how can I back out of disagreements with my boss?

A reader writes:

I am looking for phrases or approaches to gracefully back out of discussions/disagreements with my boss.

My boss is someone who needs to “win” and has a very competitive mindset for pretty much everything. Inevitably items will come up where we disagree, and my boss has certain words and phrases which they use to indicate they are going to overrule me. I have read your “how to disagree with your boss and keep your job” article and ultimately I have made the decision that once I have pointed something out and it seems like I am going to be overruled, it is not worth it to continue to disagree or to try to influence them.

But this is where I run into issues. Generally my backing off consists of me saying, “I think we need to agree to disagree and I will do whatever you want” or “Okay, we will do it your way” or something along those lines (I am working on being consciously aware of my tone and making it less defensive).

But then my boss feels the need to prove that they are correct. This happens for both trivial things and important decisions regarding how to approach a project. For example, once I pointed out a typo in a report (they had accidentally put the date as 2018 when it should have said 2017) and they then spent a full day coming up with arguments as to why 2018 could be correct. We ended up putting 2018 in the report despite the fact that the event which we were referring to happened in 2017.

I need a couple of ways to more gracefully end the conversation and indicate that I am going to do it my boss’ way. Further if you have any recommendations as to how not to get drawn into hours or days of discussion where they try to prove that they are right and I am wrong, that would be great.

I wrote back and asked, “You said that when you indicate you’re backing off, your boss still feels the need to prove they’re right. What sorts of things are they saying at that point that you need to respond to?”

When I think of it that way, I wouldn’t say that I need to respond to what my boss is saying at that point. I suppose the problem is that although I will do the task the way that they want it done, I generally don’t concede that my boss’ opinion/decision is correct/better than mine. (Note, this is when I am confident that I am correct in my approach, I know there are instances where I am wrong and can admit that.)

I don’t continue pushing back, as that is counterproductive and a waste of both of our time, but I don’t concede defeat either. So rather we end up having multiple conversations where we continue to circle back to the original discussion with the apparently purpose of persuading me that I was wrong. Google is also very dangerous in this process, as one can find information which supports any point of view and it is easy to take information out of context to make it fit an argument.

Well, I’m glad I asked that question because your answer to it sheds a lot of light on what’s happening!

It sounds like your boss keeps trying to prove their point because you keep making a point of noting you disagree … which in your boss’s mind is keeping the argument going.

Instead of saying things like “I think we need to agree to disagree and I will do whatever you want” and “Okay, we will do it your way,” try just saying, “Okay, I’ll do it that way.”

That might seem like a minor difference, but you clearly have a boss who wants you to come around to their way of thinking, and is going to keep trying to get you to see their point of view. And on your end, you sound pretty invested in making sure it’s known that you disagree.

Other formulations that probably won’t invite as much argument:

* “Got it! I’ll proceed that way and come back to you if I run into any issues.”
* “Okay, so do X and Y? Okay, I’ll let Jane and Lucinda know.”
* “I’ll make those changes, and I should have a new draft to you by tomorrow.”

All of these are leaving the disagreement firmly in the past — there’s no reference to “your way” or “well, I disagree but okay.” They’re conveying, “I hear what you’re asking me to do and I’m proceeding accordingly.”

You framed this in your letter as “defeat,” but that’s a really … overly emotionally invested way to look at it. And if it feels like defeat, that’s likely to come out in your words and tone, and that might be why your boss is continuing to push. These conversations shouldn’t be battles, and your goal shouldn’t be to win. It might help to think of yourself as more like a consultant — you’re offering options and opinions, but ultimately the “client” (your boss) is going to make the call (which is a lot easier to be fine with as a consultant because you’re not emotionally invested in the same way as you sound now).

There are some times where it’s important to have your objection registered, and I’m not telling you to be a yes-person who doesn’t share your own thoughts. But you are sharing your thoughts and objections. When your boss makes a different call, you don’t need to reiterate that you disagree; you’ve already said that. It’s enough to just say, “Okay, I’ll go ahead and do that.”

Now, in a case where your boss is getting objective facts wrong, like with that 2018/2017 issue with the report, I can see why you really wanted to push that one! That’s a clear, objective error. But even then, if you can see that your boss is not budging (and a day-long argument falls in that category), you can say something like, “I want to make sure you understand what I’m saying. This event occurred on September 19, 2017. If we put 2018, we will confuse readers and be getting it factually wrong. I can change it if you feel strongly about it, but I want to make sure I’ve clearly conveyed why it will be factually incorrect.” And then if they keep trying to convince you on something that seems so black and white, I’d assume there’s something happening that you’re missing, and I’d switch into “seek to understand” mode … meaning saying something like, “I think I might be misunderstanding. Let’s back up — tell me why you’re saying 2018 is right?”

And of course, it’s also different if you’re being overruled on something with serious implications — like a legal or safety issue. But those should be pretty few and far between. If your boss is constantly overruling you on things that will cause very serious problems, I’d argue the bigger issue is finding a way out of that job, not just finding a way to get them to shut up once you give in.

{ 359 comments… read them below }

  1. It Wasn't Me*

    This is sage advice. I once worked for a boss who had to be right at all costs, even when they were wrong. I (eventually) learned to decide on which issues I needed to push back on and on which issues I needed to let it go.

    1. Kathleen_A*

      I have had bosses exactly like this, too, and I can confirm that Alison is exactly right. When it comes to things that are simply a difference of opinion (not that 2017 vs. 2018 thing, which is just bizarre), you have to use wording that convinces your boss that you are going to do it HIS way and – just as important – that you don’t need any further convincing. And the way to do that is to say, “Yes, I understand. I’ll do it that way.” Say it respectfully and – if you can manage it – cheerfully.

      If my experience is anything to go by, you might have to say this more than once sometimes, particularly if your boss has gotten the impression (rightly or wrongly) that you disagree with him a lot.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Oops – I could have sworn that the OP identified Boss as “he,” but I see I was wrong. My apologies!

      2. OP*

        Thanks for the feedback. I will definitely have to work on the cheerfully part, but any and all phrases to add to my repertoire are appreciated!

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          I might be overly cautious, but I’d also recommend documenting in some way each time you disagree with Bosses decisions. I keep a little personal notebook with a description of each issue, or if possible document by sending an email along the lines of, “Hi Jack, I did XYZ based on your directions from this morning. Please let me know if you want any other changes!”

          You really don’t want to follow your boss’s dumb instructions and then take the fall when it doesn’t work out. Make sure you can show *their* boss you aren’t the dumb one.

          1. RainyDay*

            This is spot-on. If these are things that are your job to flag and correct, *absolutely* document that you did and were overruled. For big enough things – especially where the conversation may be ongoing – it’s helpful sometimes to follow up in email (in a neutral manner!) confirming that we will do X as per your boss’ instructions. Then you have a paper trail.

            1. Alexander Graham Yell*

              I’m having flashbacks to ex-boss, who would call me into his office to yell at me for saying things like “You asked me to use 1.5 hours as an estimate on this,” because “We’re a TEAM and I don’t need you pointing out when I chose to do things like a petulant teenager. I don’t go out of here complaining about choices *you* made, we need to use TEAM LANGUAGE around here.”
              Documenting is great and important and necessary, but it can backfire with a certain kind of terrible boss.

              1. Ace in the Hole*

                Eh, that’s why with my current boss I keep private notes. Then I can pull them out if something ever comes up (performance review, reprimands, inspections/audits, etc). But she doesn’t have to know about it till then.

          2. dramalama*

            I second this so hard. The side-effect of a boss who *must be right at all costs* is that when they’re wrong and get called on it by someone big enough to shut down their rationalizing they’ll immediately look for a scapegoat.

          3. Glengarry*

            Ugh. At my last job I had daily meetings with my manager, who was an absolute nightmare. I learnt very early on to send a summary email to her after each meeting detailing what had been discussed and agreed, after numerous instances of “I NEVER said that!!!”. Unfortunately she was so awful it then changed to “I NEVER meant it like that!!!!”. Got out as soon as I could.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Been there too… first one, well, it was a tiny entertainment company and I just let the owner be the expert. (Hey, maybe the book jacket bio was wrong, y’know?)
      Many years later I am in an industry where some errors have life-safety implications, or can cause customer projects to get delayed — those I push back on. The least confrontational way I’ve found to get a reversal is to send a screenshot from other published materials or our SAP database and ask the “expert” how to get their information corrected there.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I got a safety regulation manual flung at me by a boss when I did that. Some people think they know it all and won’t listen to any evidence otherwise.

        1. PhyllisB*

          Ugh!! That sounds like a guy I dated before marrying Mr. B. He would declare something as gospel (the moon is made of green cheese!!) Any countering would just make him dig in. Even if you showed him a reference book that proved him wrong. (Scientists now have valid proof that the moon is made of pixie dust.) His response? “The book is wrong.” Me: “It’s the encyclopedia!!” Him: “That is an incorrect edition.” This is one of the main reasons I broke things off with him.

          1. Liz*

            haha. I have a friend like this. She HAS to be right every time, and has to, as my dad used to say “continue to beat a dead horse”. its exhausting sometimes to even have a simple conversation with her. The funniest thing though is she really is quite ignorant about 90% of what she thinks she’s right about. She doesn’t read the paper, watch the news, read news online or anything like that. She gets her news in snippets by listening to the radio. And she also has a habit of going off on tangents when you’re having a conversation about something.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Holy smokes…have you escaped yet? Did you tell anyone on your way out?

    3. OhGee*

      Yep. A boss who fights to justify *using the wrong date in a report* is not a reasonable person. I’d either say “ok” and keep my (probably correct!) point of view to myself or, more likely for me, start job hunting.

      1. Alianora*

        When I read that part I definitely thought it was going to become a “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change” response. I agree with Alison’s point that the LW is partially keeping the argument going by continuing to say “I disagree,” but it sounds like this boss isn’t a reasonable person.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          It sounds as though Boss has got on the OP’s last nerve – and believed me, I understand why! – but I wonder if the reverse is true, too. That is, perhaps the two have disagreed so often that Boss now has reached the Irritation Event Horizon and no longer truly hears the points the OP tries to raise. Valid, invalid, somewhere in between, maybe all Boss now hears is “OP is disagreeing with me AGAIN.” Because the language the OP is quoting here is…well, it’s not good. The OP may as well just come out and say, “I’m right, but I’ll do it your way even though you’re wrong.”

          Of course it’s Boss’s responsibility to pull him/herself out of this mindset because it’s bad management. But it could be that if – if – the OP saves push-back for those times when it’s really necessary, the relationship will regain some equilibrium. Maybe not, but unless the OP no longer needs this job, it’s got to be worth a try.

          1. Alianora*

            Yeah, it’s hard to tell from a letter like this whether both parties are at fault. Could be that each of them is saying, “Well, I disagree,” and considering that “backing out” in the LW’s case and “end of argument” in the boss’s case, then each getting frustrated when the other person won’t concede.

          2. Busy*

            I think it says a lot of about OP that they recognize this issue and their goal is just find a way for themselves to get out of it (as opposed to, say, asking “how can I get my boss to stop doing x”).

            I can fully understand how anyone could get into this type of situation with a manager who will argue about an obvious mistake, and I think it shows a lot of wisdom for the OP to try to find a way to stop the cycle of it coming back up all of the time.

          3. Micklak*

            I was trying to think how I would respond if an employee said “we’ll have to agree to disagree,” to me. I don’t think I would like it. It’s a little…provocative, maybe? It definitely isn’t a conversation closer like it sounds.

            1. Tan*

              I too hate this phrase. I think it stems from the fact that when people say “we’ll have to agree to disagree” you are telling someone (potentially your boss) that they are to shut up and not talk about it. You haven’t reduced or removed the problem, you are just choosing to ignore it. And “it” in this case is likely work related and very much your bosses business and something he needs or wants to discuss with you. OR maybe it’s just, as someone else said, “There are two types of people: those who don’t need closure.”

            2. Ann O.*

              IMHO, it’s very situational. I had an ex-boss who would ask me for my opinion and then argue with me about it. For example something like “do you think the gold teapot handle looks better or the silver teapot handle?” Then if I said I preferred the gold, trying to keep me in conversation/discussion until I agree that the silver is actually better. In those types of situations, it can really feel like the manager is trying to control your thoughts or force some kind of creepy authoritarian subservience and “agree to disagree” is an attempt at a graceful disengagement while still maintaining some personal boundaries.

            3. nonegiven*

              I don’t think I’d care if a report disagreed with me as long as they were going to do it my way. Maybe that makes me a halfway reasonable person.

          4. yala*

            I can almost understand the OP’s reasoning here, because when your boss wants you to do something incorrectly, it can put *you* in a difficult position. If someone else finds the error, the boss may forget they even told you to do it like that and believe the error is yours. And if it’s a specific way of doing things, then you’re a little stuck in the future–do you do it the correct way, or do you do it the boss’s way, even though you know it’s incorrect? Both of those can result in you being called up for Doing It Wrong.

            (maaaaybe I’ve been stressing a bit because there have been at least three times this past month where my boss told me to do things, like delete a line of code, that I knew were incorrect, but I wasn’t sure how to push back without seeming “defensive.” It got sorted eventually (tho I found one more correction I really need to bring to her attention and I’m nervous about that), but it’s a very stressful situation to be in.)

            1. qvaken*

              I agree with the commenters who are raising concerns about the boss’s behaviour. The fact that they’re heavily insisting OP do things that are objectively incorrect, like using the incorrect year on the report, suggests to me that boss is teaching OP to capitulate to them regardless of what’s right (and ethical? And legal?). Maybe the OP is annoyingly stubborn, but the boss is the boss and holds a position of power here. I could be wrong and certainly OP knows their own situation better than I do, but I don’t like the sound of it.

            2. Autumnheart*

              Yes, it’s too easy for a report to have their expertise overruled, and then get blamed when, as a result, The Thing happens that the report said would happen. That sucks. And it can have major ramifications on your career, so how can people *not* get emotionally invested in defending their expertise?

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Honestly one of the hardest and most important workplace skills to learn, and it mostly comes with experience. I still run into this problem (picking battles) despite trying to train myself out of it.

    5. RUKiddingMe*

      That sounds so exhausting. I dated a guy like that for a while. He felt a need to convince me he was right, even if he was wrong. It would go on for days, and days…and days. Eventually I just started saying “ok” to everything. In retrospect I stayed with him too long. More than five minutes was too long actually.

  2. MommyMD*

    Excellent advice. And a Boss who wants to argue a wrong year to the death has psychological problems you can’t fix. I once worked with someone like this who eventually got put out to pasture in a very small division. She could argue to the death that up was indeed down.

    1. Red5*

      This absolutely amazes me. I’m a new supervisor and one of my staff will argue to the death that he is not arguing. It’s going to be really interesting figuring out strategies to deal with this.

        1. Thankful for AAM*

          I am sometimes the one who is not arguing but others think I am!

          I’ve been using small changes to wording a la AAM advice and I think it has helped.


            1. Thankful for AAM*

              OP, very much in line with what AAM said above. It is ok, often but not always, to say to a coworker, I’ll agree to disagree. But to a supervisor, that implies I think my way is right and I am an obstacle to getting the task done. But I think your supervisor takes this way too far.

              Where I work, we don’t meet ever (but I have used AAM ideas to successfully get some 1 on1s and dept meetings started!) and I feel like I notice things supervisor does not. So for me, I am usually the one raising an issue. I’ll say, I notice x happening, I have some ideas about how to respond but do you want to review the options? Or, I notice x, does doing a or b make more sense for our needs?

              In your case, you are meeting and disagreeing so it is different. I like AAM’s wording or that.

              But overall, I have shifted my attitude from all my reading here. I used to view myself as me: competent, good ideas, wanting the best for my boss and employer, etc. But now I know no one else is thinking about what is in my head or my intentions, they are only thinking am I an obstacle or help to them. So I try to view myself through the lens other ppl are using to view me. That has helped me a lot.

              Bottom line, I am thinking more about what supervisor or lead wants and less on problems and solutions.

              1. Close Bracket*

                > I am thinking more about what supervisor or lead wants and less on problems and solutions.

                That’s so sad. What are some of your coping strategies for being in a place where nobody wants to hear about solutions and thinks the one bringing them (you) is a roadblock?

                1. Thankful for AAM*

                  Close bracket, here they are.

                  I also think that statement is sad but I did the evaluation AAM suggests and for me, for now, the job still makes sense.

                  Coping strategies:
                  1. Focus on what I like about my job, I do have freedom to be creative within my task limits and really value that
                  2. Cultivate relationships with coworkers (avoid the toxic ones the managers don’t manage). I even find I am able to develop opportunities for other staff which I enjoy (presenting at a state conference, help with job apps and developing soft skills)
                  3. Find other outlets so work is not everything – for me that is state and national level orgs in my field (as well as personal life stuff)
                  4. Read AAM
                  5. Learn to see the crappola as a tv show I get to watch and be amused by, cue popcorn eating meme in my head
                  6. I call this one guerilla action – I have found a way to sneak in things I think we need and I would enjoy. Example: I wrote the entire department training manual bc we did not have one, they now use it to train new staff. But training is just the first 2 weeks and it really needs to have an ongoing component. I asked to have a more official role in training but someone else has been working on it for a year with no results so I cannot. Instead, I added a section to the weekly dept newsletter/update I was asked to write and in order to write that section, I need to spend 10 minutes with each staff person once every month or so – boom, I’m doing the training I think they need and the boss is happy too.

          1. Olivia Mansfield (formerly Mallory Janis Ian)*

            Earlier in my career people would think I was arguing when I thought I wasn’t. It was because I felt a need to explain myself instead of just accepting the outcome and moving on. I wanted people to know that my actions were based on a reasonable decision making process, even if I turned out to be wrong because I lacked certain information. Basically, I was defending my ego, and nobody else cared about that; they just wanted me to do the thing right.

            1. Cloudy with sunny breaks*

              Oh yeah, that’s me (phrased way more succinctly than I could have). Plus a little bit of wanting to prove that I am right. I became aware of how often I did this when my boss would just refuse to engage and I had no one to argue with. I also once, in reply to my friends observation that I was being stubborn said ‘I am not!’ And then I got laughed at. I try not to do this as often and sing the Let It Go song to myself.

            2. Kathleen_A*

              I have had a boss who often misread my “This is why I thought this” explanations as “borderline defiance” – I’m not sure why, even to this day, because I actually never was defiant. But that’s how she read it, so…I had to cut out the explanations, or when I decided they were absolutely necessary, I had to be extremely careful when I delivered them. I think your “defending my ego” point is an excellent one, Olivia Mansfield.

            3. Not So NewReader*

              This is a great example that runs parallel to what we have here. FWIW, I think a good 50% us of done that over-explaining thing when all the boss/cohort wanted was to just. get. the. thing. DONE.

              Fortunately, you use self-checks this is great. So did I. OP, your boss does not use self-checks and this is not great.

              There is no doubt in my mind that boss perceives OP as difficult. Notice I am not saying that you are difficult. I would probably enjoy the heck out of working with you. But I am at work to get jobs done and done correctly. Your boss has other priorities. He is at work to receive reassurance and praise; he wants to build up a sense of self-worth.

              Okay, this next point is an odd turnabout, bear with me. I have had a boss or two like this. I wised up after a bit and decided that my boss needed me to PRAISE her. So I did. I found more opportunities in conversation, to let little things slide out such as, “Well played, Boss.” Or, “That’s a really cool idea, I am going to have to remember that one.”
              So you can see in these examples, the praise is just one sentence, nothing heavy or lengthy. And it’s random. I deliberately chose to comment on things that I was sincere about, I had to make this commitment to live with myself.
              So maybe I did this a few times a week. The rule we had at work was a person had to say five positive things to be heard one of those times. So be patient with this technique. You want to start slowly anyway so as not to be too obvious (or seem insincere) and that alone will tie up some time. If you go with this idea work at it for a few months before you decide if it is or is not working.

              Please understand something, this is who this person is. It is reasonable to assume you boss will behave this way for the rest of your time with the company. You probably need to figure out how long you want to spend doing this.

              We can’t instill confidence in other people because it’s a DIY job.

              1. Massmatt*

                This is terrific, done right it could really change the dynamic while still maintaining your integrity.

            4. Jack V*

              Yeah, I’m constantly fighting against doing this :(

              Reflecting on the other replies, I think a lot of the problem is, so when I say, “let’s do X, it’s better in every way”, and a boss says, “we need to do not-X”, I feel like, I want to explain that I’m not incredibly stupid, there were good reasons for suggesting that. But as someone else pointed out, to boss trying to get things done, they don’t care if you made a mistake, or if you know best but we need to compromise on this occasion, or whatever, they don’t usually MIND if you suggested something other than what they wanted, they just now want you to get on with it.

              But in my mind, it’s amplified by how certain I was. If I suggested something that was easier AND quicker AND more standard AND less prone to mistakes AND more pleasant AND a better foundation for more reliable things in future, and I’m immediately overruled, I feel like, I must have been REALLY stupid to be wrong about ALL those things, and want to justify myself, even though, as mentioned above, that’s unhelpful.

      1. BRR*

        I hope you’ll write in about that for Alison to answer. I have a colleague going through something similar and this would be very helpful for them.

      2. Teapot Librarian*

        I have one of those, too! (Also I had an experience with someone where I said “you may not yell at my staff” and he literally yelled “I’m not yelling.” Ooookay.)

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          Yeah, yellers never admit they’re doing it. They will define “yelling” however they have to in order to exclude their own behavior. Even if it’s a different definition than they used yesterday.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Hate That, so much. I have decided that there’s a certain tone indicating frustration or anger that I interpret as “yelling” but can show up in decibel levels that the speaker doesn’t perceive as yelling. I’ve had to shift to ‘please speak calmly’ but that is still less than ideal.

          1. Free Meerkats*

            When in the history of “Please calm down” has it resulted in the person actually calming down?

            When I’m frustrated or feel I’m not being heard, I automatically switch to Herald Voice ™. It’s not necessarily louder, but it’s fully enunciated and projected, intended to be heard over whatever is going on. Some (and I’m not looking at my spouse right now, really :-) ) interpret that as yelling. I can yell, but don’t unless it’s absolutely necessary, because it hurts my throat and in a closed space it aggravates my tinnitus.

            I’m working on not making the switch involuntarily, especially at home. It’s not easy.

              1. Vemasi*

                My sister and I tend to slowly increase in volume when we are talking to each other about something that interests us (and we are almost never disagreeing, in fact we are emphatically in agreement). Sometimes one will do this more quickly than the other, in which case my sister will tell me “calm down,” and then it is time to fight. When SHE starts yelling before me or I notice we’re both doing it, I will laughingly say, “Why are we yelling?” because I know telling someone to calm down or relax will have the exact opposite effect unless you are leading a meditation.

        3. Olivia Mansfield (formerly Mallory Janis Ian)*

          I know some people whose voices naturally rise in volume whether they’re happy-excited or irritated-excited. When they’re pleasantly excited, most people don’t consider it yelling, but when their excitability is due to aggravation or frustration, it’s considered yelling.

          There’s one professor around here who gets excited about a lot of things, but she’s also pretty quick to anger, so I can never tell if her raised voice is just excited volubility or if she’s yelling about something. Of course, she never considers herself to be yelling.

          1. Kitryan*

            I do this (I think, since I can’t see it in the moment). I get enthusiastic about how stuff works or fixing a problem and a certain type of person will read this as anger or frustration. For a while it made me very wary of new people- is this someone who will accuse me of being mean out of the blue?
            Over time I’ve both mellowed out a little myself and gotten better at picking out the type of person who might misinterpret and giving a little ‘hey, I’m just enthusiastic and I’ll be sure to let you know if anything is actually wrong’ speech.

          2. Vemasi*

            See above, in my family we are always shouting because when we all want to talk and are excited, obviously we need to talk OVER each other. We are not fighting, we are just trying to participate! And now we are all conditioned to increase in volume when we are excited.

        4. Close Bracket*

          > he literally yelled “I’m not yelling.”

          I just read a letter on this very site, and it must have been as I was paging through the archives since I don ‘t see it in today’s letters, where Allison gave an example of differing perceptions of an interaction where we use the term “yelling” for any intense verbal communication regardless of volume. So maybe think about what the two of you call yelling.

      3. Miss Fisher*

        When I was teaching, I had a very hard headed student like this. Very difficult and every year through elementary school had been switched from class to class, because the teachers didn’t like him. His parents were difficult too if you can imagine. This child was standing up and would argue over anything. Once swore up and down that he was seated when he was up bothering someone else. One of many many reasons I only lasted like 5 yrs in that career.

      4. hbc*

        I literally just fired that guy yesterday. To hear him tell it, he was very open to other points of view, which was something he used as a preface to about 1 million arguments where he wouldn’t accept that anyone else had a valid viewpoint. I had tried going the route of pointing out the exact instances of when he should have dropped things earlier and when his legitimate debates were not presented in a productive way, but he disagreed that there was anything wrong with his approach, even when I told him that I was the person who got to make that call.

        You will be shocked to learn that he said he refused to accept that he was being let go.

        1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          Hah. I know him. I supervised him. Luckily he found a new job before I had to find out how he would handle a PiP.

          He also insisted he was a very respectful person at the exact same time as he was questioning the competence of another staff member… to their face.

        2. Lynn Whitehat*

          We have a guy like that. We’ve weaponized him. Whenever another group doesn’t want to give us something we need, we send him over to argue the point until they give up in exhaustion. “Yeah, they say making the thing we need isn’t a priority for them. Don’t worry, I’m going to send Jason over to Jason them.”

          1. Deb Morgan*

            “I’m going to send Jason over to Jason them.” is the funniest sentence I’ve read all day, so thanks for that.

          2. cmcinnyc*

            Oh at last at last a use for our Jason, if I can figure out how to deploy him without him knowing he’s being deployed (because he’ll argue).

          3. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Prepare for countdown. Battlejason will launch in 5..4..3…..

        3. Autumnheart*

          Prepare for that guy to keep showing up to work, even if you ultimately shut down the company and abandon the building! /bartleby

        4. RUKiddingMe*

          “…he said he refused to accept that he was being let go.”

          Oh don’t leave me hanging. What happened?

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            I want to know, too. Right now, I’m imaging him being carried out bodily and his belongings thrown out the door after him right before it slams shut.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Hehe I would have loved to read that! Even better if he’d been kicking like a two year old who is being carried away to take a nap they don’t want to take…

          2. hbc*

            I told him there was nothing to accept, because he didn’t need to agree with my reasoning, and that I was sure that neither of us were going to convince the other. He said he thought it was illegal, I explained at-will employment. He said he wanted to talk to my boss and grandboss first, and the wind finally went out of his sails when I told him they supported* my decision. He refused to sign the release for severance, but then went relatively quietly.

            *Grandboss was technically not supportive of how I ran it, in that he was pissed I actually had the conversations leading up to the firing rather than getting rid of him 3 months ago.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Thank you. So he tried to argue the legality of at will? LOL. Some people…

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Oops hit enter too fast.

                I’m kind of stunned that he didn’t know that someone could be fired at any time for any (legal) reason. Was he living under a rock?

      5. Close Bracket*

        I’d love to hear details, bc maybe he is not! Maybe he is, and maybe this is a perception thing on your part.

    2. MicroManagered*

      I agree about the whole “issues you can’t fix” piece. I had a boss (my namesake!) who was triggered simply by being wrong or disagreed with and stopped listening or processing anything you said.

      An approach that worked with her sometimes, rather than registering my disagreement, was to ask a question that guided her to see the mistake on her own. So for the 2017/2018 thing, I could say “Wait. I thought this date referred to SpecificEvent. Was that in September of 2017 or 2018?” Sometimes that would lead HER to think SHE caught the mistake.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Insert your favorite slow-clap meme. That’s a very wise way to (micro)manage up.

      2. Alianora*

        Yeah, I’ve picked up this same habit after working with people who can’t admit when they’re wrong. You play dumb and ask questions in a way that assumes they are always right.

        It’s a really defensive way of working with people, and I don’t like being disingenuous, so I tend to drop it after I see someone react well to making a mistake. But it’s kind of my default instinct now.

      3. OP*

        Did you have specific questions or phrases or ways that you asked to guide your boss to realize their mistake? From the response and comments, I can see that I need to work on changing my mindset, but there are definitely times (ex. the date issue) where I would like to see things corrected or done differently.

        1. MicroManagered*

          I would say most of mine would take on that “Hang on, just to make sure I’m understanding… Is this [what I think]? Does that mean [X] or [Y]?” formula, where I already know the right answer is in the question. Like I’d frame it more as they are the ones with the answer, and I’m making sure I get what’s going on.

          1. Busy*

            This is a really good way to phrase your “have you even looked into the repercussions of this!?!” thoughts.

            1. valentine*

              I’m happier when I focus on my sphere of influence. If I have to do something stupid, inefficient, or just plain wrong (like the year), I end up happy to do it if it means not enduring repetitions of the reasons (which I only care about from an anthropological standpoint). So:

              OP: There’s a typo on page 3. It says 2018, but the event was in 2017.
              Boss: I refuse to acknowledge Leap Day, so it was, in fact, 2018.
              OP: I’ll leave it.

              If you’re in his office, you can stop speaking and nod or give him a thumbs-up as you calmly exit. (Don’t look back!) If you learn to detach, this kind of exchange will become SOP and you won’t even need to scream internally. It’s a waste to pursue it when he wants to continuously double down (all! day!) on his ridiculous stance. You’re not just fighting a losing battle, you’re fighting the same losing battle he is because he thinks he’s as right as you know you are.

        2. Busy*

          Think of it less as conflict (which can create ***Emotions***) and approach it all as wanting to understand or feeling confused. So when you see something wrong, pause, and in your head say “that’s wrong” and then “but why”? And then phrase your response out loud as a question.

          For instance:

          Your boss: I have decided we are going to now run TPS reports in Amazingly Slow and Ineffective System.
          You in your mind: PAUSE. WTAF is wrong with this dude. But why?
          You out loud (and casually curious): Oh, was there some issue with the other system?
          Your boss: No, I just want Amazingly Slow and Ineffective System.
          Your in your mind: PAUSE. Oh good God what is wrong with the logic in the man?! Does he not know our own systems. WHY!?
          You out loud: Oh ok. I only ask because i know this new system has been having issues in X,Y, and Z in the past.
          Your Boss: I just like Amazingly Slow and Ineffective System (or insert whatever lame excuse you know is not logical or correct)
          Your response in your mind: PAUSE. OMG. But He is signally to overrule me
          Your response out loud: Ok. Sounds good. Could you let us know when we are to switch over?

          1. I'mNotUsingMyNameForThisOne*

            OMG. We have a process improvement committee that does exactly this: proposes Amazingly Slow and Ineffective Systems for every single issue. (Most of which would be solved by EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT, but I digress.)

            Me/Team: Simple System X is up and running. Can we notify everyone to start using it?
            Committee: We don’t know how to use SSX. Rather than learn, we will build another complete system that is so customized it will crash. And it will take 18 months to build.
            Me/Team (internally): Let’s find a bar.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Not the person you asked, but am willing to share something. I am not sure if there are any go-to phrases that I found as each situation seems to need a question tailored to that particular situation.
          I will use your date example.
          Sometimes you can drag in other people. “Oh Jane would know for sure if that was 2017 or 2018. So she will notice the date needs to be changed here.” (This works well when dealing with a person who constantly worries what others think.)

          Sometimes you can take a collaborative tone: “Well, let’s look at document x and that will show us which year it was.” Notice “let’s” and “us” in this sentence. Always strive to say we/us. Avoid saying “I” and do not say “you”. Use the passive voice: “this date was put in incorrectly.” The word “you” is probably the number one word that makes people get defensive the fastest. AVOID, AVOID.

          Sometimes you can foresee a problem stemming from the current problem. “When the state reads 2018 here, the state will assume that we did not do this in 2017 and they will cite us for it.” This works when you can pull in a higher authority who has the Rank of God for those in your arena.

          One thing I have done is really listen to the boss’ concerns. Sometimes a boss will worry about what others think. Sometimes a boss lives in fear of auditors or inspectors EVEN when they are doing an okay job and there is not much of concern.

          Yet other times a boss frets too much over a specific individual. “Oh, do you want me to check with Mary [who you live in fear of and go to extremes to avoid] about this date here?” I have also gone another route with this one, “Yeah, I was concerned about the date here, so I asked Mary [just to make you pay attention to me] about it and she said 2017.” In the latter, I have already done this and there is nothing to discuss, which I tend to like more.

          And last. There have been times where the error is substantial enough that I have refused to sign the paperwork. “I am not willing to put my name on that knowing that X is incorrect.” Of course, this is not useful if you do not have to sign the paperwork yourself.

      4. Lalitah28*

        Very smart move. I have to cultivate this. But I have to admit: it feels to me like I’m playing the dumb girl to stroke someone’s ego. I struggle with that.

    3. Tree*

      I once married someone like this who eventually got put out to pasture in a divorce (lol!). In his case, saying “okay, I’ll do it that way” was of limited effect. He wanted me to explicitly agree that his way was right, and would keep arguing with me if I wasn’t convincing enough in telling him he was right. I hope this boss is somewhat more reasonable and will drop it with the suggested scripts.

      1. RandomU...*

        Yeah, the only effective way to manage This Person (we all know them) is distance.

      2. Yorick*

        I had a boss like this. Even when he was going back on his word, he wanted you to actually agree that he never told you that.

        1. MarsJenkar*

          Given I have major hangups regarding the truth, I would never be able to work with such a boss. Even if you tell me it’s not the hill I *want* to die on, and even if it’s true I don’t *want* to die on that hill, I wouldn’t have a choice in the matter.

          1. MarsJenkar*

            Clarifying–one of my hangups is, specifically, I cannot under any circumstances state what I know to be an outright falsehood, even when it would be in my best interest to do so. (Nor can I allow another to do so on my behalf.) While I would be able to state “we’ll do it that way” without trouble, I would never be able to specifically agree on an untruth.

  3. Stuff*

    I would further say when it is an obvious error you are being asked to do to put it in email that this was the outcome of your discussion. Ie per our discussion I will use x for x project per your instructions. Otherwise if someone else noticed the error you have back up that it was not your error. Someone like this would definitely blame you if the poo hits the fan.

    1. Dust Bunny*


      Smile, nod, do it your boss’ way, and if anyone complains, redirect them to him. Stop taking on his monkeys.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        OP, I think what dust bunny said is really helpful. Stop taking on his monkeys.

        I’ve been thinking doing things well and focusing on our overall mission is everyone’s job, but that is not really my job. My job is to do what supervisor says. I reframed things as the whole job is not my circus, I just show up to do what they tell me to do with their monkeys.

        And I have recently finally learned what Alison means when she says to reframe things as a comedy show or whatever works for you and get out the mental popcorn. It is VERY HARD to do! But now that I can feel what it means, it helps.

        I do also advocate for the projects I want.

  4. Roscoe*

    This sounds a lot like me. I’m happy to go along with whatever people say, but if I think I’m right (or even if its just a difference of opinion that can’t reach a compromise) I’ll make it known that. Great advice here

  5. goducks*

    Oh wow, managing a person who can’t navigate the push-back but ultimately get on board dynamic is exhausting. OP really needs to understand their role. If they’re not the decision maker, they can voice their concerns but if they don’t let them go and follow the manager’s direction without caveats (safety/regulation matters excepted, of course), they’re going to have a very conflict-ridden career where they’re labeled as negative and not a team player. A good manager takes input and feedback and gives it all due consideration, but at the end of the day, a good employee does what they’re told without arguing. OP needs to pick their battles, for sure.

    I don’t know what the demographics are here, but I’ve seen this exact dynamic play out many times, especially when the subordinate is male and the manager is female.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      LW says her boss is a man. And using ‘2018’ when the event occurred in 2017 is simply wrong. Why is the boss doubling down on that?

        1. Ico*

          Don’t take shots at a whole gender, especially not when it’s not even specified in the letter. You are just showing your own biases.

        1. OP*

          It was a deliberate choice of wording on my part to exclude any reference to gender so as to try to avoid the gender role discussion.

          1. MicroManagered*

            I think this was wise of you OP. The fact is, yes, you might see this dynamic with a female manager/male subordinate, or two females of similar age, or two males of vastly different age. Different factors can result in this same exact dynamic.

          2. MtnLaurel*

            I’m glad you did, OP. I was in a similar situation and read the letter as both being female as that’s what it was for us! I think what genders we do (or don’t) put on the androgynous telling is very interesting.

            1. Flash Bristow*

              I actually didn’t consider gender at all – and reading these comments initially made me feel slightly smug. But then I thought, why should it be an achievement not to be aware of gender? Maybe I should be the opposite of proud.

              Interesting point you make, anyway. And also that OP deliberately used non-gendered terms. I wish life was such that we didn’t all [still] have to consider these things nowadays.

      1. goducks*

        Sure, 2018 vs. 2017 may seem wrong to the OP, but it seems the manager has some justification for it. Sometimes the manager has a bigger picture. Or not, perhaps the manager is just tired of everything being a battle with the OP, and is doubling down on the wrong thing out of impatience. Or maybe the manager is just difficult. It’s unclear.

        None of that changes the fact that it’s frustrating to manage a person who only does what’s directed with a “you’re wrong, but I’m doing it anyway” commentary. Or who views doing something they’re directed to do but disagree with as losing.

        1. gmg22*

          What we are told is 1)an event took place in 2017, 2)the report incorrectly said it took place in 2018, 3)rather than just fix the typo when it was pointed out, the boss spent a whole day arguing about why 2018 COULD be right, and 4)they went with 2018, which is not when the event took place.

          That is “alternative facts”/control freak territory, I’m sorry. I have a very, very hard time envisioning what kind of “bigger picture” would require the boss to insist on an error remaining in a report simply because they weren’t the person to catch said error. The overarching problem is clearly one with the dynamic between manager and OP, and you may be right that it is rooted in the tone/pushback the manager is getting from OP. But let’s not get it twisted. This dynamic in this particular case caused the manager to insist on incorrect information remaining in a report, which is bad management. That’s not going to solve the problem; it’s going to exacerbate it.

          1. RandomU...*

            ” I have a very, very hard time envisioning what kind of “bigger picture” would require the boss to insist on an error remaining in a report simply because they weren’t the person to catch said error. ”

            The event started 12/31/17 and ended after midnight :)

            Sorry I couldn’t resist!

          2. Maya Elena*

            I’ll bite. A paper was presented at a conference in 2017 but published in the first 2018 issue of a journal.
            An M&A was announced in 2017, “but only approved and “finalized” by regulators in 2018.
            Report released in 2018 uses data from 2015. Is the info from there “as of 2018” or “as of 2015”? Etc.

            1. Yorick*

              It was an event that happened on a specific date, which means it was either 2017 or 2018, not both

            2. Vemasi*

              I want to clarify that I am 100% on the OP’s side, and assume they know what they are talking about (as we are requested to do).

              Perhaps if the event was a fundraising or planning event for the following year? Like, if an NPO throws an event every year, but that event funds a program that takes place the following year? (Like a Christmas dinner that funds a summer camp.) Then perhaps you could argue that it is the Teapots for Tots event that occurred in 2017, or it was the funding event for the Teapots for Tots summer of 2018. Or if there is a board meeting to set itineraries, priorities or budgeting for the following year.

              Once again, I assume the OP knows their business, but as a huge know-it-all I had to add my two cents.

          3. goducks*

            I don’t know what other information the manager could have, as it’s kind of inconceivable that if there’s not additional information available that anybody could argue dates. Others have used the school year/fiscal year example. If your fiscal year starts in June, today might be a 2018 fiscal year date for you. Who knows? I’m going to assume that a rational person has no way to form any kind of argument as to how a date could be another date any other way. So the idea that the manager even could try to argue it means that either it’s not as cut and dried as the OP suggests, or that the manager is completely out of touch with reality. Which is suppose is a possibility.

            1. Eirene*

              As an editor, anything that involves fiscal years will usually say so, at least in my experience; otherwise, it’s assumed that the year referred to is a calendar year. OP didn’t mention anything about that, but the way that it was written indicated a calendar year to me.

              1. OP*

                Our fiscal and calendar year are the same, so luckily for me that is not an issue.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  Just out of curiosity can you elaborate on what kind of logic the manager used to say that the 2018 date was correct over 2017?

                2. goducks*

                  I really want to hear the manager’s justifications now. I know it is sort of irrelevant, but I can’t imagine any way to make it ok, if it’s as cut and dried as you say. What reasoning did they give?

            2. New Jack Karyn*

              Then it’s on the boss to explain that in a reasonable way. “Oh, that falls into FY 2018, because July 1st is the cutoff.”

              It really sounds more like the boss was trying to argue something like, “Well, in that meeting that took place in 2017, we talked about new policies to consider for the next year, so we should say it was a 2018 meeting.” Just to deny that they could possibly have made a mistake.

            3. Yorick*

              And that wouldn’t be a day-long argument, and OP would likely understand that it refers to FY so Boss is right.

          4. 30 Years in the Biz*

            And – If that incorrect information is in a document used in a highly regulated industry (think pharma or medical devices) not only is it bad management, it could escalate to criminal (against federal regulations) and could cause a patient or user safety issue. I’m thinking incorrect expiration dating of medications, flawed clinical study data analysis, quality testing results, etc. Could also be a costly mistake to fix.

            1. pancakes*

              If it’s a publicly traded company that’s highly regulated as well, and disinformation in an annual report as to when something happened could give rise to a shareholder class action, regardless whether safety has anything to do with the matter.

          5. fposte*

            Though it seems like a problem here might be that the boss and the OP have some similarities–they both view this as a contest and anything other than their way is a defeat, and that’s why they’re locking horns so consistently on this. Assuming the date was an error (I’m another one who has stuff that would be dated 2018 despite occurring in 2017), I’d expect my staff to say “No, that was in 2017” and then if I still wanted it 2018 (can’t imagine why, but let’s just go with it) to drop it. It’s not worth a fight with the boss to get this one, ultimately fairly small thing changed.

            There will always be errors at work; you will make them and the boss will make them. It’s frustrating that this feels like a preventable error, but that still doesn’t make in an error that’s important enough to devote time and energy to arguing about, and dropping the subject rather than belaboring it doesn’t mean you lose–it means you win back the time you’d otherwise spend on arguing with your boss.

            1. Busy*

              Thats all true, but the OP isn’t asking IF they should stop. They are asking HOW to stop.

              This whole thread is moot because the OP just used it as one example of how over the top this can get between them. Sure the manager is likely un reasonable and sure the OP has been unreasonable. But what they want to know is HOW to just put a stop to it all.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Yeah, fposte. I would expect my group to say, “Okay, Boss, I’m not totally clear here on this, but will do it anyway.”
              To me, “agreeing to disagree” would read similar to challenging my authority. I think part of the reason why the remark would stand out in my mind is that I can’t remember anyone ever saying that to me. So it would jump at me as being out of the norms.
              But I can see me also saying, “It’s fine to disagree with me. It’s not fine to fail to follow instructions.”

              But. For myself and I have to believe for fposte also, the subordinate would not be pushed so hard that the subordinate would have to say something that. It starts with, “Oh, Subordinate, do you have a record of that date on something?” If I did get a remark like that as a supervisor the first thing I would say to myself is “What have I done to provoke such an UNUSUAL response from an employee? Maybe I failed to listen, I better double check here.”

              1. Yorick*

                To me, your language (not clear but will do anyway) isn’t that different from what OP is saying to the boss that he still argues with.

          6. Kaaaaaren*

            Agreed. It’s one thing to argue about a certain approach to something or other matters of opinion and something else to argue about – and futz with – objective facts like the year in which an event occurred. Leaving the wrong year in the report because the manager couldn’t bear to admit they were incorrect is ridiculous and, I’m sure, very frustrating for the OP. I’m having a hard time imagining with the valid “big picture boss perspective” would be for purposely printing the wrong year, and I’m at a loss.

            Anyway, I think the OP is best served following Alison’s advice and even, I daresay, being less forthcoming with opinions of the non-critical variety. It might be less frustrating if there are less opportunities for disagreement to begin with and ultimately the boss doesn’t seem overly interested in OP’s opinions anyway.

          7. Librarian of SHIELD*

            In my workplace, “fiscal year 2018” means July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018. So an event that took place in the last half of 2017 is treated financially as occurring in FY 2018. It could be something like that.

            1. bonkerballs*

              Same. And it can get EXTREMELY confusing at my place of business as we have the calendar year, the liturgical year, the school year, and the fiscal year all on different schedules.

          8. Workerbee*

            And if there were a legit bigger picture to 2018 vs 2017, the boss wouldn’t have needed to spend the whole day coming up with arguments to say so.

      2. Asenath*

        I’d suspect the same thing that makes the boss want buy-in and not “agree to disagree”, but there are situations in which people can get confused over dates. For example, when you’re sometimes using an academic year and sometimes a calendar year, is some invoice dated “2019” referring to the current or next academic year (both of which include part of 2019 or the calendar year? Or maybe the financial year? Not everyone puts the two years in (2019-2020) to specify an academic year, and anyway, you can get different academic years in the same institution.

        But the way it’s written, it sounds like a straightforward date – in this report, we refer to a conference that took place in 2017. Not 2018.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Some people are just like that. I’ve known plenty of people, male and female, who just could not stand to be wrong and would say any ridiculous thing to “win”. It’s not worth the time and energy it takes to debate them: Unless it’s life-threatening or illegal, you just roll over and let them be ridiculous.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      To me, it’s the boss that sounds exhausting to work with, not the OP. I agree that they need to reframe their wording but with the part about the boss spending so much time trying to convince their employee the boss is correct (even when that’s blatantly untrue like with the 2017 thing), I’m convinced the boss is the real problem here. This is likely a “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change” situation OP just has to live with and be mindful of their wording to work well together.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        I get your point, bu the OP saying “let’s agree to disagree” is not the right approach at all. It’s not about agreeing to disagree. It’s about the manager having the final say as the decision-maker, and the OP doing what he is being told to do by the manager. The OP’s approach is wrong in this case, which is why Allison suggest some better ways to approach the end of the discussion.

      2. Kathleen_A*

        I can’t tell who is more in the right and who is more in the wrong here, but I suspect there’s enough blame to go around. In any case, it’s the supervisee who wrote in, not the supervisor, and from that perspective, “I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree” just is NOT going to cut it, not very often, anyway. It sounds really…patronizing, and bosses dislike being patronized just as much as the rest of us. There will be exceptions, of course – circumstances when the employee has to stand his or her ground – but generally speaking, if the OP can’t manage to say “Yes, I understand. I’ll do it that way,” and to say it respectfully and without even a hint of “I’ll do it your way even though I know you’re wrong,” he or she needs to get another job.

        I’ve had bosses like this, and if the supervisee isn’t careful, he/she can get in the mindset where you’re arguing about stuff that doesn’t matter, and you’re doing it just because you’re so irritated by all those previous disagreements. It sounds to me as though Boss may have hit this point already, and that’s not good.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          As an aside though, I can understand OP’s respect just sliding away. I think most people would lose respect for this boss. For me, this would read as the early stages of burnout, when my respect slides away from me.

          People are pretty transparent one to the other, OP. At some point our negative thoughts about others DO bubble to the surface and become apparent to those around us.

      3. Washi*

        Yeah, I think the boss sounds so ridiculous that people are trying really hard to come up with some other explanation for the behavior but unfortunately, some people are just like this! I had a boss like this and thank goodness I was able to move out of that job real quick. Because even on factual things, there was absolutely no point in arguing her, so I just responded to everything with a cheerful “ok!”

        “Hmm, I think this song is a polka, not Polish opera.”
        “Polish opera songs are polkas.”

        (No idea why that example came to mind but I still think of it sometimes when I hear actual polkas!)

        1. Vemasi*

          Yes, I think people are somewhat off point when they say that OP’s boss could just be overly frustrated with OP. Boss is the type of person who does this, and the only result of OP being a bit stubborn is that OP is the one getting this blowback–if it weren’t him, it would be (and probably still is) everyone else in the department. And OP has written in to ask how they can SOUND less ingrained in their opinion, just like everyone else does, in order to avoid these arguments.

      4. Kaaaaaren*

        I tend to agree. So long as the OP is following the manager’s directives and not being a total snot about it (which I really didn’t get from this letter), why is the boss SO COMMITTED to brow-beating OP into genuine, heart-of-hearts agreement? To waste hours and days revisiting a settled issue until, final, the OP concedes…? It’s ridiculous and petty. I think OP should follow Alison’s advice but I SUSPECT the boss won’t be truly and really satisfied until the OP just stops offering opinions altogether so there is no “challenge” to his/her at all. So, OP, I will add to Alison’s advice: Unless something is a truly critical error, maybe just don’t worry about it?

    3. Surly*

      Interesting. I’m definitely that person — I’ll say “I still feel that’s not correct grammar but I will use it if that’s what you want.” I hadn’t thought of it as being exhausting, but rather as acknowledging it’s their decision, and I’m not required to agree.

      1. RandomU...*

        Let me ask a question. I’m assuming you would have already pointed out what you think about the grammar by this point in the conversation. What do you gain by saying “I still feel that’s not correct grammar but…”?

        You are either asking it to make sure that the person knows you don’t agree, even though you’ve told them that or you are essentially saying “I’ll do it your way but you are wrong”. Either way it’s not ‘walking away’ from the disagreement.

        It took me a long time to figure this out, but once I did I was glad of it. Because mostly ‘who was right’ didn’t really matter in the big picture.

        1. goducks*

          I like the way you put it. That final push to tell the manager they’re wrong is kind of like having to have the last word in an argument, instead of truly agreeing to disagree and dropping it entirely.

          1. OP*

            When you phrase it that way it actually helps me think of it in a different perspective. I have always thought of it from the perspective of – the decision is wrong and I want to make sure that we are aware that we are doing it wrong, but ultimately I don’t care strongly enough to lose my job/am currently not willing to give up my job over it being incorrect so just want to make sure that I have clearly raised the issue so I am covered if it gets identified in the future. I am going to have to think on that one a little more and see if I can use that to help me change my mindset. Thanks!

            1. Dust Bunny*

              This is why you do it by email: So you can document that you’re not responsible for it being incorrect.

            2. Anne Elliot*

              But not every issue you disagree with merits this level of flagging/pushback. First, I would ask you to consider that not really that many work issues are likely to be as black and white as you phrase things here, where something is objectively “wrong” and another way to do it is objectively “right,” like the example you gave of a clearly incorrect date being intentionally used. If your boss were truly doing multiple things absolutely and objectively wrong, there probably would be direct and quick consequences of those repeated wrong decisions. Doing something it a way that is not merely sub-optimal but literally WRONG, is rare. So maybe consider whether your conclusion that “the decision is wrong” is in every case necessarily correct? To me, it’s a red flag (well, a yellow flag) that this is an issue that is coming up for your repeatedly, in that it might indicate you are investing your own opinion with the certainty of absolute correctness that perhaps it does not merit. Secondly, even if your boss is, in fact, absolutely and repeatedly wrong, it does not follow that he or she is unaware that they are doing it “wrong,” meaning the way they want it done. So even if you are correct that “the decision is wrong,” that doesn’t mean you have any obligation to “make sure that we are aware that we are doing it wrong.” You are allowed to assume your boss’s competency and let them blissfully walk off the cliff they are aiming at. And if there are consequences, you can shrug and say, “That’s the way Boss said to do it and I assumed they knew what they were talking about.” It is a kindness to try to prevent your manager from wandering into Error, but you have no obligation to do so, especially when you are perfectly aware based on previous interactions that your efforts are not appreciated. Third, unless there is reason for you personally to need “cover” in the event the error gets identified in the future, there’s no reason for you to explicate every error you see, especially when it clearly is not serving your relationship with your boss. So maybe ask yourself if, in fact, there are likely to be consequences to you if/when the “wrong” thing, is discovered — and if there won’t be any, let it go, it won’t come back to you anyway. Last, even if there WILL be consequences, and they WILL potentially rebound to your detriment (like if, for example, you have some regulatory responsibilities), there are ways to cover yourself that do not involve continuing to argue with your manager, including (as others having advised) the memorializing email or even personal notes you don’t pull out unless/until you have to.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            This. And I say this as somebody who is and comes from a long line of people who Must Have The Last Word. Making a point of saying that you agree to disagree is not letting the argument drop; it’s still trying to get one more dig in and ensures that the specter of . . . But I Am Right haunts the situation indefinitely. Letting it drop means rolling your eyes internally and then rolling over and doing whatever it was that your boss wanted.

            The thing is, you’re right that you’re not required to agree, but there is also no good reason to make a point of letting everyone know that you don’t agree. It serves no purpose other than to let you feel that everyone knows that you’re still right.

        2. Eirene*

          I’ve had to say this to many writers at my editorial job. We have an in-house style guide; anything not in that can be looked up in the Chicago Manual of Style for more guidance. I’ve worked with several writers who insisted on using the incorrect terminology or grammar even after showing them the relevant style guide to show them that I’m not simply being arbitrary. Some of them have even changed my edits back to the incorrect original text. I cultivate an image of flexibility and positivity, because I firmly believe they are important attributes, but we editors are encouraged by management to push back on things like this to produce the highest-quality product possible, and I do. Politely! Because that is my actual job.

          I have actually said things like, “This is not consistent with our style guide, but if you really feel that strongly about it, we’ll go with what you want.” So yeah, I guess that could be seen as negative, but that’s also what I’m supposed to do. However, I’ve decided one push-back on my part is enough, because I like my job, but I’m not emotionally invested enough to die on the hill of “comprised of” vs. “comprised” and risk pissing off an SVP. I still get the emotional satisfaction of being right, even if nobody will acknowledge it.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            You are making me think. I remember times where I have said, “Okay we can do this. But I want to go on record as having pointed out that we need x here not y.”

            There is something about saying, “I want to go on record as saying…” that makes some people become attentive.

            1. CM*

              I think that only works if you’re in a role where you are supposed to enforce certain standards (editorial, legal, finance, company policies). Otherwise it sounds combative.

        3. Surly*

          For me, working in academia (I’m a librarian at a university), I think it’s two things:

          1) Aside from a couple of very *bad* managers, I don’t think of my supervisor as my Boss in the same way others might; I see them as a colleague who has the final say. Most of my good supervisors are very collegial rather than authoritarian, so it’s a different dynamic.

          2) I do feel a bit of an ethical obligation to expressing dissent in a way that I haven’t in non-academic careers. Especially when it comes to a decision that affects students or researchers. For example, poor grammar in a sign can make students less likely to respect us. Or, making a decision to share student data can be unethical and very much worth pushing back on.

          But I definitely understand that others don’t feel that way — I can see there are quite a few replies already from people who find me exhausting!

        4. Pescadero*

          For me… it’s usually CYA.

          When it comes back later on me that it is wrong – I want it known that it wasn’t my decision, and my performance review should not be dinged for it.

      2. goducks*

        The fact that you pushed back in the first place told your manager that you disagreed. They know you disagree. You don’t need to restate it.
        And I know this is going to sound harsh- and I don’t mean it to, but sometimes managers aren’t looking for their staff to agree, but just to execute. Not everything is about consensus.

        1. RandomU...*

          Agree… especially with topics such as grammar… Oxford Comma anyone? How about double spaces after a “.”? Which format is everyone using?

          There are many times when both parties are ‘right’ but at the end of the day it just doesn’t matter.

          1. Alianora*

            Oops, guess I should’ve refreshed the page before commenting! I used exactly the same example.

            1. RandomU...*

              Nothing stirs up a healthy disagreement than our friend the Oxford Comma!

              …States for the record that the use Oxford Comma is always the right choice ;)

              1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

                I am an Oxford Comma supporter and used to compile a quarterly document that was approved by a few non-Oxford Comma people. It was so painful to me not to use my beloved punctuation, but I did it because both of them had “EVP and Chief…” at the beginning of their job titles and I did not.

              2. Jules the 3rd*

                One of the most traumatic experiences in my academic career was the first TA who took off points for each Oxford Comma. I still use it but for that class I gritted my teeth and took them out, because that was the required end product.

                1. RandomU...*

                  I might have asked my 2nd grade reading teacher to come out retirement and have a chat with the TA. Sr. Barbara could be formidable with her Oxford Commas.

              3. Ann O.*

                That is why departments need style guides. Standards are arbitrary, but the need for consistency is not.

          2. Thankful for AAM*

            RandomU, one of the joys of my life is that I get to make all the editorial decisions on our small dept newsletter.

            Oxford commas, one space after a period!

            1. RandomU...*

              Oh no… I was with with you, right up until “one space after a period” NOOOOOOOOOO… there are two always two. See without 2 things look funny, look at my poor mangled two sentences above.

              “the TA. Sr. Barbara”

              Just look at how weird that looks. It would have been crystal clear if there were “the TA.__Sr. Barbara” with the _ being a space.

              1. Thankful for AAM*

                One space is standard with computers, only typewriters need 2. Type 2 spaces in a text and you get a period and one space.

                And I get to do what I want with mylittle newsletter, yay!

      3. Alianora*

        Usually, saying that kind of thing doesn’t add much value to the conversation.

        Boss: Let’s use the Oxford comma here.
        Surly: Oh, I don’t think that’s actually grammatically correct.
        Boss: Actually, it is correct. Let’s use it.

        Are you thinking that saying “Okay, I’ll use it,” will make your boss think she changed your mind? I can understand that instinct, but she already knows that you disagreed and she’s decided to go in a different direction.

        If you do make a point of saying you disagree every time, it comes across as, well, disagreeable.

        1. dealing with dragons*

          “grammatically” correct is pretty loaded too, since different dialects can have different grammar. that’s what style guides are for! :)

          whenever someone argues grammar as small as a comma with me, it generally tells me they’re the kind of people who correct how people speak.

          1. Surly*

            I wouldn’t argue it over a comma or someone’s casual speech. But if something is going on an official university sign (“Student’s return your books here”), I will say “I will go ahead and use an apostrophe if that’s your decision, but I am concerned that it is incorrect, and here’s my source [link to style guide or authoritative grammar source].”

            1. Surly*

              Either way, I’m not saying that people should be like me. I’m just empathizing with the OP because I would find this very difficult too.

            2. RandomU...*

              How about… “Hmmm … Something looks off in that sign. Should there be an apostrophe there? I thought that it isn’t typically used for the plural…” then pause.

              Your way has an adversarial tone to it in my ears (If that makes sense). It comes across as know-it-all. Think back to the mistakes you’ve made that others have caught. When pointed out to you, which ways came across as helpful, condescending, informative, etc.? Which ways raised your hackles, put you on the defensive, made you appreciate how they told you.

              Honestly, this is a skill that goes well beyond employee/boss relationships. How a person points out mistakes of others or works through differences of opinion affect all relationships. Employee/boss interactions just have a few more dynamics to them.

              1. Surly*

                That’s interesting. I actually respond much better to feedback if someone says “Oh, that shouldn’t have an apostrophe” quickly and clearly, rather than if they pretend to be unsure.

                The pretending feels condescending to me and absolutely raises my hackles — I totally did a mental shudder at your example.

                I think it’s just different communication styles. It’s interesting how different people can have such different responses.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  Guess vs Ask, like so many things on this site…
                  Guess: “Oh, does that really have an apostrophe? For a plural?”
                  Ask: “Plurals shouldn’t have apostrophes”

                2. RandomU...*

                  What’s pretend about the statement?

                  Something does look off in the sign.
                  You’re asking the question if there should be an apostrophe
                  You are expressing your understood usage of the apostrophe

                  I mean, yes that example was probably way over the line of a softening tone. But there’s a whole lot of space between my examples and yours. It could be as little as “Hey, should that have an apostrophe?” or “I don’t know if we should use an apostrophe”. Both of those are probably closer to the middle between our combined examples.

              2. Princess prissypants*

                ^Yeah, this touches on a couple other comments that in certain disciplines (academia, ahem) this kind of vague-ish feedback is at best unclear and at worst seen as incompetent.

                Just say, “Take out the apostrophe.”

              3. Cercis*

                I just say “oh oops, autocorrect added an apostrophe to a plural, let me fix that real quick” and move on. And sometimes it is autocorrect. I absolutely know the difference between it’s and its but sometimes my phone decides to “fix” its for me…

            3. Thankful for AAM*

              Surly has reached peak librarian level in the suggested wording!

              I’ll do what you want but here is a source that says this other way is correct for us.

              Its all about the sources!

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        You’re not required to agree, that’s true. You’re also not required to keep giving your opinion after it’s been rejected.

        Having to get the last word in is not just exhausting, it makes you seem difficult and less likely to be taken seriously.

        1. Surly*

          That’s fair. I can accept that I’m seen as exhausting, and that it probably does hurt my career in the long run .

          1. goducks*

            From my point of view as a manager, when I have an employee who repeatedly gives feedback which I’ve considered, but decide to go another direction tell me they’ll do it but they disagree, it triggers the same nerve as when my kids ask me why a billion times after I’ve told them no and explained why, and I resort to “Because I say so”.

            Because I say so isn’t good parenting, nor is getting irritated at the employee who has to register his disagreement after final direction has been given good management, but we’re all human and get frustrated when people are being disagreeable when given a directive.

            The good news is now you know, and you can work to root out that need to re-register your disagreement and save it for when it really counts.

            1. Alianora*

              How do you deal with that? My instinct would probably be to say, “Disagreement noted,” or something to that effect. I have no idea how the typical employee would react to that statement, since I’m not a manager.

              1. goducks*

                Pretty much that. Plus coaching that my expectations are that there is a time for input, but once a final path is selected that I expect them to be 100% supportive of that path. Supportive doesn’t have to mean agreeing, but supportive means not subverting either in action or attitude. The decision’s been made, get on board and execute to the fullest of your ability.

                I think it’s important to remember that most managers also have managers with whom they don’t necessarily agree, but execute anyway.

                I’ve had a number of times I’ve found myself having to implement a policy that I didn’t agree with, voiced my disagreement during the discussion phase, but was overruled by a higher up. It’s especially unfun as a manager trying to rally your troops to execute a plan that you yourself never would have made. Yet you put on a smile, and you do it with enthusiasm, because that’s the decision that’s been made.

                1. CM*

                  “Because I say so” is very different from, “I’ve listened to your input and understand that you disagree, but this is my decision to make and I’ve decided to go in this direction. Your job is to carry out this decision.” It sounds like what you’re really doing is the latter. I think that’s appropriate, while just saying “because I say so” is disrespectful.

            2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

              That’s part of it. The other part of my concern, as a manager, is whether the employee will actually do the job well. If it’s a comma, no big deal. But if they disagree with the way I’ve asked them to approach a vendor about a delicate issue, to the extent that their response to me is “I think you’re wrong but I’ll do what you want….” I am not very confident they will do what I want in good faith.

              I don’t need my staff to agree with me, but I do need them to not be so invested in disagreeing with me that it shows up in half-assed work.
              Now, not everyone who uses “agree to disagree” is going to do that… but it does make me pause. And watch. Frankly, too, if my employee is going to the mat on things like commas and feels the need to have it On the Record, I’m likely not to take it as seriously when they want to go On the Record for something big like the vendor issue. I don’t trust their judgement about what is actually a big deal.

              As an employee, that’s not really the dynamic I want my boss to have with me. It’s definitely not a dynamic I want to have with my employees.

  6. A Simple Narwhal*

    I have found myself a lot happier at work now that I’ve stopped getting emotionally invested in it.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t care about my work, not at all! It just means that I’m not tying up my identity and self-worth in what happens at the office. There aren’t wins and losses anymore, just how we proceed.

    1. Anonym*

      Can you share anything about how you’ve done this? This is my exact current goal/challenge and any insight at all would be greatly appreciated, as I’m finding it really tough to do.

      OP may find it helpful, but I definitely will!

      1. Washi*

        Are you able to do so in any other areas of your life? For me, it’s a similar mindset to what it’s like to hang out with my grandparents for an afternoon. You want to tell me the same stories over and over? Sure! Would I like to hear about your most recent colonoscopy? Go ahead! I will be here from 12 – 3 and we can do whatever you want.

        So basically, my goals had to be not about how I would feel or what I would accomplish, but just be present, be nice, then go home.

        1. Wren*

          Does that still work when you need to be driving projects? I’d love to be less emotionally involved in work, but I struggle to imagine how effective I’d be at meeting deadlines and directing product development if I was less emotionally invested.

        2. Southern Yankee*

          This is a great way to reset the mental process – visiting the slightly irritating relative that I love isn’t about me, it’s about them. How can I keep that focus in mind? Know going in I’ll probably hear the same stories.
          So, for the work argument issue, maybe OP should identify the end goal. You want to be right all the time? OK. I want to stop wasting time on the conversation and CYA so the mistake doesn’t bite me later. Tell boss “Yes, ok” then go send an email or document the decision. OP got what they wanted and so did boss. Of course, you really have to want to stop the conversation more than you want to win the argument or you’ll probably keep getting stuck there.

        3. Anonym*

          Washi, this makes a lot of sense – there are so many times when what’s called for is to be patient with someone’s quirks!

      2. Princess prissypants*

        Anonym, I’ve made the switch you’re looking for. Working with scientists was a key part of it for me, because in their world it is the law that results matter, and nothing else does. Not feelings, not intentions, not missed opportunities, nothing.

        It doesn’t help to say, “I knew that, I was just X” or “What I meant was Y” or “I’m planning to Z” – and then getting worked up when other people react negatively to those statements. What matters is that you do X, Y, and Z. So for me, I simply adopted saying, “okay, thank you” to every request, comment, feedback, whatever. Because it doesn’t matter and doesn’t help to do anything else. Having a neutral response planned should help take some of the emotion out of it for you.

        1. Anonym*

          I will definitely try planning a neutral response, especially with people one should expect to be difficult. I have a senior colleague rather like OP’s boss. Good to go in armed like this!

        2. Anne Elliot*

          And for me, as an extremely busy manager, my personal reality — which of course I cannot say, and do not say — is that a point rapidly arrives where I don’t give a shit whether you agree with me or not, or why. Assuming a concern has been raised (and I genuinely appreciate concerns being raised), if I have considered the concern and made a decision regarding next steps, at that point I honestly do not care if you continue to disagree, nor do I have the time or mental bandwidth to devote to why you think I’m wrong. I asked you to do the thing; go do the thing.

          Because I _may_ be wrong; I almost certainly occasionally am, because I make 600 decisions a day. Part of what matters in my very strange sphere is that SOMETHING be done, that a response be seen, and that we don’t get so wrapped around the axle on any one problem that we fall into paralysis on that one problem or any of the 599 that follow. As was once said on “The West Wing”: If we’re going to run into walls, let’s make sure we’re doing so at full speed. And if the solution was wrong, then the next time something similar comes up we’ll do something different. But in my job we cannot stop bailing while we wait for a perfect bucket, and if you are AT ALL invested in being right over moving the business unit forward, mine is not the team for you.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Happy to share! And honestly? It was a combination of therapy and leaving a toxic job.

      The biggest relief/epiphany I have ever felt came shortly after I put in my notice. A project I had spent a LOT of time on was cancelled when I was about 90% done with it. Normally this would send me into a panicky tailspin – oh my god they cancelled it because of me, if I was better/smarter/faster/something they wouldn’t have cancelled it, I must be terrible at this and since I’m my job, I must also be terrible – and so on. But instead, I felt nothing. It was just objective information about work I was doing, so I was able to just be like – cool, I’ll stop working on it. Once I was leaving I think I realized that nothing happening at my job actually mattered anymore and any fear or stress I had, well, what were they going to do, fire me? So I was able to take the information in objectively and proceed accordingly. It honestly felt like I was seeing for the first time in my life.

      But ignoring the nuclear option to find a different job (or if you’re in a healthy company and you’re just trying to make an internal change), I really recommend exploring why you’re putting so much personal stock into your work. I worked (am working) with my therapist, and I realized that my entire family is suuuper into the importance of employment and the appearances that came with it. So I was forcing myself to take work that I thought looked prestigious/cool, even if I hated it and was miserable. And I stayed long beyond the point that I should have left because I believed/was taught that everything would always work out or be achievable if you worked hard enough, so if I was struggling and miserable, I mustn’t be working hard enough and should try harder. And I was constantly shrouded with the fear of losing a job (also haunted by previous awful workplaces – workplace ptsd is totally a thing), and what that would mean to my family or my worth as a person, so with that hanging over my head, how could every little thing or action not be super emotionally charged?

      And more related to the LW, I also had to recognize that usually there isn’t a greater meaning in workplace things. If I want to go with solution X and it’s decided to go with solution Y, it was just decided that Y was the direction we were taking, nothing more. It didn’t mean that I was stupid, or they didn’t like me, or I was bad at my job, or some other hidden meaning. If you think that a decision is a referendum on who you are as a person, of course you’re going to see things as winning and losing.

      SO that’s 2+ years of therapy in a nutshell, but long story short, I had to really dig in to why I was putting so much weight onto things at work. I think if you recognize that you are a separate and complete person outside of work, and that your self-worth has nothing to do with your job, it really helps you separate things out.

      1. Jenn*

        I think you are me. Thank you for this comment, and I had the same “now I ACTUALLY SEE” moment after I gave notice at a Big Job.

      2. Anonym*

        I had a feeling that asking you was a good idea! I’ve just started working on this in therapy, too. To your excellent point about exploring why you’re putting so much personal stock into your work, I know exactly why I do. Different situation than yours, but same result. I’ve discussed this here before – I was a classic inattentive ADHD kid (such potential! such disappointment/failure!), and now that I’ve figured out how to be reasonably successful I’m absolutely using work to fill in the hole/repair my sense of self. Blargh. But yes, being conscious of it, especially in moments of stress or overwhelm, will be really helpful.

        Your second point likely applies to many of us in so many different situations. There is no greater meaning! It’s just work, not life- or self-defining. I sympathize with the letter writer, who seems to have a drive towards a certain principle (not letting herself be pushed into dishonesty or agreeing to what she knows is wrong), but it can be super helpful to be conscious of what situations really have bearing on your principles, the outcomes that matter to you, your reputation, etc. Most of them don’t, do they?

        Thank you so much for sharing!! I’m saving this for multiple re-reads, possibly taking notes. This is a real help. Best wishes to you, OP and all the commenters as we stumble towards healthier and more satisfying relationships with work!

    3. MindfulGrief*

      I’ve experienced a similar shift. In my case, it happened after my father died from cancer, which hopefully will not be necessary for others! But my therapist really helped me articulate the change, which was that in comparison to what I was dealing with in my personal life, the work stuff just didn’t MATTER. It really shifted my perspective, and I suddenly just wasn’t interested in going to the mat on principle when the stakes were anything less than life and death. Even if super important projects or reports weren’t as good as they could be, or were missed entirely: the worst thing that could happen wasn’t that bad.

      I’m a few years out from the immediate grief, and my relationship with work has totally changed. I’m still just as engaged and interested in doing the best work, but I’m able to keep an emotional distance from it. I know that even if a project doesn’t happen exactly the way I want it to, I’m going to be okay, and my work is going to be okay. I find it very freeing to be able to say “good enough” instead of pushing for “perfect.”

      1. Anonym*

        MindfulGrief, we’re in an uncannily similar boat (dad, timing, cancer). It first triggered me to revisit my relationships with people, but I’m now looking at work since it’s gotten much more stressful. I’ve been able to apply the new sense of perspective to many areas, but not there yet. For me, the new knowledge of what I can withstand has been helpful on an existential scale, but I’ve had trouble applying it to the day to day, especially when work politics make me worry about my job security and the success of my program. I’m saving your comment (and this sub-thread) for re-reading. Work truly isn’t the most important part of life. Thank you!

  7. mf*

    It sounds like Boss really wants to hear OP say, “You’re totally right! It should be 2018 instead of 2017.” I can see a scenario where the boss keeps arguing his (her?) point even after the OP says something non-confrontational like, “Alright, I’ll change the date to 2018.”

    If that’s the case, I’m not really sure how else OP can respond besides repeating: “Like I said, Boss, I’m going to change the date to 2018 and get you the draft by end of the day.”

    1. Ama*

      For things like the 2017/2018 situation, where it is factually incorrect but ultimately a fairly minor correction, I wonder if OP could say something like “thanks, I caught a couple minor typos and fixed them, here’s the new draft” and have the Boss respond more favorably.

      I used to use this approach with a boss who thought she was an amazing writer/editor because she had been an English teacher in a prior career, but who frequently made pretty basic errors like poor subject/verb agreement and switching verb tenses in the middle of sentences (and we were in academic administration, so if something we sent out had those kinds of errors the faculty would be all over us). If I went back to her with “here’s a point by point list of every place that needs fixing” we would have to argue it out, but if I made the corrections and went back with “I gave this a quick proofread and made some minor corrections,” she rarely said anything. I think half the time she couldn’t even tell what I had changed.

    2. Pete*

      “It sounds like Boss really wants to hear OP say, ‘You’re totally right! It should be 2018 instead of 2017.’”

      I agree with this, maybe it’s just my interpretation but I read the letter as the boss not being okay with OP just agreeing to move forward with their decision but wanting to explicitly hear OP say that the boss was right all along. I agree that OP needs to go along with the boss’ decision once it’s made unless it’s a legal/safety issue but I would not be willing to say “You are right and I am wrong” if I truly didn’t believe that, even if I would fully get on board with the plan, because to me that’s an outright lie.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yeah, it’s hard to say without seeing the interactions, but I used to have a boss like this, so that was my initial read of it. I tried Alison’s approach and that was just not enough. I could just keep cheerfully saying some version of “I’ll do it that way”/”Ok, I’ll make that change and send it on”/”ok, will do, I’ll get that taken care of” over and over, and she wanted to keep going until I said she was right. (For the record this was always in an area where I was the subject matter expert and she was most definitely not, I never expressed disagreement with her on matters in her area of expertise). It was truly exhausting. But I agree that whether that’s what’s going or not, saying “we’ll just have to disagree” is not something that’s going to go over well with your boss in most contexts where your boss is telling you to do something.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          For heaven’s sake, “agree to disagree” is a social phrase, not a work phrase!

      2. mf*

        I agree–I also wouldn’t be willing to say “You are right and I am wrong” if I didn’t believe it. The closest I might be able to come is: “It’s your decision, so I’ll change it to 2018.”

        I also think any boss that really pushes an employee to say “You are right and I am wrong” has serious power issues that makes them unsuitable to management. I could handle them for a few years at most, but eventually I’d be looking for a new job.

  8. Serin*

    I had a boss like this, and she was a nightmare. I still will instinctively, flinchingly substitute “such as” for “like” because she had such strong feelings about it.

    I’m afraid I don’t really think Alison’s suggestion would have worked with her, because once I had expressed an opinion that differed from hers, nothing would satisfy her short of “Oh, I see. I was misunderstanding. You’re right.”

    However, once I had expressed an opinion that differed from hers, my standing with her turned out to have been permanently undermined, so in the end it wasn’t salvageable.

    She had a pal in the office who could say, “Hepzibah, you’re full of shit and you know it,” and she’d just … yield. I never knew whether that was because he was a guy, because of something in their shared history, or because he had some expertise that I didn’t have.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s taking you into the realm of “utterly unreasonable and unworkable” though. The only solution there is to accept that that’s part of the package of working with her or (better) get out. Maaayyybe you could tackle it with a “here’s the pattern I’ve noticed and I think it’s problematic because …” conversation, but I’m really skeptical that would work with the person you’re describing.

    2. Rachel*

      Yes, I wonder too if Allison’s excellent suggestions will work. My sister was like this: it wasn’t enough for her to “win.” She wasn’t satisfied and couldn’t let anything go unless the other person explicitly said something conveying the idea, “You are right and I was wrong.”

      OP, if your boss disagrees after you’ve explained your point of view, I really hope just letting things go and proceeding as the boss wishes works for you. But if the non-confrontational lines don’t work, it isn’t you – it’s your boss.

      1. Snowglobe*

        Yep, this was my father. He would keep arguing, even if I was not responding, for hours. He just wanted me to acknowledge that he was right. No way to win, other than to never disagree in the first place.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        Oh hey there sister-in-law! ;) (My husband has one sister who does this constantly, not being satisfied until you *convincingly* act like you now agree with her. He told me of an incident where he literally left the house to avoid being harangued any further, and she pursued him outside, continuing to argue the merits of her POV, until he got in his car to drive away.)

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          What a waste of energy. (On her part, not his.) But then, these days, that’s how I feel about most arguments: not worth the effort I’d have to put into it.

  9. Bopper*

    I had an instance like this:
    I just couldn’t agree. It couldn’t be done that way technically so I did it my way.

    Another time I thought something was completely useless as a way to solve a problem and eventually said “You are the boss, I will do it” and I did and of course I was right and it was a waste of money.

    1. Klingons and Cylons and Daleks, Oh My!*

      Did your boss then blame you for doing it the wrong way and wasting all that money?

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Oh, I used to work at a small startup and many many times had to use the “I don’t agree with your assessment, but you’re the owner and it’s your company so of course I will ultimately do as you wish.”

      The problem with that boss though was that he would bait you by asking for opinions or discussions when all he really wanted was an argument just to feel he won and got his way over his employees. It was exhausting and pointless! And if you got wise and didn’t offer any opinion, he’d get mad at you for that too.

  10. Snark*

    This boss sounds like a whole lot, and I am glad I don’t have to deal with placating his ego, but OP…you kinda knew that phrasing was formulated to make damn sure he knew you disagreed and were going along to placate his ego. And I get it! I hate going gently into the good night of some ego-tripping authority figure’s cack-brained decision too. But. Don’t poke the bear on your way out of the cave.

    1. Zephy*

      OP used “they” throughout the letter, we don’t know that the ego-brained authority figure is a man. I have definitely worked for women like this.

  11. Kimmybear*

    I’ve worked for two people like this…both entrepreneurs who were focused on owning their own businesses more than the service/product they were providing. I could have the official documentation in black and white and they would argue with me about what it said because they were always right. I’ve stopped arguing as I’ve gotten older and spent more of that energy on covering my butt.

  12. Aggretsuko*

    Just let him win. It’s more important to him, he has the power, just…don’t object. He’s gonna do what he’s gonna do. With people like this I make sure I lose hard, publicly and fast so he’ll go away, more or less. I’m out of care, he won’t let it go, so fine, he wins.

    1. Reba*

      You gotta drop your end of the rope, since the other person never will.

      OP, maybe it would help you to frame it internally as “I am *choosing* to let this go” rather than “losing.” You are choosing because you know what it will cost you to deal with your boss’s inability to cope emotionally with any kind of dissent or sense of defeat… But still!

      This does not apply in cases where you will get negative consequences for your boss’s wrong decision. But also try considering in many cases (not the date thing) your boss and you are not in right or wrong camps, but just different ideas.

      1. fposte*

        I was verbatim thinking “drop the rope” myself. I mean, hey, if the boss wrote in I’d have a lot of advice for them as well, but the OP has a lot more to lose in this arrangement by not dropping the rope than by saying mildly “Okay, cool, 2018 it is.”

    2. Kt*

      I understand what you’re saying and I also feel for the OP. I just can’t lose hard, fast, and publicly on factual issues. I just can’t say, “Of course I’ll write Africa is a country. I agree!” “Of course I’ll write that the Berlin Wall fell in 2000!” I can write it, but I cannot *say* that someone is right when they’re wrong. I am not in dire enough straits: if my child’s life was at risk or it was wartime or something, sure…

      I understand that for some this is not an integrity issue. For me, lying for my boss is an integrity issue. And I’ve met people whose desire for control is much stronger than their desire to do good work. They truly just want you to roll over and show your belly, and making someone say “yes sir Africa is a country sir and the Berlin Wall fell in 2000 sir” when they know it’s wrong just makes it sweeter, just makes the power rush feel better. The need to get someone to say false things so that they can avoid harassment is abusive. Be careful.

      1. Surly*

        This is me! It might make it easier with some bosses, but I can’t say “You’re right, Africa is a country.” Which has definitely gotten me into trouble with a particularly nasty supervisor in the past.

      2. hbc*

        I’m there with you. I won’t rub in that I disagree, but I absolutely will not state agreement with something I believe is false. I’m not really a black/white thinker, so there’s not too much I’ll take an absolute stand on, but if you try to convince me that owls aren’t birds, you’re not going to get better from me than “I’ll put them in the mammal section like you asked.”

      3. JB (not in Houston)*

        I’m right there with you. Although for some bosses, probably most of them, you don’t have to actually express agreement with them that they are right to get them to stop the argument. You can just do what Alison suggested, saying “Ok, I’ll do it that way” or some version of that. They want an acknowledgment that they have the final say in the matter, and a “we’ll agree to disagree” is as good as saying “you’re wrong, but I’ll be a good sport and let you win,” which isn’t really acknowledging they have the final say. As I noted above, I had a boss once who wasn’t satified with what Alison suggests (and it puts you in the position of having to feel like you’re lying), but for a lot of people that would be good enough.

  13. On Hold*

    I have an employee who regularly “agrees to disagree”… about her own performance issues that I am raising. At this point, that phrase has me spitting nails. From an employee to a manager, it’s incredibly patronizing and pretty much guaranteed to sour the relationship. It comes across as “you’re wrong, but as ~the boss~ I guess I have to humor you…”

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      But “agreeing to disagree” doesn’t work with facts. You expect her to perform at a certain level, and she’s not meeting those expectations. So she’s wrong. She may be delusional and not accept the feedback you’re providing, but she’s wrong. And you need to make her understand that unless she improves, you will take steps to (insert disciplinary action here).

      1. On Hold*

        Exactly. And trust me, I have been exceedingly clear. I’m hampered by the fact that she performs very well in certain (easily quantified) metrics, while falling down on other (harder to quantify) areas, so in the past I have explicitly not been allowed to coach her out. I think the tide is slowly turning, but it’s just a lot of documentation and ongoing PIP/warning/coaching on my part to build the case.

    2. Kathleen_A*

      Yeah, the reason it comes across that way is because that’s exactly what’s meant! It’s kind of patronizing in reverse.

    3. Roscoe*

      I mean, but sometimes its true. I’m not sure why you take it so personally. It literally means, I don’t agree with you, but I’ll do it your way. Not sure what is wrong with that except you feel that she is taking some kind of power from you.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Except that the employee *isn’t* doing it the way “On Hold” wants them to.

        And this a way that metrics can be unhelpful: not everything that can be measured matters, and not everything that matters can be measured (easily).

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Honestly if someone is disagreeing with you when it comes to performance issues, it the text book definition of “bad fit”, the need to be fired for not being able to preform to your satisfaction. The attitude is just added friction that is screaming “Fire this person” at you.

      1. On Hold*

        Absolutely, and as soon as I can get my grand-boss on board (she’s a top salesperson), it’ll be done. Right now there’s a lot of documentation, coaching, PIPs and warnings, just trying to build my case.

    5. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

      I’ve come to realize that the only “agree to disagree” that my boss and I can have is whether it’s OK for oatmeal cookies to have raisins in them or whether white chocolate can reasonably even be called “chocolate”.

    6. I am inevitable*

      I actually came to say that this phrase is such a cop-out. I’m not even a disagreeable or competitive person, but the only time I’ve ever heard it used is when people are arguing their biases and are refusing to accept data that clearly shows where they’re wrong.

      It seems like the number 1 “This argument isn’t going my way, so let’s say something meaningless to end it and make me sound like the bigger person”.

      1. RandomU...*

        I only use it when I want to end the discussion, but still want the other person to know that I know they are nob.

        So, yeah, I guess that could color my feelings on it :)

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        I’ve definitely used it in situations where it’s a matter of opinion (whether something is a good movie or not, for example) or at least something where there isn’t data that clearly shows either side is right, and i’ve seen it used that way by others, too. But in many work contexts, and especially when said to a boss in response to a boss giving a directive, it’s not going to be appropriate.

      3. CM*

        I see this phrase as meaning “we don’t agree and we’re not going to convince each other to change our minds,” which can come across as dismissive or not depending on the situation. Like if you tell someone “It matters whether or not I get radiation poisoning” and they say, “Agree to disagree,” that’s pretty mean, but it’s mean because, in that case, it’s the same thing as saying, “It doesn’t matter to me if you get radiation poisoning, and you can’t convince me otherwise” — not because the phrase itself is cruel.

        If it’s a situation where you’re giving someone feedback and they say they agree to disagree, to me, what that means is, “I’m not going to change anything based on that feedback” which… is a valid response. People get to make their own decisions about whether to change in response your feedback, and you get to make your own decisions about whether you want to continue to work with them if they don’t change.

        If it’s in the OP’s situation, where the person is essentially saying, “I will change what I’m doing in response to your feedback but we’ll have to agree to disagree about whether it’s a bad idea” then, as far as I’m concerned, that’s perfectly polite and a really good outcome for the manager that the manager should be pleased with. In that situation, when you’re already getting what you want, continuing to try to press someone to say that they agree with you is weird.

      4. Princesa Zelda*

        I use this phrase to shut down conversations with my father and sister about politics. I studied Political Science in undergrad and am fascinated by governance, but whenever I talk about it with them it quickly turns partisan and ugly. “Agree to disagree on . How’s the dog?” Works like a charm.

  14. Cordoba*

    My approach for how a team member should deal with an impending decision:
    -Before a decision is officially made articulate your position as clearly and assertively as you reasonably can, even if dealing with bosses or VIPs etc. If you’re a professional who’s been invited to participate in this conversation you owe it to the group to give them your actual thoughts and input even if it’s at odds with what they want to hear.
    -After a decision is made, enthusiastically execute that decision as if it was your own idea. There’s no longer “the boss’s way” and “my way”; there is only “the way this team is taking to make progress”.

    There are of course exceptions to the “just execute the decision” part of this. For example, where it’s a safety or ethics issue, or where the foreseeable outcome of the decision would be catastrophic to the overall goals of the organization. These exceptions are relatively rare in most careers.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      On that list of exceptions I’d also include times when a factual error would be embarassing if a customer or CEO points it out to us. If it’s a social media kerfuffle begin mentioned as filler in an internal newsletter? No big deal. If it’s the date of a corporate takeover in a letter to our Board of Directors & majority stockholders? Big deal.

  15. Aurion*

    Sage advice. It’s really comes down to (political) capital and whether it’s a battle worth picking. I don’t know who it was on this comment board that first brought up the “Disagree, but Commit” principle, but it has served me well. I ask my boss if she’s really sure she wants this handled X way given the disadvantages, but if she’s sure, it’s her call. But conversely, that means the few times I really stand my ground, she knows it’s serious and I mean it.

    1. Ama*

      Yes, I’ve done that with my boss a few times. Quite often she’s missing context I can provide that makes the option I favor the best one. Sometimes I fill her in and she changes her mind, sometimes I fill her in and she says “I still want to try it this way.” So then I try to execute it her way and only come back when I absolutely can’t do it.

      If it turns out her way is doable but is a lot of extra work or causes another issue (whether for the reason I identified or another reason), I will wait until we are done with the project and then mention it in a debrief. She quite often responds better when I can point to real examples of why it would be better to do it differently going forward then my hypothetical concerns.

      1. Anon Amazonian*

        “Have backbone; disagree and commit.” is one of Amazon’s 14 leadership principles.

  16. Jennifer*

    I wish I could applaud this answer. I hope the OP takes it to heart and applies it. I think this is the case of TWO overly opinionated people butting heads. As Alison said, there are going to be times when you don’t agree with the direction your boss wants to take, but they are the boss. You have to pick your battles and figure out when you need to take a stand and when you should let it go.

    1. RandomU...*

      This was my take as well. I agree with someone up thread, the phrase ‘agree to disagree’ is one of those phrases that people say mainly to piss off the other person in my experience.

      I am usually pretty resolute when I think I’m right about something. 2 things have probably kept me employed all of these years. 1- Knowing that I’m wrong enough to keep me guessing at my rightness and 2- learning when it just doesn’t matter who is right.

      I’ve had a few bosses who were like the one described. At the end of the day 95% of the things we disagreed on didn’t matter to me in the end (so much so that I couldn’t even remember what we disagreed on). So I just went with it. The other 5% of the time was when it was important – usually things having to do with my team or something that would have a long lasting effect and high impact. By limiting what I would push back on or correct I had better outcomes.

      The other thing is there were times where I found out after I had not said anything that I would have been wrong. I try to remember some of those times to remind me that, as much as I’d like to think I’m right all the time, I am in fact mortal and do make mistakes :) That gives me more inclination to give others the benefit of the doubt even when I think I’m right.

      1. OP*

        Interesting, the phrase ‘agree to disagree’ is fairly common in my field, so I have never thought of it as being used as a way to annoy others. It is actually referenced in our training deck for new staff, along with the procedures for when you are in that situation. But good to know, and just further support to the common theme in this post is that I need to strike it from my dictionary.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          OP, the context for the phrase matters A LOT. Acceptable: “we’ll agree to disagree that anchovies belong on a pizza”. Not acceptable (after you’ve raised your discussion points): “we’ll agree to disagree that your marketing strategy will work, but I’ll do it your way anyway.”

          1. Jennifer*

            I use it in my personal life from time to time but never with a boss. It kind of makes it sound like you’re not a team player. Even if you don’t agree, your job is to help make the idea a success.

        2. Project Problem Solver*

          Oh definitely, OP. For me, “agree to disagree,” said out loud comes across as both condescending and passive-aggressive. I can’t really think of a spoken use for it that isn’t “fine, I’m giving in because you’re being unreasonable, but I’m still right.”

          It’s useful if you’re trying to explain to new staff how to handle disagreements on their horizontal, but not spoken and not on a vertical.

        3. doreen*

          I hear “agree to disagree” a lot – and it’s not condescending, patronizing or used to annoy. However, it’s being used in the context of negotiations of some sort (for example, we have 15 items on the labor- management meeting agenda and we “agree to disagree” on item #6 so we can keep moving) , and I think that’s why some of the other uses seem condescending/patronizing/annoying. It gives the appearance that the person who is “agreeing to disagree” believes that the issue is subject to negotiation – and not every issue is.

    2. FortyTwo*

      Yes! I thought the OP was also guilty of not letting it go, as though he needs to register somewhere that he’s ultimately right. It’s also a bit of having to have the last word. “Do it like I said.” “I will, but I’m still right.” “You’re not, and you’re going to do it like I said.” “Okay. But…it’s still wrong.”

      But the 2017/2018 issue was just ridiculous.

      1. Jennifer*

        Completely ridiculous. That’s when you make sure it’s well known that that came from the boss and not you.

  17. Old Cynic*

    I had a manager who used to respond to vendor inquiries with “currently, at this time we don’t need that right now.” I tried a couple of times to revise the sentence but got a lot of push back so I gave up. It was their signature on the letter, not mine. I still chuckle about it though.

    1. Deborah*

      Now you’ve got me searching for other synonyms for “now” to make this even more redundant.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        “currently, at this time we don’t immediately need that right now presently.”

        I could go on, but I’m already disgusted with myself.

    2. Phoenix Wright*

      Sounds like a bad case of trying to be overly polite or kind. By trying to assure the other party that their refusal is only temporary and might change in the future, they end up making a mess of a sentence. I’m guilty of that myself sometimes, which is why I have to reread what I write several times to remove those repetitions.

  18. Nymwall*

    This one hits close to home. I still haven’t figured out being asked to give an opinion on a policy or decision just so it can be picked apart, then, when trying to go along with the final decision, being accused of disagreeing from the start…

  19. Laurel*

    I worked for someone similar, but when I would eventually say “Okay I’ll move forward with XYZ (her opinion)” she would say, “But didn’t you say that isn’t the right way to go?” like she was catching me in a lie. It was extremely bizarre, I felt like I always had to have my guard up and it was like a game of “gotcha!” Needless to say I have a new job.

  20. nnn*

    Two strategies I’ve used for dealing with egos and factual errors:

    1. Can you provide feedback as track changes or comments and leave it up to them to accept or reject your suggestions? That allows them to save face by not having to tell you you’re right, and instead just accept changes without any communication. At the same time, it also provides a record of your suggestions, in case they want to charge forward with 2018.
    2. The complete flip side: can you just make the changes yourself without any discussion, the same way you’d correct a clear, obvious typo?

    1. OP*

      All of the work I do is carefully tracked and we maintain independent versions of a document through every review process so that we can go back and see what changes were made by who in any given time frame. It eliminates the ability to make changes without them being identified. We will also frequently run track changes between documents so that we can review the changes that were made. My boss will review all changes before I can accept changes to finalize documents, so it makes it difficult to make changes without them being aware.

      1. mf*

        That’s a very good thing–at least you have documentation that you changed any incorrect data/information before he/she reviewed. This could be useful if your boss ever tries to pin one of these errors on you.

        1. Grey Coder*

          I know someone like your boss who made a mistake, got called on it, and tried to throw his colleagues under the bus rather than say “sorry, I got that wrong”. This kind of document trail was in place (which fortunately protected the innocent) but he doubled down multiple times, eventually insisting that the document trail could have been faked so they couldn’t prove the mistake was his. He was fired, not for the original mistake but for lying to the people who were investigating the mistake.

          Keep that documentation, with backups!

      2. LB*

        Can you just pretend the error was yours? “Oh no, boss, I put 2018 in the report instead of 2017. I know you would have caught this before it went out.” Then boss would have to own up to putting in the date, or argue he wouldn’t have caught the error. It’s infuriating, but it may get you what you want.

  21. Princess prissypants*

    Ah, I used to work for this guy. (see used to.)

    I finally figured out to just say, “Okay thank you” and move on. It really doesn’t matter who’s right with him, because he always is. Detach, disengage, repeat, survive, GTFO.

  22. only acting normal*

    If he still had staff I’d think you worked for my father. There is no winning with people like this, the only way is not to play. Alison’s advice for de-escalating language is great.

  23. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

    When I worked with faculty it was really, really hard to let go of my desire to have the last word when they were ending an email chain with something factually wrong, rude, ridiculously dramatic, or all three. Eventually I just had to start enjoying letting their last word hang out there in the universe, content that the email chain captured my reasonable explanation followed by their ‘this is the worst decision the university has ever made and will be the death of research as we know it!!11!1!’. It was a bit of a different situation because I had compliance responsibilities and the authority to just not comply with some requests, but the solution was about reframing my thoughts and giving up on the need to convince them I was right.

    1. Princess prissypants*

      I too, have noticed that his is more common among academics. they are trained hardcore over years to detail, argue, and document e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. At the same time, any natural tendency to be offended by criticism is beaten out of them hard, fast, and frequently – so they often forget that others can take such things personally.

      Be like Elsa.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      “Thank you for sharing your thoughts” is a very powerful statement. It acknowledges those thoughts and in no way indicates that you agree, approve, or anything else.

  24. Hannah*

    I disagree with my boss allllll the time. I use the phrase, “OK, I can do that.”

    I lay out my point, she lays out hers. I may point out concerns about “her way” but if I see I am not going to convince her, well, she is telling me how she wants it done, and she’s the boss. “I can do that” has the specific ability to convey that even though I may think one thing, and I have made that clear, I am ABLE to do the thing she is asking.

    Of course, there may be situations when you can’t do what is being asked. For example, if you are being asked to do something unethical or dangerous, the answer might be “I can’t do that.” Or if she is asking you to grow wings and fly, you might have to say, “I can’t do that,” because you literally can’t.

    1. RandomU...*

      This is the best phrase ever! (And probably the one that has saved my job more than once!)

      It leaves no room for additional discussion and everyone gets to move on to bigger and better things.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is exactly how to deal with it and how I do things as well when things boil down to “no, I want it done my way.”

      In the end it boils down to who the decision maker is and accepting it, without snark or heavy sighs/last words and jabs being slid into things, etc.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      I think using “I can do that!” regularly really helps you when you have to say, “I can’t do that.” It really underscores that you want to help, but it’s just not possible.

    4. Surly*

      That’s a great phrase! Thank you, as a chronic arguer, I am going to add “OK, I can do that” to my vocabulary.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Great phrase, Hannah! If my boss wants something done a certain way – and doing so won’t tear a hole in the universe – I’ll do it his/her way. They get what they want, and I don’t have a needless power struggle that I won’t win, anyway.

  25. Overeducated*

    After the person who ran my office for decades retired, the new leadership made huge changes to every part of the way we worked last year. I came around to their view on a lot of things but there were a few I really, strongly disagreed on (nothing illegal or unethical, more legitimate differences of professional judgment). What they did well was say “we’ve discussed this a lot, and the management decision is X.” That was a clear signal to me that discussion was over and I needed to just say “OK, I’ll go implement it.” And then the discussion really was over. This is a clear staff/management division of responsibility where I think your boss could lean on his authority more, but as Alison says, you could also be clearer that you’re not trying to register your opinion when the decision is actually made.

    Also, for the issues that I felt really strongly about and didn’t back down on until I was told “here is the management decision,” new management realized there were still underlying issues or conflicting risks we needed to reconcile at a later time, or were open to hearing “this new issue Y is actually arising from a nuance of the way we handled issue X, maybe we need to revisit that nuance.” Big things will pop up again, so you need to not use up all your good will stating your position on every little thing – save it for the more significant stuff so your boss knows when you take you seriously.

  26. Drax*

    I was just coming here to say that. My current boss is like that. She will argue to the death something is done incorrectly (read: not her way) even though she’s never once done this stuff and I’ve been doing it for 8+years. And it’s stupid things too, and ones I know she knows is wrong but because she didn’t think of it herself it must be wrong. Like I once told her an inventory count was wrong, and her response is I counted the wrong thing. I literally bought 100 of them the day before, it is physically impossible to only have 1.

    I decided I don’t have the emotional investment to deal with it. I don’t argue unless it’s a safety violation which she will still try and over rule me – y’know my formal OH&S training apparently means I have no idea what I’m talking about and obviously, because it doesn’t look like someone will break their neck it’s fine. We’re a welding shop BTW, falls are the LEAST of our worries. I just agree with her and move on.

    She could tell me the grass is orange and I will politely agree because it’s not worth the effort. At the end of the day she overrules me anyway, so why do I have to take that on it’s best to just let it go. There is no winner when people are like that, you may lose ego points to yourself to back down but that’s way better then hours of listening to them try to win.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Oh you have one of my bosses. No idea what my job did, but always knew how to do it better than me.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      I like “Okay, great!” as a response to things like this. (Also good for relatives who tell me how to do a thing and I know it’s not the best way, but honestly, we’re not doing brain surgery and good enough really can be good enough.)

  27. JJ Bittenbinder*

    My mom does it just the way the LW made it seem before the extra clarification. Like, I can say, “I agree” to whatever she says (which I often say, even when I don’t agree) and she’ll keep going. “No, really! It’s true because of this, and this, and this.”

    Drives me nuts.

    1. Paralegal*

      I have a relative like this, and I just started replying with “This is me not arguing with you.” Shuts them up 99% of the time.

  28. manondessources*

    I’m confused by some of these comments saying OP is also being too strong-minded. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds more like OP will raise a concern, discuss it, ultimately concede to their boss, and try to move forward, but the boss keeps rehashing the issue in the hopes of hearing an explicit “I was wrong, your idea is correct/better.”

    1. VelociraptorAttack*

      It’s the insistence on making sure they show that they disagree one last time. When they ultimately concede it’s by saying I disagree with you but… It seems like a way to try to get the last word in. Boss already knows they disagree.

      1. Jennifer*

        Exactly. Nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, but when the boss has made it clear that they want to go another way, mentioning again that you disagree is overkill. As the advice stated, the OP seems a bit too emotionally invested in making it known they disagree.

  29. Ice*

    Counterpoint on the date item – September 2017 could very well have been in the 2017/18 fiscal year (if year end isn’t Dec 31), which would often be referred to as 2018, especially if the report in question was the annual report. So the reference conceivably could have been both intentional, and correct.

    1. Me*

      Yes, but working for government we never absolutely 100% never reference a fiscal year without calling it a fiscal year. Usually FY 2018. Otherwise it causes confusion.

    2. JB (not in Houston)*

      The OP clarified that the fiscal year for them is the calendar year. And anyway we should take the OP for their word that they knew that to be a mistake. It doesn’t change the advice.

      1. dramalama*

        I think you’re absolutely right, continuing the argument OP had with their boss is totally not the point here.

        That said… “the fiscal year is the calendar year” makes zero sense to me. I mean… It’s just not. Even if your industry is so financially driven that you only care about the fiscal year, the calendar year still exists, and is different by definition.

        1. doreen*

          I’m not sure what you mean – are you saying that there must be a fiscal year that’s different from the calendar year, or just that if the entity only uses the calendar year, it’s never called a “fiscal year”?

        2. Cercis*

          My company fiscal year is the calendar year. That is, our fiscal year runs January 1 to December 31. Which is, I’m pretty sure, what the OP was stating.

  30. Katherine*

    I’ve gotten some good mileage with the phrase “Okay, sounds good!” when agreeing to do something the way the boss wants it done – this may not work as well in situations like the 2017 vs. 2018 that you described, but as a generic phrase to have on hand, that one is my go-to.

  31. Maya Elena*

    I’ve been in the position or disagreeing with my boss – although not one invested in proving their being right – and have found that my righteous certainty wasn’t as well-justified, or the stakes were just too low for anyone to care and expend extra energy – and when they heightned, the right things got done.

    I’ve seen so many imperfectly polished decks, pitches, websites, etc. That a small typo is not that high-stakes to me anymore. If I know a draft will undergo 20 revisions by 20 people, I don’t to catch and correct every sentence that I feel is suboptimal. Etc.

  32. Blue Dog*

    How about just saying, “Well, there are a couple of ways we could go at this: either X or Y. Personally, I would go with X because of this reason. However, ultimately, it is your call.” This works even for the most demonstrably false things: “I could have sworn the event was in 2017. That’s what my book says. But, ultimately, it’s your call.”

    1. JJ Bittenbinder*

      It doesn’t sound like that would work with this boss. “It’s your call” has an implicit “…but you’re wrong” on the end, at least usually. I think OP’s boss would take that as an invitation to continue trying to persuade or prove that they’re right.

    2. CM*

      I like this. Even without the wording “it’s your call,” this is an example of clearly pointing out the problem one time, explaining your proposed solution, and saying you’ll accept the boss’s decision. Along similar lines, you could say, “This look to me like 2018 is a typo and it should be 2017, because the event happened in March 2017. Is it OK for me to go ahead and change that?” and whatever the answer is, say, “OK, got it” and do that rather than continue to bring up your point.

  33. Me*

    Good lord. Today has been full of people who obviously work for my boss.

    One more piece of advice because this sounds like this is constant and a personality trait, not an occasional quirk. Get out. Start searching. It’s like death by a thousand paper cuts working for this guy who is so enamored with their own rightness (even when they are wrong). It will suck the life out of you and undermine every thing you work on. I’m not out yet, but I’m looking and planning.

    1. Me*

      Oh wait I lied. Two pieces of advice.

      I’ve learned that I need to tell my boss only what he needs to know and is asking for on a project. He doesn’t actually care much about the work, he just likes to feel like he contributed and made boss-like decisions. See if you can’t change your approach so he zeros in on the stuff that legitimately doesn’t matter and stays out of the rest. So for example, if I ask his opinion on a specific phrase in a press release, he doesn’t mess with the rest of it.

      1. OP*

        I am not sure it will necessarily work for much of what I do, but might be a strategy for certain aspects. Regarding getting out: not there yet. I have a unique position in which I keep getting new, fun things tossed my way and the benefits are fantastic. So I am trying to focus on dealing with the problem rather than leaving it behind.

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        Or maybe make one glaring mistake on purpose so the boss can focus on that and feel like they contributed.

        1. pancakes*

          That’s not a solution. It could make the letter writer look incompetent, and there’s no reason to believe the boss looks for just one thing & drops their mindset after finding it.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Except that it really does work this way. People NEED to put their mark on things. I have learned with my writing to leave some iffy punctuation in my early drafts, so that people can find that and leave my actual content alone. (If I have a factual error, please tell me! But if you just want to suggest a different word or phrase, well, I’m the writer and you’re not, so I want to head off that level of engagement.)

            Visual designers do it all the time and they have a phrase for it which is escaping me. They’ll leave something in a corner for the art director (or client) to find, and then the art director (or client) doesn’t feel the need to mess with the actual design.

  34. The Rain In Spain*

    It is my job to identify potential concerns/risks for my employer and suggest ways to correct/mitigate/reduce risks and generally negotiate more favorable terms. However, if a situation arises that would typically be a deal-breaker for us, I let the person with ultimate authority (ie the department that will be paying for the service/equipment/etc) know and that the decision is ultimately theirs. I say something like “I want to make you aware that we typically do not agree to y for abc reasons, but if you feel/determine/decide that an exception is warranted here, that’s your call/you have the authority to do so/etc.” Most of the time they agree with me or defer to my judgment, but sometimes they decide that it’s okay to move forward anyway. I don’t take it personally and I just file that communication away/draft a memo so that my objection is preserved and I don’t get bitten if the contract/situation explodes later :D Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet and I truly hope it doesn’t!

  35. Another Office Grunt*

    I had a boss that definitely wanted me to not only execute their decisions but also agree that they were right. I learned that they needed to hear a “yes” before they could let it go. I started saying things like, “Yes, I will do that,” instead simply, “I will do that.” Or, “Yes, I see your point and I can do that.” It was the “yes” that would allow them to feel I agreed with their decision (even if I didn’t) and reassured them I would move forward the way they wanted. At the same time, I felt I was really only saying yes to moving forward, not necessarily agreeing they were right. It helped me let it go as well.

  36. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

    My job includes drafting and issuing legally binding documents to members of a huge industry. I currently have a boss who insists on changing correct grammar (one particular thing comes to mind) in every single document to incorrect grammar. We are lawyers, and in this case there is no question he is doing it wrong. But we all have to grit out teeth and do it wrong because he won’t change his mind. Luckily in my situation, he will get the blame if there are consequences to his decisions. Good luck OP, this sitch is very frustrating.

  37. Karen from Finance*

    I think another phrase you can use is “fair enough”, but you have to be careful with the tone. Something like “Okay, fair enough, I can make these adjustments and send them by..”. I like it because you’re not conveying the message that you’re 99% convinced, just that you’re convinced enough to do it the way they want without pushing further, and that’s all they need, really.

  38. trex on tuesday*

    Tiny little disagreement with Alison, here. I don’t think they letter writer is causing this in any way by saying “We can agree to disagree.” Sure, that leaves the disagreement on the table, but a rational person will take it as the out they wanted. What I think is going on here is the the boss is the kind of person who isn’t happy getting your capitulation; I suspect Boss actively wants to hear “you are correct.” Which is galling and many people feel it’s unethical to say something they don’t believe. And Boss likely will not let go until you literally and verbally *agree*.

    If that is in fact the case — this is a disastrous personality type (sort of in the narcissist category), and I just wanted to say to the letter writer that it’s not their fault the boss is nuts. So I’d approach this mentally as how I deal with children. When my kid would insist that Daddy is a bear or the sky is pink or whatever other whimsical reality was on tap that day — I smiled indulgently and nodded along.

    Smile and nod, smile and nod, and internally let go of any frustration that you’re signing off on the crazy. You didn’t cause it, you can’t fix it.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Except there are those of us agree that by using barbs like “Agree to disagree” and “Well even though I don’t agree with it, I’ll do it your way.” is inflammatory and can cause someone to continue the argument, it’s simply not what you say when you’re withdrawing from the discussion and closing it.

      So you’re OTT by acting like the boss is mental just because of their reaction to continue an argument after the OP decides to not let a sleeping dog be.

      1. Myrin*

        I think I’ve identified why I actually disagree a little with Alison here and agree with trex and some others (sorry to hop onto your comment here, Becky, but I feel like your phrasing enlightened me!) – you say “[‘agree to disagree’], it’s simply not what you say when you’re withdrawing from the discussion and closing it” and that’s just not been my experience at all! I have both said that and been on the receiving end of it and after that, the discussion was indeed closed. The person and I agreed to disagree and moved on, no hard feelings or lingering after-discussions. I feel like this is actually what’s dividing the opinions on this, there are people who see it as “inflammatory”, as you say, and then there are others who view it as a pretty neutral thing overall.

      2. Close Bracket*

        > Except there are those of us agree that by using barbs like “Agree to disagree” and “Well even though I don’t agree with it, I’ll do it your way.” is inflammatory and can cause someone to continue the argument, it’s simply not what you say when you’re withdrawing from the discussion and closing it.

        Here, I would say that you have choices about how you interpret things. You can choose to interpret those phrases as inflammatory and proceed accordingly. Or you can choose to interpret those phrases as closing and moving on. For me, closing things and moving on brings more peace to me that getting inflamed, so I choose the latter interpretation.

    2. Andy*

      This was my take too. To me it sounded like OP could soften her language as much as possible and take out the “I still disagree, but…” part and be completely onboard with proceeding with the decision as the boss wants, but the boss wouldn’t be happy unless OP lied and explicitly said she wholeheartedly agreed that it was the right way to go, which would put OP in an awkward position.

  39. Nobody Special*

    Sounds like my first marriage. We were both raised by moms who “would rather be right than happy” (or in this case maybe employed). Marriage didn’t survive the constant struggle over the last word. I’ve changed but still remain on the lookout for this tendency in myself. It’s a very unlovely obsession.

  40. Kettles*

    Alison is right, but this boss needs To readjust their thought processes. Everyone is capable of being wrong. And if you’re wrong about the blooming date, be an adult, laugh, and say “So I see! Thanks for catching my mistake.”

  41. hbc*

    I agree with Alison that you need some lines that are a little less obvious about your continued disagreement, but if you’re like me, you won’t want to state anything that implies agreement either. “Okay, I’ll rewrite it to say that English is the official language of the US.” “Okay, I’ll make that change.” “I’ll tell Jane to write it up that way.”

    But it doesn’t sound like that will stop your boss, because anyone who invests a day in changing hearts and minds of people who’re doing what was asked of them is still going to pursue that agreement. Short of caving and lying, you’re going to have to be very boring to pursue.

    “See? This shows the official language of Florida is English.”
    “Okay, does this change what you want me to put in the document?”
    “No, but see, if it’s the official language of a state, it has to be for the country!’
    “So I’ll keep the document the same, then.”
    “You’re admitting that I’m right, then?”
    “I’m kind of focused on getting this document out as discussed and moving on to the next project, I may give it some thought later.”

    1. Kate*

      THIS. I read this and IMMEDIATELY thought of my old manager. Saying, “I’ll do it that way,” isn’t sufficient, because the next question is, “So you agree?” You either have to lie and say, “yes, you’ve convinced me,” or say “No, but I’ll do it this way” – and then they keep trying to convince you. The OP seems to be taking flak in some of these comments, but I swear I’ve worked with this boss before and agreeing to do it a certain way is rarely enough.

      1. Andy*

        I completely agree. To me it seems like Boss is backing OP into a corner where they HAVE to admit that they disagree or lie to their boss’ face. I don’t get the sense that just avoiding taking a stance will work.

      2. RandomU...*

        Oh for sure the boss could be one of ‘those’ people. I don’t think anyone’s saying that’s not a possibility. Problem is, OP isn’t going to change them. The only thing the OP can do is change their approach in dealing with them.

      3. pamela voorhees*

        Completely out of line to say out loud at work but I always think of my personal third option, “I don’t care.” I think “I haven’t thought about it” or “I’ll think about it” like HBC said might be the closest to a safe way of saying it.

  42. Snarktini*

    One question that has truly transformed how I work is: Do I want to be right, or helpful? It helps me focus on what’s motivating me in that moment, and redirects me to solving the problem and letting go of my desire to be right unnecessarily. (And if something is truly dangerous, sticking up for what’s “right” may also be what’s most “helpful”. So it’s not just a tool for acquiescence.)

    That said, I couldn’t work with someone who could never be wrong and who goes to bat for a typo. I’d be out of there.

  43. Sleepless*

    I work for a brilliant, highly verbal, excitable, and somewhat eccentric person in a field that is highly knowledge-based. She likes to talk through things verbally. She will suddenly ask someone whether she has her facts right. She will ask what their experience is with problem X. And if an error is made, she will approach multiple people with many, many words trying to figure out whether it was an individual error or a systems error. So…there are endless opportunities for arguments. She may have her facts wrong, and we could argue about that. My experience could be different from hers on solving a problem (she doesn’t want to argue about that much, fortunately). Or people could have a different opinion from her on a system or who was to blame for an error.

    Life is much more peaceful when we just say “Okay, I get it” or similar. But one person (there’s always that one, isn’t there?) always sighs, looks resentful, and says something like the OP. It makes the boss absolutely crazy and what would have been a five-minute discussion turns into an hours-long battle of wills.

  44. Princesa Zelda*

    I worked with a supervisor like this for a little over a year when I was 18/19. It… did not end well; I transferred to a different location and my supervisor was told to manage my sister and instead went on leave and never came back. Learn from my mistakes! I would bitch about work to my friends and It just made me angrier; I would discuss moving to the Big City and what I would do when I got there, which irritated her more, since she had never done it (and I still haven’t, but she had given up on it and my out-loud fantasizing was making her bitter); I never learned not to register my objections. Essentially, in hindsight, the way to deal with her was as though she were a written procedure with touchy emotions: follow her directions and, if it caused problems, let management fix it. Don’t argue any more than you would a piece o paper. Just try to be pleasant and do your work, and try to forget about it once you’re clocked out.

  45. LawBee*

    Yeah, this reads as two people who have to win, and be acknowledged as the winner. Pick your battles, OP, honestly. You’ve got the email train where you said X, boss said Y, you said “ok, I’ll do Y!” – move on. Save the real disagreements for things that are vital, and you’ll build up some goodwill.

  46. LessNosy*

    My boss is an arguer as well. Three big things I have learned during my 5 years with her that have made my working life incredibly smooth (smoother than some of my other colleagues with more tenure!):

    – Decide when to push back. Some things aren’t worth it for me. A small change in a teapot design – not worth it. Removing a teapot handle entirely because she didn’t read an email all the way through – worth it.
    – Document, document, document. Because she’s an arguer, she often goes back on the instructions she’s given me previously. Whenever I make a change she requested, I make sure to point out “Here is where I changed the pattern based on your request on Friday.” Or, “Based on our discussion during the meeting, I’ve done XYZ.”
    – I reframe and approach it matter-of-factly. Redoing things is, I have found, a part of my job. It wasn’t an advertised part of my job, certainly – but it’s a part of my job because of who I report to. Sometimes her changes make things better! I’ve come to value her opinions, even when it annoys me that I essentially have to go back and redo work because she’s arguing against a point that she herself made, or a point I made that she initially agreed with. It’s just par for the course.

    All that being said, if the constant arguments don’t stop and they continue grinding you down, don’t be afraid to job search, even just to see what else is out there. My near-constant redos and edits after 5 years are admittedly getting to me so I’m trying to leave before I get resentful and argue back too much!

  47. Free Meerkats*

    You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

    I work in a highly regulated field, and facts are facts. If boss told me to put an objectively wrong date on a report, I wouldn’t do it. Period. I’m not putting my certification on the line and possibly subjecting my organization to state and federal enforcement by lying on a report to placate my boss. If he wants it to say something that is objectively wrong, it can be over his signature.

    If he wants me to not follow an established, and in some cases required by law, procedure, I’m not doing it without explicit written orders. And if it’s safety related, not even then.

    I do have the advantage of being covered by Civil Service law, so he would have to prove I was wrong in front of a commission to fire me for something like this.

    Luckily, the biggest argument we had over my job is whether business letters use a comma or a colon after the salutation. I did it his way; now hat he’s retired, I do it the proper way.

    1. Nobody Special*

      Yeah, these days s lot of people feel entitled to their own facts. Got to live with them somehow! Not by risking safety or professionsl reputation of course. But the proper puncuation boat sailed a few decadedago. Now even most dictionaries define “literally” as an alternative for “figuratively”.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If it comes down to legalities, then it’s absolutely worth refusing to do. I have done this in the past when I was asked to just manufacture documents stating we’ve had safety meetings when in reality, we did not. My boss didn’t like them because they were a ‘waste of time’ and mostly he hated pulling everyone off task for fifteen minutes a month to do the check-in and reminders about safety gear etc. No, I’m not lying to the occupational safety department, man!

      Then there’s ethics, where we get bosses who want you to say the check is in the mail when no it’s not, it won’t be for quite some time.

      These are also things I’m willing to quit over though and there’s a thick bright line there because it’s illegal/unethical. Whereas if someone wants me to format something their way, fine whatever or if they want things done in green ink and not blue, okay but it will photocopy poorly, etc.

  48. Working Hypothesis*

    One way I used to handle a similar situation was to say with a smile, “You’re the boss! Llama teatime at eight AM it is.” It let them feel that their authority was being acknowledged, while I felt like I was not conceding that they were correct; only that they had the decisionmaking power in this situation.

    1. CM*

      I feel like even “you’re the boss” wouldn’t work with this boss because it says “You have power over me so I’ll do what you want,” not “I think you’re right.” And it seems like this boss wants the OP to say she is RIGHT, not just that she has the authority to make the decision.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Maybe. That didn’t happen with my particular boss, but I know it happens with some people. On the rare occasions when I’ve faced that kind of pushing, I’ve just shrugged and followed up with “That’s what ‘you’re the boss’ means; that I’m not paid to have opinions on all of this kind of thing.” After that, it just gets hard refusal to express opinion, sometimes accompanied by a teasing, “Nope! That’s above my pay grade.

        You can’t make it fit every variant, or every boss. But you can make it more trouble than it’s typically worth to pry your own POV out of you and that will make many bosses give up and take you at your word

  49. DAH*

    I worked for and with people like this and have developed a list of go-to phrases I pull out at times.

    – when we have been talking about issues, I will ask if it’s a decision or discussion. Often times topics would come up and I wouldn’t know if we were to talk about it or I was simply to move forward with the decision. So asking if we were discussing the topic or I was to move forward with the decision saved me a lot of emotional energy.
    – when I would hear something factually incorrect, I would simply become curious. I would ask questions like, “oh can you tell me more about that?” and, “I am interested in hearing more.” I actually always left room for the possibility that I was missing a piece of information or the truth happened to change.
    – If I knew I was right and they were wrong, I would ask if they were open to hearing a different view/perspective/opinion. I would say something like, “I heard that differently” or “I believe something else to be true – would you like me to share what I know or why I think that?”
    – Lastly, if things ever got heated or tense, my go-to was always curiosity. It would sound like this, “I am working on this and (fill in the blank) but it feels like there is more here, what am I missing?/is there something else to add?/do I have what we need to finish this?

    I found over time this helped immensely.

  50. Chelsea*

    I know I have an issue with getting defensive when my boss disagrees with me. My boss, like the OP’s boss, is seemingly insecure and very argumentative, and is disliked by all in our department. I often find myself feeling defensive when she describes certain kinds of approaches, and I definitely feel like she tries to make mountains out of molehills in an effort to seem more useful to the company. Anyway, our professional relationship very much improved after I started speaking in a cheerful way, and just saying “okay” instead of asking follow-up questions. Things are better now, finally.

  51. k.*

    I’ve been in this situation with my boss and I’ve found another way to handle is via leading questions.

    Boss: paint these teapots like green
    Me: okay. But the customer specifically requested purple teapots. Here is their request. Are you saying we should go with with green?

    It’s a good way to bring up your issue (w/o necessarily saying it’s your issue) and giving the manager an option to course correct (particularly if ego is a problem). It also provides the manager a question to answer, maybe with some additional detail. If not, do as they say and document it as needed.

  52. Clementine*

    I’m sure most people can think of a case where they were wrongly pigheaded. So I could understand the boss occasionally making a ridiculous error like this and not grasping it. However, as a general thing, I don’t think I could tolerate this environment. OP, I hope you can find a way to make this tolerable in the short term, and I hope you are in a position where you can look to moving on elsewhere.

  53. Suzy*

    Your boss has serious psychological issues. Its one thing for the boss to want it their way, but its another to argue about 2018 vs. 2017. Over time this is insanity that is going to wear you down. Be thinking big picture, which means be thinking about an exit strategy. Working for this person is not sustainable unless you are willing to totally buy into an alternative reality. I would hate to be married to this person. Cripes!

  54. Green Goose*

    Ugh, reading this letter gave me bad flashbacks to a former boss of mine who was “always right” all the time. I am not a confrontational or insubordinate person and very much knew my role in relation to his but if I did not agree with him (to be clear, I’d always follow his instructions and never rudely disagreed) he would not allow me to leave a conversation until I said I was wrong and he was right.

    It was really demeaning and I actually felt like he was holding me hostage on the phone because he would have definitely tried to fire me if I had ever said I wanted to end the conversation or hung up. He was very controlling, but I even get uncomfortable now remembering back to those conversations as I tried to get off the phone and he’d keep going on and on until I said I was wrong just to escape.

  55. CM*

    I agree with you, OP. It’s super weird for your boss to not back off once you say you disagree but you’ll do it anyway.

    However, if you disagree with quite a lot of things your boss decides, then you’re probably in a situation where, at least from your POV, your boss has bad judgement. And, working for someone who you think has bad judgement can really grate on you over time, so it’s worth considering whether you want to stay with them.

    If this hardly ever happens and most of the time you think your boss has good judgement, then, maybe next time something like this happens, try asking why it’s so important that you agree with them. With some people, that can jolt them into realizing that they’re trying too hard to convince you. Or maybe it’ll turn up some kind of explanation of what your boss is wanting from the conversation if it’s not actually agreement (maybe they’re trying to get you to explain your position more because they’re worried that you’re right; maybe they think you don’t understand and telling them that you understand but don’t agree for whatever reason will end the conversation; maybe it’s something else). But asking might do something.

  56. Flash Bristow*

    I like the consultant / client analogy. That’s actually been the case for me when I used to run a website design business; I’d feel obliged to say “according to X law, you do have to put your postal address on your site” and then when they said “oh. Well I don’t want to, I’ve started getting abuse and I’m demanding you remove it” I could say in a clear conscience “sure – just wanted to make sure you knew the regulations. Ive taken it down for you now, please check you’re happy.”

    [And then I stopped taking commissions from people who ran controversial jobs. I’ll obfuscate a bit, but essentially this was a radical religious person who “just knew” I’d be perfect for them. Especially as they thought this meant they could pray for me rather than pay me… and then one time, they contacted me out of hours in a panic demanding to know why I’d deleted the website? I hadn’t touched it in weeks. But they had somehow removed their desktop shortcut link… *head -> desk* Ho boy.]

    Er sorry for the deviation. But I feel better for having gotten that out – and I hope it illustrates to OP that things won’t necessarily pick up. In your shoes I’d do as Alison suggests. Meet any moral obligations you feel, to convey information – then let it go and just do what boss wants. And then find ways to back away and find a job elsewhere in the longer term? Good luck.

  57. Chicago Anon*

    I have a brother like that. Even when I am in complete agreement with him, he has to give All The Evidence and cannot stop till he has finished. It’s exhausting.

    1. Agnes*

      I wouldn’t use it at work, but “Who are you trying to convince, me or yourself?” has worked pretty well for me several times.

  58. Kitty*

    I LOVE the concept of treating boss as a client with yourself as a consultant. I work in Facilities and exec. support, and this is how I approach my work with managers and directors. I find it helps me to frame conversations and projects in a constructive way with most people, even those I find difficult to work with.

  59. The boss is always right*

    I know I’m late on this one, but I just wanted to add that I used to be you and then gave up and it has been a HUGE improvement to my work life. My boss isn’t as unreasonable about objective facts, but he has very specific ways that every thing should be spoken about (down to the order of words!) and I am a thoughtful writer, so I generally had reasons I did what I did. So now I just say “I did X because of Y, now I’m hearing that Z would be better. I’ll make the changes!” All in a cheerful tone. Rarely he will see why I did X and decide it’s okay to keep that way, but most often I change to Z and send an email to have that change recorded (he’s also mercurial, so the next round of edits could very well be “Why did you do Z, that doesn’t make sense?!” And then it’s a forward the email with a “This was my understanding at the time I made that change. Should we make this X or A instead?”

    It gets me nowhere to point out anything is ever wrong, so I always frame things as ‘is this what is best for the project?’ Also helpful to my mental health has been to treat it as a game to see just how contradictory and ridiculous he can get. When it’s a sport, I find it much easier to deal with!

  60. Elle*

    This is soooooo my boss too! Like seriously. On a business trip he spent the whole boarding time pointing out why traveling with a small bag instead of carry-on makes sense. Even after I indicated that OK I see his point but I will still opt for a carry-on.
    They see it as losing when they are proven wrong. They never indicate they don’t know something, it’s always a long line of talking around the subject until the other side is Confused and decides to leave the topic altogether. And such people never realize that it’s their way when everyone else sees it. We had an exercise about sub-personalities and to indicate which one is driving us. And despite “Besserwisser” (the one who always knows best) being the first option, for himself my boss created a new option “the passionate”.
    I can write a whole essay and I’ve only been 4 months with him.

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