How to Disagree Respectfully in the Workplace — Your Ultimate Guide

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Whether you start a company with your lifelong best friend, a close family member or a stranger, disagreements are an inevitable part of running a business. But disagreements don’t have to be negative. In fact, they’re often the catalyst for growth, innovation and success.

When I founded ButterflyMX in 2014, I built a small but mighty team of brilliant and talented individuals. And with several smart, talented minds working together towards the same goal, we unsurprisingly butted heads occasionally. But how we reacted to disagreements has made the difference.

At ButterflyMX, we approach disagreements with respect. We do this to foster a healthy work environment where open discussions are cherished.

Read on to discover how you can do the same.

Related: How to Disagree the Right Way

Pick the right time

While confronting someone with a different perspective can be satisfying at the moment, it’s rarely the best solution in the long run. Publicly disagreeing with a colleague, especially one you don’t have a long history with, will likely negatively impact your relationship.

So, when is it a good time to share disagreements with coworkers?

Here are a few times when it’s healthy to bring up disagreements:

  • When in private: If the disagreement concerns just you and one other person, bringing it to their attention during a one-on-one meeting is significantly more effective than bringing it up in a group setting. Not only does this allow for the person to respond to your concerns immediately, but it also eliminates the embarrassment or awkwardness that comes with public disagreements.

  • After the heat of the moment has passed: Oftentimes, disagreements feel much stronger at the moment than they do just a few hours later. Don’t bring up a disagreement if you’re still heated about it. Instead, wait several hours, or even a full day, and bring the issue up when you’ve calmed down and can have a logical discussion.

  • In a scheduled meeting: As mentioned above, bringing up disagreements during a one-on-one meeting is one of the most effective ways to approach them. But springing meetings on a colleague out of the blue may be cause for contention. Schedule a meeting in advance, and if appropriate, outline the purpose of the meeting so both parties arrive prepared to have a productive discussion.

Consider the cost

Not every disagreement is worth causing a commotion. Before approaching the other party, you must consider whether it’s worth scheduling a discussion.

Consider why you disagree with the other party. Are you concerned about how the decision will affect ROI? Does the idea conflict with your branding?

It may be worth a discussion if you can see a clear, logical reason as to why you disagree. If you disagree simply because you feel like things should be done differently, but can’t back that up with data, it may be worth leaving it be.

Related: 7 Steps for Keeping Conflict Healthy

Reinforce opinions with data

It’s easy to disagree with your colleagues. But simply disagreeing with someone isn’t enough to change their point of view. Instead, backing up your opinion with facts strengthens your argument and increases the likelihood that they’ll agree with you.

Say you disagree with a colleague’s marketing strategy for your newest product. Can you back up your opinion with numbers to prove your point? If not, it’s important that you find data that supports your opinion before bringing the disagreement to light.

Not only will taking the extra time to reinforce your opinions with data help you state your case, but it’ll also help the other person understand your point of view and why you think your approach is necessary.

Keep emotions out of it

It’s easy to become passionate about professional and creative disagreements, and that’s not a bad thing; it just proves that you truly care about your work. But you must remain calm when presenting topics that you disagree about.

But why?

Because becoming overly emotional may cause you to become unraveled or to lose focus. Consequently, the person you’re speaking with may become preoccupied with the tone of your argument instead of the content. Keeping your emotions out of your professional disagreements helps you share your point of view without becoming distracted.

Furthermore, demonstrating that you can present differing viewpoints without becoming emotional is key to your professional development. Showcasing your level-headedness in times of stress improves your credibility and increases your colleagues’ respect for you.

Remain flexible

Sharing your ideas and countering the status quo is necessary to promote innovation in all companies — from brand-new startups to legacy companies. But sharing ideas or disagreements doesn’t mean that every new idea you pitch will become commonplace. In fact, being willing to compromise and concede to the other side during professional discussions is just as important as sharing new ideas.

Great employees question the status quo without starkly disrupting the workplace. It’s unlikely you’ll agree with every choice made in your workplace, and sharing your disagreements is necessary for growth. But understanding that not every disagreement will end in you getting your way is key as well.

As much as you share your opinions, be willing to accept your colleagues’ different opinions. Stay flexible and willing to hear different perspectives, and you’ll set the stage for prosperity at your company.

Related: How to Accept Different Perspectives and Collaborate More Effectively

The key to running a successful business isn’t handpicking a workforce that agrees on every idea. Instead, it’s about guiding your employees to raise differing opinions through respectful disagreements.

To disagree respectfully, pick the right time to address issues, consider the cost of addressing the issue, reinforce your choices with data, keep emotions out of it, and remain flexible.

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