some tips on how to do this.

1. Get your motives right. Sometimes we wait to bring up concerns until we’re irritated. This is ineffective because at that point our goal is no longer to be constructive, it’s to punish. Before opening your mouth, ask yourself, “What do I really want?”

2. Start with safety. Begin by clarifying your respect and your intent. Help your boss understand that your intent is to provide a different viewpoint you feel will help achieve your mutual goal.

3. Start with the facts. Once you’ve created safety, you start describing your concerns facts first. Don’t lead with your judgments or conclusions. Start by describing in non-judgmental and objective terms the behaviors that are creating problems.

4. Don’t pile on. As you lay out the facts, monitor safety. If your boss becomes defensive, pause for a moment and check in. Reassure them of your positive intentions and allow them to express any concerns they have.

5. Invite dialogue. Finally, having shared your concerns, encourage your boss to share their perspective. Invite dialogue. The result of your openness will be a greater openness on your boss’s part as well.

Have you ever been fired for something you said about the boss? Have you ever let anyone go because of something he said? Tell us.

49 Comments
  1. Do you not proofread your articles before you post them? This article has missing words and other glaring grammatical errors. It is common (errors online in articles), but just because it’s going on the internet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proofread it first. If it was proofread, you should consider finding someone else. Sorry, just sayin’… and I’m tired of seeing so many errors by ‘so-called writers’ who should KNOW their grammar, etc.

  2. I think you’ve left out the critical factor of HOW you are disagreeing. We all air our frustrations to friends and family, but we don’t all write articles, give interviews, or blast our bosses on social media. At the same time, if you’re going to do that, you need to be aware of what you’re putting out there and how it can come back and bite you in the a$s. Don’t say what you don’t want spread.

    I also want to point out the importance of building trust with your boss BEFORE something happens. Not only will this reduce the chances of you airing your grievances to the world, but your boss will likely be more lenient when you do have a momentary lapse in judgment (if it’s not too drastic).

  3. to anon:

    While there may have been an instance or two where words might have appeared to be missing, I can hardly agree that there were “glaring” grammatical errors. It looks more to me like the author changed her mind midstream and chose a different way of constructing the sentence, inadvertently forgetting to modify the words at the beginning of the sentence to reflect the different approach at the end.

    The piece is written in conversational language, and it comes across as warm, open, inviting, and – most importantly – it conveys the subject matter and delivers the information. Sure, there are a couple of spots where the words could be a little more polished, but all in all, it was a nice little story. I would perhaps have liked to have seen the enumerated list with a little more elaboration on its points, but I am not prepared to vilify the author for that. The use of the third person plural pronoun as a gender-neutral source is unfortunate, but again, I’m not prepared to criticize the author for that, either.

    If you value your grammatical expertise as much as your post would indicate, why not send a helpful message to the editorial staff, or to the author herself? Perhaps someone might appreciate the input and use your advice.

    But that’s not what you chose to do, is it? Why do you find it instead important to launch an anonymous attack against the author, editors, other staff, and the publication itself, not to mention the writing profession in general? Is it simply your intention to do nothing more than scrawl a “gripe in the night” on the wall?

    From the tone of your comment, it appears that you also hoped to inflict some sort of emotional pain or anguish, and make everyone involved with the publication feel stupid or foolish. Your post has the effect of attacking a person’s worth instead of his or her work. It makes me wonder what kind of negativity must exist within you to want to cause such hurt feelings.

    If you have a problem with the wording of the piece, why not email the editors? Every time I have passed along a note regarding grammar, spelling, or word choice, I have received acknowledgments and thanks for having taken the time to do so. Maybe you might want to give that a try, so you can experience a little bit of acknowledged satisfaction from your input and try that on for size, instead of settling for whatever emotional charge you get out of leaving an insult that is untraceable and therefore incapable of defense or response.

    And, before you go attacking a person’s grammar, perhaps you should parse your own writings – especially your post. You may also wish to delve into the art of rhetoric for instruction on hyperbole and logical fallacies, which you seem to use with aplomb. In short, your grammar is far from impeccable. And while you are looking up logical fallacies, you may wish to pay extra special attention to the “tu quoque” fallacy, as you most certainly are guilty of having committed it.

    You should also brush up on third person personal pronouns, gender and number agreement, and the proper use of parenthetical statements. Your post demonstrates that you have not even begun to master that art.

    I really do question the motives of an “anon” poster making an attack against the author of the piece, rather than offering any form of constructive criticism that might actually help people. Putting down others does not make you seem more intelligent or knowledgeable. It makes you seem like an insecure person who can only feel good about him or her self by putting down everyone around them. Unless, of course, that is actually the message you wanted to convey. Unfortunately, your post wasn’t quite clear enough for me to tell.

    Perhaps after you have completed the investigations suggested above, you might then return and offer something constructive for people to read, and maybe then I’ll listen to what you have to say. Until then, you come across as a bitter old crank who gains satisfaction only from hurting the feelings of others.

  4. What is it about you that has to be so critical and “right”. So what if there was an error. It was a good article. I’m guessing that you do not have a ton of friends because you probably criticise a lot. People don’t like that and probably tend to avoid you.

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  6. I wouldn’t advise he hire the proofreader that you used for your comment. Nicely said, Lurquer. As for the article (which should be the subject of the comments in a blog), it was well-written and a practical overview of how to approach a sensitive situation. Thank you for your insight.

  7. @ Lurquer- As a former English major and current author of one of the newsletters for my company, I applaud your response! It is well thought out, precise, and poignant.

    Thank you for addressing not just a person, but a group of people that strike under the cloak of anonymity with no positive intent. Kudos!

  8. This article is pretty much what I am going thru at work right now and as much as I’d like some feedback from others now, I have to say I’m litte leery of posting anything for fear that I’ll be subjected to a discourse on my lack of knowledge. Is there another site I can go to for the same kind of article / discussion? That anyone knows of? Help?

  9. Lurquer,
    Although I do agree with your comments and your eloquence, you have inadvertantly aided the anon writer to digress from the subject. Sooooo…
    If you feel a need to vent, try writing out your feelings and don’t hold back. Then think of yourself as the recipient of the letter and how you would feel if it was you receiving that letter. We all have feelings and try to do what we can to get along with others and have a tendency to bulldoze each other’s feelings be it your boss or a friend. Those who tread lightly are tread upon lightly, those who stomp get stomped – ya know.. equal and opposite force.

  10. Lurquer-
    What’s it to you what anon says, hmmm?
    Why are you attacking people that have legitimate posts?
    Got nothing better to do?
    Give anon a break, it’s still a free country! Well, until the Obamination finishes destroying it!

  11. I’m sorry for a ‘negative comment’, but this article is not professionally written, contains typos and some of the sentence structure is not the greatest..

  12. Well, you can’t disagree with my former boss. I very respectfully declined to perform a task that I was uncomfortable with (i.e. unethical, possibly illegal) and was fired for insubordination. What it really amounted to was my boss did not want any questions asked or any dialogue. So take into consideration what you think the consequences may be. In my case it was life-changing.

  13. Lurquer, while I don’t necessarily agree with Anon’s tone, much less any potential intent, he/she makes a valid point in that the tone and phrasing of the article should have undergone more due diligence in its editing. The advice given by the author is undermined by weak structural and wording choices that detract from what should be a much more advisory and educational tone. Having also written such articles, I’d agree with others that this is a very lackluster piece, and the author would benefit from the feedback she has received here should she wish to view it in a constructive manner. I’d also suggest that several paragraphs to make that point suggests you’ve gone overboard.

    Having said that, Anon successfully made the author’s argument about disagreeing versus being disagreeable. He/she definitely represents the behavior the author felt was ill-advised. I’m glad Anon posted that for us to use as a case-in-point about how to constructively express concerns and reach more positive outcomes. It’s a great case example; I hope the irony wasn’t lost on the readers and commenters.

    A comedian would have used that as a perfect opportunity to deflect the behavior back to the heckler.

    Do I agree with the article? Yes and no. It should be summarized in the phrasing of “disagree without being disagreeable”. One tool the author did not suggest was to disarm any challenges that are levied by the boss/manager by asking them to state their concerns and objectives. Once that person has had an opportunity to “vent”, if you will, the employee can begin responding and framing their case around the objections. The result is a much stronger argument, and a more probable positive outcome for all since the manager may perceive that the employee has given the matter strong consideration.

  14. I am a salary person; however, the company is now requiring a timesheet. There is one employee who takes 4-5 smoke breaks (with the boss); however, this person doesn’t smokes. In other words, she is taking at least two hours every day including her lunch. It has been going on for at least a year. In three years, I have taken total 2 hours extra for lunch. One was last week and when it was time to submit the timesheet, the boss asked to include the long lunch taken. Breaks are not included on the timesheet. I have suggested the person who does payroll to include breaks on it knowing this particular person will not list any breaks taken and the boss won’t ask her to do so. What should I do, since there is preference in the office and the boss is partial to this person?

  15. I was terminated after I told my boss that the change made in the audit process meant accounts receivables were double-billing clients for both private insurance payment and federal program payment. I was never provided a professional written evaluation of my time in the position by this “boss” and their “boss”. The lack of written evaluation cost me a job offer with another agency. Bjoth of these “bosses” continue to work at the agency in question. At one point, there was a 33% turnover in this agency, when staff pointed out “illegal” and “unethical” methods being required by this agency. It has been a life-changing experience and continues to be a factor in attempts to obtain employment.

  16. Penelope, I find the same uneven treatment happens for parents with children — early home-time because of a kid’s ball game or recital or parent-teacher conference. It becomes a bias to anyone who doesn’t have children. Unfortunately, it’s a situation I’ll describe as “when in Rome”.

    You’ve alluded to the boss already being partial to this individual, using the smoking breaks to network or improve their interaction and profile with their superior. Perhaps the other individual is showing you a lesson in networking in that it isn’t about the “hours” but about the perception you’re delivering value even in the touchy-feely interpersonal relationship with the manager. Count the lunch as a lesson learnt, but learn from Mr./Ms. Suckup how to improve your stance and profile with your manager so that he/she perceives your value differently.

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  18. i once worked at a store and had my position switched by my supervisor and im sure it was because i disagreed with her and stuck up for myself, during our meeting i continued to stick up for myself because when she was explaining all the things i did wrong, i would correct her by saying that “i didnt do that job or project” i would say that i accepted the job when it came it, but the labor was done and signed off by another employee, when she would first blame me for jobs that were done wrong or incomplete, i would just ignore it because i didnt want to get on her bad side or i wanted to respect her, but it just kept piling up, i started saying things here and there, just as a note for her to not to be so easy to judge but it never changed, i continued to do it in a respectful way but she never respected me in return, i know the job was stressful on her, and i do admit i did make a lot of mistakes, but i actually only worked there for 3 months before she had me moved, and it wasnt even every day, i was only part time. I realized it was just her and me doing things different, she even complained that i took too long taking notes because i wrote too many notes when i could just do the job, i told her i wanted to take good notes so the person after me would know what to do, like i said i was new so i didnt know everyone capabilities yet, and a lot of times i know i wouldnt finish the job so i wanted to leave notes so they didnt wonder too much about what i was doing, when i was switched i worked there for almost 3 years, i continued doing many jobs but it was no longer due to not being able to do the job right, it was because i was able to do all the jobs, i would take over peoples positions or asked to take over their shift because my new supervisor knew i could do it, i am angry that i let her bring me down, but now i know the truth about whether or not sticking up will get you fired, even after she dismissed me she continued to have me work in the area a bit even though she said i wasnt made for that place, which i didnt get it, why make me work for u some more if im so bad? she also continued to comment on how she loved my outlook on life and how positive i always would, i totally know it wasnt because i was disrespectful, maybe she just felt threatened, who knows, best luck to those who have to work with people like this!

  19. My husband and I were recently having a similar discussion about work place issues when he sized it up this way,” In my job, I am the boss no matter if I am right or wrong, I still remain the boss.” As I am not the boss where I work, I guess my husband let me know to shut up, keep my opinions to myself and do the job if I want the paycheck.

  20. Throwing in a few words to see if it might help anyone else. I have a supervisor in state government who is not above lying on an employee to cover herself or make herself look good. I made the mistake of believing as long as I told the truth, things would always work out. I ended up getting a very harsh letter of concern that took me months to get over the hurt and unjust treatment. But, what I learned was to let go of the desire to make everything perfect or the best it could be. I lost the sense of pride in the work place, but gained a sense of focus only on what is in front of me to do and ignore anything that doesn’t directly hurt my job in some way. I am much happier, doing a good job at work without all the self-imposed stress. I realized that I could still find little things in my work to feel good about that did not require anyone else’s attention. So let go and just enjoy what you can, ignore what you can, and remember that everyone is expendable. A job is not worth upsetting yourself to the point of being unhappy/miserable. Change your attitude to help yourself. And remember, you are not at work to make buddies and get star report cards, but rather to earn the money to pay for the things that will make you happy.

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  29. UNBELIEVEABLE.

    You people take the time to argue over a short little piece that is more a blurb than an article. Look at the length of this thing and tell me how much time you really think the author spent on it. This is a hack job, which is why it is on Yahoo and not on a respectable site or in print.
    Geez! Why does everyone have to be so PC and defend obvious drivel? Everyone is a winner!
    Psssh. Good luck getting ahead in America with that attitude. Although the undercurrents of criticizing the critic’s intelligence – yeah you’re being a passive aggressive hypocrite – speak to some dark elitism in your personality.

    What is wrong with me? Whay am I posting on this site in response to a sub par piece of writing? If you’re not asking yourself that you really should be.

  30. Lurquer,

    That was a well thought out, informative, and even pleasant reply you gave to anon. I dont think I have ever read a more cleaver, carefully worded retaliatory reply in any of the forums I frequent. Normally I dont reply to too many discussion, but I read the original posters article because I am always looking to better myself and my position in my work.

    But I really have to question your motives for making such a reply. First off let me say that I completely agree that “anon” comments were juvenile, disrespectful, uncalled for, and downright ignorant. But then thats to be expected from someone of his caliber. When it comes to writing anything online such as this, not very many of us stop to consider whether or not we are using correct grammar. I know I certainly dont, which will no doubt be evident by my post. So yes anon’s reply was pointless and he was guilty of all of the charges you stated.

    But again I must question your motives for responding in the manner in which you did. Clearly you are very intelligent, that much is evident by your words. Also you are clearly very understanding in your views regarding grammar and its proper use. That much is evident in your desire to state the corrections you saw were needed in anon’s post. But being as intelligent as you obviously are, you should already know, that no amount of teaching will enlighten someone of his mentality.

    All you do by replying to him, as you did, was give him undeserved attention. That was obviously what anon was after otherwise he wouldnt not have made a reply in the first place. His reply had almost nothing to do with the subject of the article, so there was no other need for him to post.

    People like him have fragile egos which need constant attention in order to maintain the self centered and self righteous view they have that they matter more in the greater scheme of things than they do. By giving them that attention it perpetuates their behavior. Its like an electrical circuit. For it to function there must be a power source. Without that power source the circuit does not function. Same is true for people like anon. Their power source is the attention they get. Without it they will simply fade into the background and go away.

    Now admittedly I have given him some attention by replying to you here, but I felt it necessary, because it seems that anon got under your skin. You are far too intelligent a person to let someone like that get to you. In the future do what I do when confronted by someone like that. Just remember, that they are no different than an annoying insect, eventually they will go an bug someone else.

  31. Well, I have said it before, and I will say it again. at one time working in the Mail Room, which around 09-11, which happen to be the timing.

    Mail Rooms around the Countries was outsource. so what’s new? other departments also outsource.

    That’s the whole problem. outsourcing has been the growing trend in this country, if not also in other countries.

    Pay Cuts. which already can’t live on cheep wages, when the CEO and other Hot Shots are making more per hour, then the ones on the bottom is making in year.

    Think about it. that is why CEO’s have $10-$25 Million Houses if not actual monster houses.

    $100.000 Cars. Bonuses and extra Stuck Options. that breaks even when they file their FED Income Tax.

    Yes, one shall and must pay their Taxes, how about making enough to write off for their Kids College Education if not Youngster and High Schools.

    Yes, those that Smoke up a Storm most likely destroyed the discounted Health Insurance
    In additional gets extra Smoke Breaks.

    Those that have kids gets extra time off if must to care for their kids. and or Parents.
    If you’re Single, not married, never had kids, and parents are gone. then you’re screwed.
    You most likely are lucky to have Equal Emergency
    Time for your Brother’s/and or Sisters.

    The fact to the manner is; everyone should get equal time off. of course. extra time is due to Performance and proper Behavior. + having Positive Attitude. getting along with People.

    Thanks!

  32. @ Lurquer

    Thank you for being so articulate regarding the “Anon” writer’s comment. Your response was eloquently written and I cannot add even one item to your reply.

  33. The best advice yet! Take pride in what you know you did at the work place. It’s always hurtful to leave a work that you loved. But you have to be in a place where you can be appreciated and acknowledged.

  34. Well I had a boss about 20 years that was very abusive when someone disagreed with him using very explicit language even insulting/name calling. Well he picked the wrong employee one time the employee flat out told him to either watch the language/insults or fire him ,the boss letgo a few other expletives at this employee who then flat out knocked the boss on his rear. The funny thing is the company had to pay the employee his wages till he got another job.

  35. If you have to disagree with your boss, you are basically screwed. Heck, if you have to work for, or even WITH others, you are screwed.
    Once people go through what is called “education” they lose all sense of reality and respect for others and themselves. The only way to survive is to only respond unjustified attacks, and keep your mouth shut otherwise while hoping for the best….

  36. First of all, as previously stated the article at hand should be the subject of comments. This in mind, I thank the author for a very informative post. I myself not claiming any form of expertise in the field of grammar will not attempt to determine the grammatical value of this article.

    With that being said, THANK YOU Lurquer! That was a very beautiful response to what I would consider an “internet troll”.

    As to you notdunyet, are you aware that you attempted to criticize Lurquer with a double standard…I personally find few things to be as annoying as a double standard. The double standard I’m referring to is you claiming that Anon’s critical comment should not be shunned due to his freedom of speech, yet you yourself shunned Lurquer for exercising his own freedom of speech. Now, I don’t intend to initiate a philosophical debate here, but I must say it is nothing short of cowardice to hide behind the right of free speech to openly seek the hurt of others, with no good intended. No decent human being would use free speech to justify a racial slur, so how can one feel justified to offer any manner of hurtful statement under the right of free speech, hmm?

    Also, “Obamination”? I have a sneaking suspicion you are a fan of the “conservative” political commentators who love making up nonsensical words such as “Obamination” for the sake of generating hype. This is more commonly referred to as sensationalism, akin to the “cure-all elixers” that were once a part of American society. My point being, “Obamination” is not a word, this nation is the United States of American, also known as, the USA, Barak Obama is not god of this nation, the nation’s name did not change upon his election, it is still the USA, and in a nation “by the people, for the people” who is really to blame for this nation’s problems? Are you really involved in trying to fix this nation’s problems? Are you attempting to aid your community, seeking political office, or writing your congressmen? If not, then you are also to blame for the problems that seem to trouble you so.

    Ok, I’ve said my peace. Have a nice day everyone! :) Also, to Anon, and notdunyet I mean no offense to either of you, I’m sure you are both lovely human beings and didn’t mean to offend anyone with your statements, and this is probably just a misunderstanding. Just wanted you to know that there’s no hard feelings on my part. Ok, later!

    Jesus loves us all :) I John 4

  37. I was fired because I said something to a new co-worker. She was sneaky and acted like she agreed with my view. Little did I know, she wanted my job and she got it. Now I cannot find a new job to pay the bills. Never will I make that mistake again. In this economy, never trust a soul. You must agree with everyone and everything about the job, whether it is “ethical” or not. It pays to be the “quiet one”. Why are there so many backstabbers out there? What is wrong with the world today?

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  39. What i don’t understood is actually how you’re not really much more well-liked than you may be now. You are so intelligent. You realize therefore significantly relating to this subject, made me personally consider it from numerous varied angles. Its like men and women aren’t fascinated unless it is one thing to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs nice. Always maintain it up!

  40. Espy award for.. Best Dramafor the fifth or sixth year straight year goes toBrett Favreyoull also see him star in more Wrangler and Sears ads I supposethats if he returns for another yearLOL Report this comment Reply jimmyus333333 says: July 26, 2010 at 5:51 pm Barry Alverez believed he could have a fine team, but needed 3 All-Americans on the roster to make it to the Rose Bowl.I think that number needs to larger then 3 for a Professional fb team to become a Super Bowl champion.In 96, we had 5, Favre, Rison, Reggie, Desi & LeRoy.but there were also other near pro-bowlers on that teamJackson, Hentrich, Timmerman, Levens, Eugene.Thinking that this is a numbers game at this point in the season, do the PB numbers add up this year? Do we have 5 sure-fire pro-bowers, and 4-5 near PBs this year?

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