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Ask Dan
Q.
If I disagree with my boss in a meeting, she becomes livid. How can I voice my opinion without upsetting her?

A.
Being on the receiving end of a boss's tirade can be debilitating. An angry co-worker is wearing, of course, but the fact your boss has authority over you makes the situation even more stressful.

I recommend trying a threefold approach. The first step is preparing yourself mentally by establishing a plausible reason for her ire. Recent research from Stanford University suggests creating credible excuses that you know may be true – e.g., she is insecure, facing financial difficulty, or in poor health – will allow you to believe her rage is less personal and thus feel less drained by it overall.

The second step is to change the setting for when you disagree. It's possible your boss may feel you are sabotaging her by disputing her in public, even if expressing differences of opinion in that setting may very well be appropriate. If possible, defer to offering your dissenting opinion in a more private setting, such as during a one-on-one conversation. Or consider using email. Private communication may just help defuse her predictably furious response.

Last, keep the conversation focused as much as possible on the issue itself, not on her. The more you discuss things in abstract terms, the less she'll feel threatened. Using these anger-management techniques won't just soothe her but will take you out of the line of fire, too. E



Dan Lumpkin, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to askdan@exhibitormagazine.com.
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