Conflicts With Your Boss Are Inevitable, But Can Be Healthy

If you are a pro-active, get-things-done type, sooner or later you will come in conflict with your boss. The same sort of assertiveness and confidence that leads you to have a mind of your own has helped him to earn his position.

Another reality is that if you do not have some periodic disagreements with your supervisors you are probably not being as assertive as you should be in moving your career ahead.

These conflicts can prove to be hazardous to the health of your career if they are not handled with common sense, says Ramon Greenwood, senior career counselor,>

No one enjoys conflict, especially with the boss. But when you have an honest difference of opinion, it is better to pay the price of discomfort and take the risk of some penalty than to bottle up the frustration and nagging conscience that results from not meeting what you see as your responsibilities.

Knowing you will have conflicts, you can be prepared to handle them so there are no individual losers.


Greenwood says there are nine steps you can take to lessen the damage that can result from conflicts with your boss. In fact, you can turn these conflicts to your advantage.

1. The first step is to concisely define the issue-- preferably in writing-- so that you have a clear understanding as to what the controversy is all about. Determine how important it is to the parties involved and to the organization.

If it is not truly important beyond your personal feelings, forget it. Save your energies for another time when the stakes are significant.

2. Give full consideration to the points of view of all parties concerned, especially the boss. His responsibilities are different than yours. He may have a legitimate reason for his opinion, which you are not aware of at the moment. The conflict you see may disappear with an explanation.

3. Weigh your reasons and objectives against the good of the organization. Before you "go to the mat" on an issue, be sure you are motivated by what you believe to be the larger interest and not just your own narrowly defined agenda.

4. Ask for a face-to-face discussion with your boss if, after due consideration, you still feel the difference is worth pursuing. If the matter is not resolved with a meeting, ask permission to leave a written explanation with your boss for his further consideration.

5. Never push your boss into a corner where he has no room for compromise. Do not air the conflict with your boss in the presence of others.

6. Avoid letting the matter be positioned on a personal basis. Emotions and personalities have no place in a confrontation with the boss.

7. Be tactful. Show respect for the boss's position and responsibilities. Whatever the outcome of your differences with him, he is still your boss.

8. Keep the matter in perspective. It is good to remember that win, lose or draw, it is a rare situation when the resolution of an issue results in a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or the world coming to an end.

9. Don't pin a medal on your chest if you prevail or wear the black of mourning if the decision goes the other way. Get on with the job. If you have been heard and the boss still doesn't agree, be a good trooper, support his decision, openly and aggressively. If the outlook is contrary to your basic values look for another job.

If you can't discuss the inevitable conflicts with your boss in a free and open manner so as to arrive at acceptable resolutions, or if such disagreements are so frequent and painful that your life and career are being disrupted, recognize you have a problem larger than any single issue. It may be that you are at odds with the standards and objectives of the boss or the organization. Or the personal chemistry between you and your boss may be out of balance.

If you can't resolve the conflicts or live with them, locate another opportunity. Life is too short to exist in a world of turmoil and confrontations, in the opinion of Greenwood.

Senior career counselor for, Ramon Greenwood is a former senior vice president of American Express; a professional director for various businesses; a consultant; a published author of career related books and a syndicated column

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