“I Don’t Agree With Leadership, and My Colleague Is Undermining My Opinion. Now What?”
Now what

“I Don’t Agree With Leadership, and My Colleague Is Undermining My Opinion. Now What?”

Welcome to our advice column, Now What? where our columnist Tori unpacks a different career dilemma from our community and brings on a few friendly faces from her network to contribute their wisdom too.

About Tori

Tori Lazar is a creative leadership coach and business consultant for purpose-driven entrepreneurs, executives, and brands. She recently founded the creative leadership coaching studio, How to Fck Up Well. She also serves as an advisor to Female Startup Club and Black Girl Magik. Through her work, Tori aims to destigmatize failure and redefine it as an unconventional springboard for growth.

“I don’t agree with leadership, and my colleague is undermining my opinion…now what?”

Q: "The leadership team at my company just announced we’re pivoting our business strategy, and as an executive, I’m not totally sold on the new plan they proposed. I put together alternative ideas and shared them with fellow executives. All were on board except for one, and he aggressively undermined me in front of our peers. Since then, I’ve been anxious about presenting to leadership and obsessively questioning my stance. I’m worried I’ll chicken out when the time comes, which could be a missed opportunity for me and the company and disappoint the team. How do I prepare to hold my own if he publicly undermines me again or leadership disagrees with my ideas?"


What you’re experiencing is a particular type of fear and self-doubt that I know all too well and am still healing from. In a recent job, I felt like my nervous system was constantly about to implode. I was living in survival mode. I would wake up 15 minutes before our daily 7 a.m. leadership call and hold my breath in anticipation of a psychological battle. I thought the less time I had to overthink before starting my day, the easier it would be. I learned over time that my ideas and perspective were not welcomed and met with contempt unless they matched or reinforced the C-suite’s version of what was right. I also understood that the negativity towards me intensified because I was a woman in what they viewed as a disposable role despite my high performance and comprehensive experience. 

And when push came to shove, many of my peers avoided showing their support to protect themselves. I don’t blame them. I was exhausted, my confidence was the lowest it had ever been, and the resilient spirit I cherish so much about myself became my worst enemy. One of my coworkers even recommended I read the book Work Won’t Love You Back. That’s how apparent my unrequited efforts were.

But there’s a silver lining! That experience inspired me to go on an intense journey of acceptance, healing, and self-discovery. It’s why I started leadership coaching and created this column. It’s a gift to help someone navigate a similar dilemma and hopefully avoid the severity of my experience and those of countless others. Conflict like this can be good if our teams and leaders commit to creating a safe space for all ideas, perspectives, and experiences to flourish and grow together.

Let’s get into it.

Context Card

Here’s the gist of how conflict impacts us and our workplace culture, but first, check out what Amy Edmondson has to say about the importance of psychological safety

  • Today’s employees spend 2.8 hours a week dealing with workplace conflict, which amounts to around $359 billion in paid hours filled with or focused on it instead of positive productivity.
  • 60 percent of employees never receive conflict resolution training in the workplace, yet 95 percent of employees who do state that the training helped them navigate workplace conflict positively and seek mutually beneficial outcomes.
  • Healthy conflict (i.e., divergent thinking, friendly debate, constructive feedback) is a necessary force for good to drive creativity and innovation and build trust amongst team members. Conflict becomes problematic when disagreements are rooted in antagonism, opponents lose sight of their shared goal, or it gets personal.
  • 64 percent of women said they faced microaggressions at work compared to about half of men. For example, when a man is deemed “dynamic,” assertive women are deemed “aggressive.” These experiences add up and cause women to become three times more likely to consider quitting.

Conclusion: When left to our own devices in a traditional workplace (i.e., a competitive and hyper-capitalistic environment), we often take disagreement as an attack on our character, intelligence, and status and unnecessarily go into defense mode. We view it as a shameful error instead of an opportunity to learn and grow. Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, this negatively impacts the career trajectory for women and other historically marginalized communities more than someone who looks like Kendall Roy from Succession

But, when our bosses provide us with tools and training to regulate our emotions, get curious about the conflicting stances, and find common ground, it works in our and the company's favor almost 100 percent of the time. Companies that invest in and create diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments make more money, are more productive and innovative, have higher employee retention and engagement, and are generally more enjoyable to work for because we feel safe to be who we are and free to explore who we can be—individually and collectively.

Gut Check

It’s time to get personal so we can figure out the root cause of your anxiety—you may be surprised by the findings. As a serial “fixer,” I sure was.

Use these prompts as a starting point to journal or meditate on.

  • What are your intentions and motivations? Why did you feel inspired or responsible to show initiative and unite the team? Are you usually the one who does this? How does this serve your standing or career trajectory at the company? Why is it important to you? Are you fueled or depleted by this kind of effort/process?
  • What’s your relational history with the colleague that undermined you? Is this a one-off incident, or has it happened before? How does being undermined make you feel? Use this Emotion Wheel as a reference. Start by naming a core emotion and then move on to breakout emotions. Have you ever felt like this before? Could this be a heightened reaction or trigger stemming from a past trauma or toxic relationship? Are you following through on and honoring what you learned from past experiences? If not, why?
  • What are your desired outcomes? What would make the upcoming meeting a success from your perspective? Now respond to these questions from varying perspectives (e.g., leadership, conflicting colleagues, and other involved peers). Are there any differences and similarities to be mindful of? Are you open to compromising your definition of the best outcome for the greater good?

    Action Items

    When preparing to speak up and engage in a healthy conflict, focus on four key objectives: 1) Relieve self-doubt, 2) Increase your confidence, 3) Reduce the opportunity for problematic conflict, and 4) Manage real-time stress and anxiety. 

    Here’s how.

    • I cannot stress enough the importance of having data to back up your ideas, y’all. Data is more challenging to undermine than an intuitive hunch and a valuable reinforcement to lighten the potency of your self-doubt. However, both data and intuition are essential for making informed and authentic choices on behalf of the company.

      When creating your talking points, think about it like an equation: {Company State of Affairs} + {Industry/Market State of Affairs} + {Historical Company Data} + {Historical Industry/Market Data} + {Opportunities for Growth} + {Internal Team Insights/Intuitive Hunches} + {Connect Dots to Company Values/Goals}  = The Idea(s). Then, be prepared for people to poke holes in the idea(s) and call to attention potential problems or roadblocks for execution. I love using the Fishbone Diagram as an unbiased problem-solving playground – it’s super easy to use during a live meeting or brainstorming session.
    • Account for and schedule time to practice how you’ll talk about the idea(s) in the live meeting. Collecting the data and designing the flow of your presentation and talking points is one thing, but feeling confident about how you’ll deliver them is another. Practice is what separates a good presentation or discussion from a great one. Create a loose script and say it out loud. Pay close attention to your tone and language. Are any personal emotions coming through? Are you fostering a culture and space for “we,” not “I”? Refine and repeat until the words naturally flow and feel as adaptable as possible to the people, environment, and potential reactions.

    To add further color and context, Tori Bell, DEI expert and founder of Inclusion Unpacked, shared similar sentiments to my points above. Here’s her take!

    "I founded the global employee resource group 'Black Women at Meta' in 2017. There were countless times when I was the most junior person in the room and had to express my opinion about the support Black needed within the organization at the time. I was often nervous, flustered, and sometimes even ill-prepared. Here is what I’ve learned throughout that process.

    • Come prepared for the conversation. Write down what you want to say and practice with a loved one, friend, or partner. Determine what you need to say and have data to back it up. I’ve learned from experience that impulsively bringing up an issue without clarity on what you want to say or what you want to get out of the conversation can invite more chaos into your environment. Take a moment to prepare, maybe even set up a meeting when you feel comfortable, and then dive in.

    • When you enter the conversation, share your intentions first so that it comes across as more welcoming and positive. I’ve made mistakes in the past where I’ve gone into conversations with an accusatory or upset tone, which never went over well with the senior person on the receiving end. Start with a statement that invites the recipient into the conversation. Something like 'I’m enjoying the direction of the project,' or 'I appreciate how supportive you’ve been as a manager, and I’ve noticed some areas where we can potentially improve or alter things more effectively.' Start with the positive and then share your thoughts helpfully and constructively.

    • Remember to own your power: Sometimes as junior employees, we tend to put our managers on pedestals, which can invite fear into the conversation. Remember that your voice matters and the fact that you have an opinion is a GREAT thing! That means you are a leader with great ideas about improving things."

    To my fellow fixers and big sis energy givers—I see and appreciate you, but sometimes it’s best to let other people join in on the action. You do not need to carry the burden all by yourself. You do not need to be a hero (although the world makes you feel like you do). Be a leader, a dot connector, a community builder. The more equitable and inclusive the presentation or discussion is, the less likely it is to spiral into a problematic and unproductive conflict. Don’t speak on behalf of the other department executives and take their nodding heads as a gold star for achieving “unity.” Actively include them in the process. Encourage their autonomy and agency. Give them time to add their unique ideas and insights and speak to them during the live meeting. Try to bridge the gap between you and the colleague who undermined you. My last article has some tips for approaching this with compassionate directness. Remember that it’s OK if you don’t agree with one another. Maybe you can still find common ground as team members working toward the same goals. There’s space for everyone’s ideas to be heard and considered by the team.

    Want to manage stress and anxiety in a meeting? Here's some real talk from my therapist.


      Create a conflict tracker (e.g., a simple Google Sheet or Notion doc) based on the four types of conflict: process, task, status, and relationship. Fill it in once a month and identify any relevant conflicts, including the type of conflict and a summary of the root cause, the parties involved, how it’s managed or mismanaged, resulting outcomes, resolutions or outstanding problems, key learnings, etc. You can make it as concise or in-depth as you’d like! 

      If you’re in an executive or managerial role, it’s essential to tune into and proactively address trending conflicts within your team and company. If you have an HR team, partner up with them on this. If not, don’t use that as an excuse to ignore a toxic culture.

        Just for Fun

        Read, watch, or listen to these pieces of content to learn more about the importance of fostering psychological safety and connection despite organizational or interpersonal obstacles. 

        That’s all from me. You got this.

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