Arguing with the Boss: A Winning Career Strategy
The Wall Street Journal
By JOANN S. LUBLIN
Here’s a popular myth: Managers who butt heads with the boss fail to get ahead. But often, the opposite is true.
Knowing how to disagree agreeably with higher-ups increases your chances for advancement, career coaches, management consultants and recruiters say.
“It takes courage and emotional intelligence to stand up to your boss,” observes Kenton R. Hill, an executive coach in Portland, Ore., who wrote “Smart Isn’t Enough,” a 2010 book. “You’re more likely to land a bigger role if you help your boss be successful,” he adds.
Executive recruiters “question your integrity” if you’re a candidate who claims that you’ve never clashed with your supervisor, writes Russell S. Reynolds, Jr., founder of an eponymous big search firm, in his new memoir, “Heads.” Tales of seamless harmony suggest “you lack the power of your own convictions,” he says in an interview.
John Stroup, CEO of Belden Inc., BDC -1.04% a maker of electrical cables, says he’s more apt to promote managers who are savvy about challenging him.
However, he cautions that it’s not a good move right off the bat. At his previous employer, Danaher Corp., DHR +1.09% he saw some newly recruited senior managers wash out because they urged him to adopt approaches used by their old company without first establishing their credibility, he recalls.
Mr. Stroup prevailed in a disagreement with his Danaher supervisor about a risky strategic shift because they had developed a strong rapport. That man, an executive vice president, “recognized my strengths,” Mr. Stroup recollects. “I felt comfortable enough to push my point of view.”
The skeptical boss let him offer certain customers complete solutions for their specific needs—a departure from standard operating procedure. The idea was a success, and Mr. Stroup, a division president, was appointed a group executive not long after.