In our work, there are times when we lead but there are also times when we must follow — and we may not always agree with the path we’re told to follow. We may feel “stuck” in anger, anxiety, and confusion.

Supporting a decision that you disagree with can be frustrating – especially when your team feels the same way. While you may wish you could change things, it is necessary to demonstrate resilience to your team and maintain a good relationship with management. But how can you lead convincingly, build trust, or create a space for healthy collaboration when you disagree with the fundamentals of the project? By decelerating and reflecting.

You can learn how to process difficult emotions, clearly articulate problems, identify potential upsides, broaden your perspective and develop empathy, and visualize what executing an unpopular decision will actually look like. In doing so, you can demonstrate a good attitude to your team, maintain a positive relationship with management, and display resilience by pivoting and working toward a new definition of success.

The reality is that you won’t agree with every organizational decision senior leadership makes. But you can make peace with a strategic direction you disagree with. Start by asking yourself a few questions.

What specific situation do I disagree with? Define exactly where the misalignment is happening—and why.

How will setting aside my disagreement benefit me? This encourages you to think about the silver lining, and any upsides of going along with an unpopular plan. For example, you might think “I get to keep the job I love, despite the organizational shakeup.”

How will setting aside my disagreement benefit my team? Once you identify your silver lining, it can be easier to see how others may be positively impacted.

What information might the decision-maker(s) have that I don’t? Extend some empathy and grace to your leaders. Perhaps there are factors at play that you’re not privy to. Considering these factors may quell your frustration.

What areas of alignment are there for making this decision? Make note of any commonalities between your initial work goals and the company’s goals.

By accepting this decision, what specific actions am I committing to take? You’re now ready to chart a new course of action. By addressing your emotions first, redirecting them to a place of positivity, and thinking beyond your own perspective, you can act with intention.

Whether or not you support your organization’s decision, your team must present their best effort in working to accomplish the goal. This means that despite your personal feelings or misgivings, you must insist that the team do their part. To achieve success, try the following suggestions.

  • Be as candid as you can be – without undermining the organization. If you bash the ideas openly or dismiss the goals, you are failing in your role within the organization and setting your team up for failure. You may be completely certain that your management has set you on the wrong path, but your reluctance in embracing the challenge means that any results you obtain will be called into question – especially if they prove you right.
  • Focus on collaborating and building consensus around the how. By centering the conversation around how you sidestep the tendency for teams to create a pros and cons list around the value of the goal itself.
  • Share as much information with your team as possible. Commit to becoming a source of information with your team and to being a conduit between the team you lead and the one you participate in. Fully sharing information about progress, and passing along questions is a critical feature of your role within the organization and your team is depending on you.
  • Remember to disagree and commit. You, and your team, want to be known as reliable and that means delivering what is expected regardless of how valuable you think it is.

There’s no doubt that this scenario will happen often throughout your management career. Knowing how to handle it without throwing others under the bus or crushing your credibility will distinguish you as a professional who can be relied upon as well as demonstrating that you are a team player.


Harvard Business Review (2024, February 19) Cheryl Strauss Einhorn: How to Make Peace with a Company Decision You Don’t Like
Stewart Leadership Blog (2022) Peter Stewart: How to Lead a Team When You Disagree with the Direction