Achievers are used to being rewarded for being right. After all, it’s likely that being right is what got you where you are today. However, the more leadership you assume, the less you’re dealing with the technical areas (sales, marketing, finance, engineering) where you learned your skills, and the more you’re making decisions that impact people in those areas.
Communication occurs at two levels: the technical level and the human level. Being right is generally tethered to technical decisions. When you try and apply that same thinking to human interaction, you’re a lot less likely to be effective.
In a company, there’s only one person who decides whether your work is correct or not, and that’s your manager. When you state that your supervisor is wrong (even if they technically are), you are putting yourself in a position of power over them and they may perceive it as a challenge. By introducing an unhelpful dynamic into your interactions, you compromise your effectiveness. You can state facts without doing so if you’re mindful.
For instance, let’s say your supervisor says something patently false, like 2 x 2 = 10. If you respond by saying “No, that’s wrong, 2 x 2 is not 10, it’s 4,” you’re correct but you’ve just announced that the other person is an idiot—or they may feel that you did.
Instead, say “When I calculate 2 x 2 I get a different answer. I get 4.” You’ve just offered a different answer without seeming to attack your supervisor. The key is the word “different” – it gives you room to express your opinion while still acknowledging the power hierarchy.
By the way, this approach is important regardless of your audience. After all, if you blatantly stated a subordinate was wrong, you’re undermining their confidence, interfering with learning, and creating drama—none of which ensures great work.
So remember to think before you speak.
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