Dear Lifehacker, I feel like I'm not being heard at work. There are a lot of things our team could be doing better, but every time I make suggestions, I'm either shot down or I feel like it just isn't taken seriously. How can I get my boss to listen to my ideas? Thanks, Ignored Ideas
You're certainly not alone in this. Your boss could be blowing you off for any number of reasons — maybe they're too wrapped up in their own ideas to consider yours, maybe they're too busy, or maybe they're just crappy bosses. I've had bosses do this to me, and I've been a boss that did it to my team. You can't get through to everyone, but there are a few things you can do to raise your chances of getting heard.
First: Make Sure You're In A Position To Offer Ideas
Before you start brainstorming all the stuff you wish your team did better, take a second to look at yourself. Is your work performance up to scratch? If not, your boss probably isn't going to want to hear any grand ideas — they will want you to focus on your basic job duties. Does your boss like you (or even really know you)? If not, spend some time working on that relationship. If they trust you, they're much more likely to listen.
Back Up Your Idea With Evidence
Next, do your homework. Don't casually drop an idea with no idea how to implement it, or if it would even work. Gather up some evidence of why you think it would work. Does another company do this thing differently? How did it work out for them? Can you adapt it? Can you give an example of how it would have affected your most recent project? The more evidence you can provide, the more convincing you'll be. You don't need to present it all at once, just have it ready in case you need it.
Similarly, make sure you have a plan of attack. You don't need to tell them how to do their job, but if you have a concrete idea instead of some amorphous musing, they have something to latch onto. It also helps if it isn't a lot of work for them to implement.
Present Your Idea From Their Point Of View
To increase your chances of being heard, explain your idea in a way that benefits your boss. Make them see how it makes their life easier, not just yours. Also, know how your boss prefers to communicate and use that to your advantage. Alison Green at US News says:
You might prefer writing lengthy reports, but if your boss prefers a one-page bulleted list or an in-person chat, your preferences will have to make way for hers — at least if you want to increase your chances of a good outcome. It's important to pay attention to how your boss prefers to communicate and adapt accordingly. If you learn that she's always harried on Monday mornings and rarely checks her email, or that she rarely has much time to talk unless you schedule a meeting, you can pick the approach most likely to get what you need.
We're all a little selfish on the inside. Tailor your idea to your boss' needs and they will be much more likely to listen.
Remember The Big Picture
Keep in mind that while this may seem like a big deal to you, your boss has a lot of other stuff on his plate — and your idea may never be a top priority. Make sure you aren't asking when the company has bigger fish to fry, like financial troubles, otherwise your ideas are going to go in one ear and out the other.
Lastly: make sure you're talking to the right people. Maybe your boss doesn't have the power to change what you want changed, and you have to go higher up the chain — or just live with things the way they are. On the flipside, if your boss doesn't have the time or energy, ask if you can implement the new ideas yourself on a trial basis — so they don't have to worry about lesser issues.
None of these are guaranteed to get you heard (especially if your ideas just aren't that great). But with the right timing and the right approach, you can make your life — and hopefully your boss' life — a lot easier. Good luck!
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