Don’t Take Disagreements Personally
October 7, 2021
A young mentee of mine recently confided in me about some work-related stress he was experiencing. In the course of work discussions and debates, he and his supervisor often got into arguments and disagreements. He was worried that would negatively affect his career.
I asked him if he felt stressed because his boss was reacting negatively or acting up with him.
His response was, “Actually; my boss seems ok. But, I am uncomfortable because he keeps challenging every idea I bring to him, and I have to justify and defend my point of view strongly. Many times I also can’t entirely agree with his viewpoints. If he questions and challenges everything I say, perhaps he is uncomfortable with what I say and do. That is why I feel stressed.”
I narrated a small story to give him a perspective.
Anila joined the bank a few months back, and she felt frustrated.
Her approach to problems was very different from her supervisor, leading to intense debates over solutions.
One fine morning, Anila put up her resignation.
“Why?” asked the supervisor.
“Because your thought process is very different from mine,” Anila replied.
The supervisor gently smiled and said, “That’s precisely the reason why you were hired in the first place!”. He explained, “If two people always agree, one of them is not needed. I debate with you to check and validate your assumptions as well as clarify our thinking. I am not taking our disagreements personally; why would you? If you do, you will never grow.”
The story I narrated was real, and I was the supervisor.
Most people believe that having difficult conversations with their supervisors is undesirable and wrong. They fear that it will harm their relationship. That’s simply not true. Most organizations and leaders are always looking for individuals with strong values and deep convictions.
Standing up for your ideas is one of the essential professional traits that everyone appreciates and respects.
“Has it occurred to you that perhaps your boss enjoys having intellectual debates with you?” I left my young friend with this question.