Tuesday, November 01, 2011

My boss doesn’t listen to my ideas

Dancing Bear left the following comment on my post a personal attack at work:
The line between a personal attack and a very critical conversation is unclear to me. My boss, who claims it is never personal, sometimes does not listen at all and then makes a strong declaration that an idea or opinion I have expressed is not valid, while the accuracy of his perception is "obvious". To me using ridicule is a personal attack in disguise. In response I recently responded with the question "don't you listen" as part of my response and I was told this was completely inappropriate, that it was a personal attack. I am distraught!

It appears to me you and your boss are caught in a finger pointing contest, “That was a personal attack,” “No it wasn’t you don’t listen.” So, lets forget about that aspect of your comment altogether. Here are the facts as I see them:

Out of frustration you blurted “Don’t you listen?” to your boss after he criticized one of your ideas. Your frustration is a result of his continuously dismissing your ideas to the point of ridicule.

First, you told your boss he doesn’t listen. That probably wasn’t the best thing to say. No manager likes to be openly criticized especially an arrogant one. Managers prefer employees that make them feel good about themselves. (You probably should apologize for your comment or at least mumble something like I didn't really mean that. You do still have to work for this guy)

I can’t determine from your scenario if your boss is a bad manager or if you are being a nuisance.

Here are some questions I want you to consider:

How does your manager treat your co-workers?
Does he reject their ideas and ridicule them as well? If yes, he is most likely the problem. If not, it could be you.

How long have you been with the company?
Sometimes new employees come into a company too strong. They try to implement all of their great ideas before they understand how things are really done stepping on toes in the process.

How long has your manager been with the company?
If he has been with the company for years he may not be open to change or new ideas.

Before you present your next idea ask yourself the following questions:
Do I have a solution?
Bosses notoriously tune out employees that come to them with a problem and don’t offer a solution. Make sure the solution is viable. My department has come up with several great solutions that don’t involve them. Who should clean the office? The owner’s wife. Who should pick up the slack? Monica in our Minneapolis store.

Is your idea a priority? Is the timing right?
My department has had several great ideas over the past couple of years, but currently our company’s main focus is making money and keeping the business afloat. I’ve heard our owner say more than once, “Yes, that would be nice, but not right now.”

Is your idea important to anyone other than you?
We once had a receptionist full of ideas to make her job easier. One was to buy a mail cart. She would place a folder with our mail in the cart and we could retrieve it ourselves throughout the day. Her idea was great for her, but the President of our company does not the time or the desire to track down his own mail.

Two suggestions to make sure your idea was heard:
Repeat your idea and your manager’s response at the end of the meeting:
“If I understand correctly you agree I need a new computer, but I have to wait until the budget is finished in December.”

Follow up with an email:
To summarize our 10:00 meeting we will not be ordering new computers due to budget constraints. We will revisit next year.

Did I interpret Dancing Bear’s problem correctly or did I miss the boat entirely? Let me know what you think?


  1. I just have one thing to add, relating to your first question:

    How does your manager treat your co-workers?
    Does he reject their ideas and ridicule them as well? If yes, he is most likely the problem. If not, it could be you.

    Dancing Bear mentioned that the boss was male. If Dancing Bear is female, it might be good to note if the boss treats other female employees the same way. If he is dismissive with female employees, but not the men, then it may be that he's the problem. Not that I'd go and accuse him of being sexist (at least if I wanted to keep my job)). But I may start looking for a new one - not easy in this economy, I know.

  2. MJ,
    Good point I didn’t think of that. If her boss is a sexist he isn’t going to listen to anything she says. (I just assumed Dancing Bear was a female). Also, I should have mentioned if the boss is the problem she should definitely consider looking for a new job and even if he isn’t a fresh start may be what she needs. At least start networking and sending out feelers to see if anything is available.

  3. Anonymous12:33 AM

    I think you did an excellent job with the information you had to work with. I like that you were honest and straightforward, telling Dancing Bear stuff he/she may not want to hear, but needs to in order to succeed in today's workforce. Funny, but I assumed Dancing Bear was male. Hmm...

  4. Monica,
    I should have been more gender neutral with my answer Dancing Bear could very well be male. I went with a straight forward answer because just confirming that DB’s boss was personally attacking him/her wasn’t going to solve the underlying problem. DB’s boss doesn’t like him/her and he/she needs to figure out a new approach so he/she can continue working for him.

  5. This is what i have just experienced in my present company. Then after tearing down what i wear and when i need to eat, the person who's just a bit older than me refused to listen and told me to leave. To me, he really can't organize things at all, blaming and vain. I mean i came to work and very new, i knew nothing abt deadlines. and the ass didn't keep his promises to understand.
    I won't trust socalled friendly men any more.

  6. Boo,
    You didn’t specifically say if this person is your boss, if so commenting on what you wear and eat is inappropriate unless what you are wearing doesn’t meet the company’s dress code. I am not sure if you are still working there. If you are, schedule a meeting with your manager to go over your job description and project deadlines so you better understand your responsibilities. If this person is not your boss remember you must treat friends in the work place different than your other friends and keep your relationship as professional as possible. Especially when you are new.