Handling Conflict with Your Boss as a New Manager

Handling conflict with your boss as a new manager is not easy.  It is hard enough transitioning to a management role where your success is now dependent upon the success of others.  Having conflict with your new boss just adds to the challenge.

In all the new manager training you hopefully went through, did they ever cover handling conflict with your boss as a new manager?  Probably not. But it happens, and you should be prepared to effectively handle it.

What should you do when you disagree with your boss? Though not unlike how you should manage any disagreement at work, when your boss is concerned you want to be sure to apply plenty of finesse.

It is best if you have discussed the possibility of disagreement already and have established a mutually agreeable process for handling a conflict at work. If not, start at the beginning to ensure handling conflict with your boss as a new manager is a positive experience by:

  1. Acknowledging and respecting the other’s position. 
    Put all of your initial energy into understanding, appreciating and empathizing with their point of view. Do not stop asking open-ended questions until they feel 100% understood.  You will know  you have achieved this goal when you ask your boss “Is there anything else I should know?” and they say “No.”
  2. Framing the discussion by articulating a common goal. 
    Based upon what you heard, find some common ground that makes sense for you, your boss and the company. Stay on this topic until you identify a mutually beneficial outcome that you can both hang your hat on.
  3. Asking if you can share your viewpoint.
    Once you have permission, be clear and compelling. Link your perspective to what matters most to your boss, the company and your common goal. If you do not gain permission, schedule time to reconvene when the dust settles.

Whether you’re disagreeing with a boss or with a co-worker, it is critical that you remain calm and objective. There is nothing to be gained (and much to lose) by getting angry or being disrespectful. At the end, you may not end up in agreement but you will have shared your thoughts and opinions openly and honestly and furthered your relationship.

To learn more about handling conflict with your boss as a new manager, download Effective Communication Skills Best Practices: The Essential Ingredient in Any Interaction

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