How to Dissuade Your Boss from Making a Bad Decision
Kent’s boss wanted to purchase a software package that Kent knew to be nonstandard, slow, buggy, and difficult to learn. Kent was determined to dissuade his boss from making a bad decision, so he confronted his boss and recited all the things wrong with the product. His boss promptly dismissed him from having any say in the matter—and, given Kent’s brash approach, she probably won’t consult Kent for help with future decisions, either.
It’s no wonder the boss reacted as she did. Whatever was driving her reasoning, she was in a different frame of mind from Kent. At least for starters, Kent could have shown he had an open mind by expressing interest in his boss’s decision.
Here are some other things Kent might have done to stand a better chance of dissuading his boss—and you might do also if you’re in a similar situation.
Try to learn why the boss favors the product. For example, ask: How did you arrive at this choice? What have you heard from others who use this product? What alternatives have you had a chance to consider? (Note the softening of this last question. Asking “What else have you considered?” could sound confrontational.)
Consider the boss’s priorities and concerns. What must she accomplish to be successful—and be seen as successful? What worries her? What makes her feel important or powerful? Given these aspects of your boss’s perspective, how can you tailor your case to take them into account?
Reflect on the boss’s communication preferences. Does she prefer information in narrative form, bullet points, charts and graphs, or “walk with me” hallway chats? Does she prefer to communicate via phone, text, email, or in person? How you make your case may be as important as the case itself.
Allow the boss to save face. You can’t expect her to change her mind if she’ll feel humiliated as the result of doing so. Perhaps she has a respected colleague who can support your position but be more effective than you in prodding her to reconsider her position. That way, she can “adjust her viewpoint” without feeling like she’s caving in to you.
Be patient. If the purchase is imminent, you may be out of luck. But if it’s down the road, patient persistence can pay off. In time, your ideas may seep in so that the boss eventually comes around to seeing things your way. If that happens, there’s no harm in letting her think it was all her idea.