Effectively disagreeing with your boss?


Author: Anders Christian Hjort

This morning I read a brilliant piece on negotiation and an airplane crash by Harvard Professor Michael Wheeler on LinkedIN.

The title was:

Asian Airlines: “Sorry, Captain. You’re wrong.”


The blog tells an interesting and tragic story on how psychology and behavioural skills matter in conversations and how listening without empathy and disagreeing Ineffectively can have disastrous consequences.

I suggest you read Michael’s contribution first, and then read my comments below afterwards.

Click here to read the blog contribution by Michael Wheeler

Research tell us
Now, If you take the view that this conversation is actually a negotiation going on, then Huthwaite International research into what skilled negotiators do differently than their average peers when disagreeing might be of interest.

Disagreeing is not a bad thing
Most negotiators and people in general start by labelling their disagreement and the tell the reason why – effective negotiators start telling the reason, and the end up saying, “therefore I disagree” – this brings less emotional tension into the equation. Also the perception that disagreeing is a bad thing is interesting, as disagreeing actually helps clarifying, shredding new light on a situation from more angles and benefit decisions to be made.

Defend/Attack spirals vs Empathy
However, “You’re wrong” is what we in behavioral terms at Huthwaite label Defend/Attack, although starting out with “Sorry Captain” and the Captain becoming defensive more likely and the co-pilot submissive in this case.

Empathy – a way to go?
I think a pilot need a mindset to listen with the intent to understand what information the co-pilot give…listen with empathy

– power play is a losers game I think…

What do you think?

More on our negotiation research here: click here for more.


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