How to reject the boss’s stupid ideas

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Rey Elbo-125

In The Workplace

Everyone commits mistakes. But what’s the best way to disagree with a boss who thinks he has the best ideas around and will not listen to his people? Sometimes, if the mistakes are glaring, he will not even bother to apologize. I’m seeking your advice for two reasons: I don’t want to be blamed later on for being complicit. And two, I’m not sure whether he’s testing my determination and integrity. What’s your take? — Deep Blue Sea.

Proverbs 1:7 says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This heavenly passage is our best guide, against a copycat earthly proverb from somewhere that reads like this: “The fear of jail is the beginning of wisdom.”

The ability to keep your boss in check depends much on your religious beliefs, which help determine your path towards greatness or oblivion. In addition, it depends very much on above-average work performance and a little office politics to get along with your boss, until you reach the line of legal, ethical and moral standards.

These standards are required in an ideal world. In reality, however, it doesn’t work that way. At times, you’ll have to struggle when you reach a fork in the road, especially when the other party is your boss who could decide on your job security and your future. The end goal, therefore, is how to look good to your boss through your work performance and not through something that would force you to violate the law.

Here are some considerations for doing just that:

One, be clear about the intentions of the boss. Don’t jump to conclusions. So everything is clear and explicit, you have to document everything via email, text messages, or a paper document. Even if the boss gives you a verbal instruction, you have to make sure that you’ve understood his instructions by documenting his thoughts. He may or may not respond to you. Consider it a red flag in case he fails to write back.

Two, go back to your boss to clarify everything. Related to Number One above, if the boss fails to confirm what he wanted, then meet him in person and make a counter-proposal without making it appear that his ideas are too stupid for you to even take a second look. There are times when a bit of bargaining is appropriate. It’s just a matter of offering several superior options that he will consider.

Three, look for simple options that work to your advantage. List down the best points that will give you an advantage in bargaining with your boss. Rank your options in terms of priority. Present the pros and cons of each option. At every step, be prepared to support any position with accurate facts and figures. But don’t complicate things and give your boss an excuse to go back to his original stupid idea.

Four, show initiative in solving certain problems. Don’t worry about whether the task is part of your job description or whether you have a clear mandate from the boss. If an issue is unfolding before your eyes, do something to prevent an error, if not reduce its adverse impact against your boss and to the organization as well. No one can argue against someone with a “can do” mentality.

Five, volunteer for projects that will gain you exposure. Not only that, the more skills you possess, the better for you to handle other things inside and outside the organization. Make your talents known to other bigwigs in the company. If you have a conflict with your current boss, your “hot skills” can save you many times over. Other department managers and even the CEO could help save you from harm.

Six, work on projects favored by the boss. Know what is important to your boss, and not the things you consider to be equally important. For example, keeping inventory low as a cost-cutting measure is valuable to top management, while high inventory levels can make life easier by doing away with the need for repeated orders to suppliers. Understand the business side of things from the eyes of your boss.

Last, never coast on past accomplishments. You may have done something extraordinary in the past, but that alone will not save you in the future. Don’t rest on your laurels. There are many people out there who could be much better go-getters that will quickly make your accomplishments irrelevant. No one can argue against consistently superior work performance.

Just the same, don’t compromise your integrity, even if others are willing to compromise theirs. Some people tend to be bounty hunters. If you don’t agree with your boss, be upstanding but diplomatic in rejecting his proposals. After all, the quality of service that you provide to the organization will be taken as a whole rather than your individual areas of conflict with the boss.

ELBONOMICS: A tactful rejection is better than a frank, but false promise.


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