Weekly Business Insights from Top Ten Business Magazines | Week 319 | Leading & Managing Section | 1
Extractive summaries and key takeaways from the articles curated from TOP TEN BUSINESS MAGAZINES to promote informed business decision-making | Since September 2017 | Week 319 | October 20-26, 2023
The Delicate Dynamics of Challenging a Superior
By Benjamin Laker | MIT Sloan Management Review | October 12, 2023
Extractive Summary of the Article | Listen
The act of challenging a superior necessitates more than just raising one’s voice; it involves understanding, navigating, and engaging in the subtle yet complex dance of power dynamics, diplomacy, and mutual respect. Approaching someone above you in the professional hierarchy requires a delicate balance and a deep understanding of both the person and the situation. For those keen on maintaining professional decorum and growing in their roles, the following guide can help ensure that your challenging conversations are both constructive and respectful.
Choose your battles wisely. Workplaces are vibrant ecosystems of opinions, processes, and methodologies. It can be enticing to address every single discrepancy or divergence in opinion that one encounters, but wisdom lies in discerning which battles are worth fighting. Every time a potential disagreement arises, consider: Is this issue so significant that it warrants a confrontation? Minor differences in opinion might be addressed more effectively through passive channels or should even be overlooked. But larger concerns, especially those affecting team dynamics, company culture, or broader business objectives, require a more direct approach.
Understand the importance of timing. Before even considering challenging a superior, it’s crucial to pause and assess the situation from a holistic viewpoint. Is your concern so immediate that it demands to be addressed immediately? Alternatively, would it be better to earmark it for a detailed, private discussion later?
Prioritize private discussions. By choosing a private setting for these discussions, you provide both yourself and your superior with an atmosphere conducive to open and genuine dialogue.
Master the art of “I” statements. Effective communication is as much about content as it is about delivery. The words we choose and the manner in which we frame our concerns can significantly influence the reception of our message. Instead of adopting a potentially confrontational tone, use “I” statements to express observations, feelings, and suggestions.
Embrace the feedback process. Demonstrating a genuine openness to feedback, even if it’s contradictory to your viewpoint, is vital. This approach not only paves the way for mutual respect but also fosters a culture of continuous learning and collaboration within the organization.
Align with like-minded peers, but tactfully. Finding allies or colleagues who share your perspective can provide additional weight to your concerns. The primary focus should always remain on the collective benefit of the organization rather than on forming factions within the team.
Keep the organization’s goals at the forefront. By consistently aligning your feedback and suggestions with the company’s mission and values, you reassure your superiors of your commitment to the collective success of the organization over your individual aspirations.
Brace for a spectrum of outcomes. While we all hope for positive and constructive outcomes from our disagreements, it’s essential to be prepared for a variety of reactions. Your superior might be receptive, indifferent, or even defensive. By anticipating these potential responses and planning your strategies accordingly, you ensure that you remain balanced, constructive, and professional, irrespective of the immediate feedback.
3 key takeaways from the article
- The act of challenging a superior necessitates more than just raising one’s voice; it involves understanding, navigating, and engaging in the subtle yet complex dance of power dynamics, diplomacy, and mutual respect.
- For those keen on maintaining professional decorum and growing in their roles, the following guide can help ensure that your challenging conversations are both constructive and respectful. Choose your battles wisely. Understand the importance of timing. Prioritize private discussions. Master the art of “I” statements. Embrace the feedback process. Align with like-minded peers, but tactfully. Keep the organization’s goals at the forefront. And brace for a spectrum of outcomes.
- Every professional interaction, especially those involving challenges or confrontations, provides a rich opportunity for personal and professional growth. After the discussion, take the time to evaluate the effectiveness of the conversation, the strategies employed, and the outcomes achieved.
(Copyright lies with the publisher)Topics: Negotiations, Teams, Organizational Behavior