When To Fight And When To Retreat Against A Leadership Decision

August 7, 2013


Not every battle is worth the cost of winning.  Sometimes the casualties of corporate skirmishes can be ugly!  There are many situations where “letting this one go” means swallowing your pride while saving the team or the mission.  With that being said, retreat doesn’t necessarily mean losing; it may mean survival!

Holding The Line

If you’ve ever watched the movie “Gladiator” with Russel Crow, you know the term, “hold the line”.  This strategy can work great if everyone “locks shields” against an enemy.  Unfortunately, in the corporate world, things aren’t quite that simple.

Often times leaders will make decisions that you may not agree with.  Your entire team may not even agree with the decision…

Locking shields in this predicament is dangerous and foolish.  Your best bet is to present your case logically, but respect your leader’s authority to go another way (even if it’s a horrible decision).  Their career and the business will have to live or die by that decision.  All you can do is make your case.

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As a side note here, I’m not talking about morally corrupt decisions that are definitely worth fighting for; I’ll save that for a whole other post…

There are times though, where holding your ground in a disagreement can be valuable, as long as you follow some important rules:

  • Be prepared to debate, but don’t be scripted.  Scripts are hard to change.  Be flexible in your conversation.  Try to understand his or her perspective instead of just focusing on winning.
  • Questions.  Always present your case in a question format.  Don’t tell them how it is.  Ask “what if we” or “how can we”?
  • Stay calm, but confident.  Try not to let your emotions get the best of you.  Breathe, relax, and know that whatever the outcome, it will be ok.
  • Try to address concerns in private first.  Sometimes you don’t get that opportunity.  Tread lightly in public settings.
  • Sleep on it.  Sometimes sleeping on a new idea can bring new perspective.  Let things simmer instead of boil.
  • Don’t get desperate.  If your logic is being blocked at every turn, it may be time to retreat.  Don’t take it too far.
  • No gossip.  If you do retreat, make sure you don’t let your frustrations turn into gossip.  You didn’t get your way…now get over it.

Regroup To Win

Now, just because you lost the battle, doesn’t mean you should give up.  There are many ways to fight for what you believe in without damaging your career or your team.

As a matter of fact, I’ve found that the best way to get something accomplished after it has been rejected is to be patient and persistent (just try not to be annoying).

You’d be surprised the number of times I’ve voiced concerns or thrown out ideas and had my suggestions get rejected, just to see them implemented a month or two later.  Ok, sometimes a year later.  😉  Just don’t let jealousy get the best of you here.  To understand how to deal with this check out my post, “My Boss Stole My Idea At Work – Now What?”.

Of course you want the best ideas to come forward eventually, but sometimes that just isn’t going to happen.  Ideas are subjective, so what you see as a great direction, may have major flaws from another perspective.  You just can’t always see what the decision maker sees.

So, if this happens to you, just slip that idea into your back pocket, but throw away any emotional baggage that may be smeared all over it.  This way, when the right opportunity presents itself, your idea will be shiny, new, and ready for action!

Question: What battles have you lost?  How did you handle it?