Leadership

10 reasons why your boss tunes you out

Your boss may have a good reason for ignoring your input -- and it may have nothing to do with you. BNET's Steve Tobak pinpoints some of the reasons why you might sometimes get snubbed.

Most leaders, managers, entrepreneurs, and overachieving types in general have one thing in common: They think they're right most of the time. We can spend forever trying to figure out why that is, but for now, just assume it comes with the territory.

Anyway, when I was a young manager, there were countless times when my boss didn't listen to me. Can you believe that? Well, you know what? Getting snubbed by my boss or, even worse, a top executive or CEO, was a real demotivator. I suspect it's especially true for overachievers -- like me (and you) -- who take their ideas, job, and the company's success very seriously.

Well, a lot of years have passed since then, and I've spent a good many years on the other side of the fence. And since I've got a unique perspective on the subject, I thought I'd share a few secrets: Why the boss doesn't always listen to you or your ideas, why he sometimes shouldn't, and why sometimes he should but doesn't. Here are 10 scenarios from my own experience.

Note: This article originally appeared as an entry in BNET's The Corner Office blog. It's also available as a PDF download.

1: Low priority

Your ideas, while good, aren't a priority. Every executive and manager has x things that are critical and even more things that are important but noncritical. Everything else, in all likelihood, falls in the crack.

2: Bad leadership

Frankly, most senior managers aren't strong enough leaders to know how important it is to take the time to hear a middle manager's views and to share their own perspectives. Sad but true.

3: Narrow view

What might seem important to you may not be important or such a good idea one or two levels up. The higher up you go, the more important it is to see the big picture.

4: Dumb idea

It's such a naïve or otherwise idiotic idea that your boss doesn't know where to begin to explain it so he just nods politely and waits for you to go away.

5: Bad timing

Sometimes there's some really hairy stuff going on -- finance issues, a merger or acquisition, a major product or customer issue, or even something personal -- and your boss is distracted or can't be bothered.

6: Politics

Oftentimes the answer is an ugly truth that some executives don't want to admit to you or, worse still, don't even want to think about themselves. Corporate politics is real.

7: You're intimidating

Or you're inflexible and never back down. This happens a lot, believe it or not. Just because he's the boss, that doesn't make you any less a pain in the butt.

8: Dysfunctional management

Your boss and/or the entire management team is dysfunctional. I use this as a big ol' bucket of scenarios, but some management teams just don't know how to function right.

9: Not in the job description

That's right; in all likelihood, your boss' annual compensation plan doesn't have a line item that reads, "Listen to Bob."

10: Your boss did listen

You just don't know it. Sometimes your boss considers it or sends it up the flagpole, and for whatever reason, it doesn't fly. And getting back to you fell in the crack or he doesn't want to admit defeat.

So the next time your boss doesn't listen to you, try to get a little perspective and, above all, don't take it personally. And if you are "the boss," investing time by explaining your views can go a long way toward inspiring a young up-and-comer.


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21 comments
jacobluis
jacobluis

I am new on this platform but quite good information shared by u on this platform.

jfuller05
jfuller05

Sometimes, we think the boss is, more or less, Superman and he should act when we speak or make ideas. The employees, or subordinates should realize the boss as A LOT on his plate and can't always get back with us as soon as we would like him to. Also, we shouldn't be so defensive towards our boss; that's juvenile and unprofessional. This is a good list that every employee should read.

Dirt Burner
Dirt Burner

At work, I wear more hats that could fit on the average hat rack. One of those is "one-man-IT-dude". Since it's only one of my many functions, I have been on BOTH sides of reasons #1-#10 (plus a few more). When I'm hit with an idea (senario) that someone wants to get done, I'm listening with 3 or 4 sets of ears. The management set is running the numbers to see if it evens fits in the budget. The idustry technical set is figuring out if it will tell us, or do for us, what the person wants, and what will be the net benefit from it. The IT guy ears are running tech senarios of how to accomplish it. So, when you talk to someone about an idea, you need to first ask yourself, "Who am I talking to?" Is it the manager that is very concerned about the bottom line (cost/benefit)? Is it the engineer that wants to take some 'pie in the sky' idea and make it reality? Is it a fellow techie that understands the technology? MOST IMPORTANTLY... Don't overwhelm someone with techo speak, and, at the same time, don't treat them like a ignorant know-nothing. Strike a balance between wanting to explain "the beauty of the technology" and "what the person needs to know" to accomplish their end of the project. And, finally, always make sure you convey how this affects the 'big picture' for the company.

jayohem
jayohem

Sometimes, when the idea is good, you can tell it to someone who the boss will listen to. So, that person gets the credit; you weren't going to get credit anyway, and if the idea is something that makes life easier for everyone concerned, it's better that it's used. There also is the time lag factor. I've discovered that it takes about a year for someone else to think it was HIS idea.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Once you make the boss pay for the inattention; he will pay attention the next time.

jahinz
jahinz

Your boss just might have some experience. Don't forget that your latest 'good idea' may be something that was tested (and proved unworkable) before you were hired. It's no excuse for repeatedly tuning you out but it does explain the behavior.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If your people are coming up with 'bad' ideas, tell them, explain why they are bad. If, no when they are coming up with good ones, use them, reward them, recognise them. Anything else simply means you are a crap manager and you should be dealt with accordingly.... All those 'reasons' you detailed are excuses for the incompetent, too busy to give feedback the most inexcusable of all, in my opinion. It's crap managers who need a perspective, preferably a view of the car park on their last day, which didn't come anywhere soon enough.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

Sad to say, some believe that "management" is a stand-alone discipline. They believe that managers do not need to understand the details of the function they manage, they can "just be the manager." Sometimes this leads to completely-clueless managers. They may put a finance guy in charge of a production line, or a facilities person in charge of software development. If your boss gets the deer-in-the-headlights look when you start talking, roll with it. "Software? Software is a good thing. We need some of that. Yes, we need software." It's not always a bad thing... (some say "ignorance is bliss!") :-)

ron
ron

The biggest problem run into is people are placed in a Manager's position with out any training, ie non communication skills. This is a touchy subject for me because I've had such a hard time trying to transcending from Military Life to Corporate Life. First and foremost, I dislike the term "boss", anyone can be a boss, it does not take allot of brains to tell someone what to do. I like the term Manager better. Like the word suggests, Manage, to Manage people and their skill sets. So far I been working in the corporate world for 15 years,(spent the same amount of time in the Military) I still find that some companies get it other still don't and wont, they simply don't understand why their people are not happy.... I can go on.. but I'll stop here. I'll close with this. 21 years ago the Commandant of the NCO training Academy ask 350 students "How many people want to be a Sergent?" Of course lots of people yelled YES. "Now how many people want to be Non Commissioned Officers?" Same can be applied today, how many people want to be Boss and how many want to be a "Manager?" I apologize if I drifted off the topic a bit...

Walthy
Walthy

Years ago in a municipal setting I was a pain-in-the-neck technically oriented type. After continually bugging my boss for weeks about something, he finally said to me, "You're right, but it isn't going to happen." It was a political situation and my answer was never going to happen. I was a political person at that time, and I could see what he meant, so I finally shut up about my solution. These many years later I can't even remember what I was so adamant about. I learned a good lesson about giving ideas two or three shots, and then just shutting up and stop being a pest. (Most people who know me would say I can still be a pest, though.)

firstaborean
firstaborean

When I was an engineer (I retired some years ago), I was able to address engineering ideas in terms that the boss could understand. Such terms as "fully burdened cost," "yield assurance," and "inventorying expense" were parts of my language, and I related them to the technical matters in a way that an executive could understand. "Costing out" a design was a part of my job, as I saw things, and the boss knew it. If all you talk is straight tech, you lose a manager faster than a broken-out window depressurizes a passenger jet at 36,000 feet. And just as disastrously.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

basically said all these were bad reasons... You may want to dial up your comprehension and re-read. Any manager who can't or won't communicate with their peoople is a waste of space.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Why would you want your people coming up with bad ideas. Besides it might be a good one now. The only explantion is that they are crap managers, because they aren't managing.

Excelmann
Excelmann

Every supervisory individual should detest and never become of these: manager, boss, supervisor, overseer, honcho, etc. What they should strive to be is a Leader.

mjstelly
mjstelly

I would extend your metaphor even further. I lump manager and boss on the same side of the fence opposite a leader. If performed properly, managing others is a difficult, thankless, stress-inducing career path, especially the purgatory known as "middle management". Being a manager with leadership aspirations is even more difficult, because despite common misperceptions, crap rolls both downhill and uphill often at the same time. But I digress... In a perfect world, a manager would take five minutes out of their schedule to acknowledge the idea and communicate their initial thoughts on its validity. Bada-bing, it's done. The direct report feels validated, which is what they are actually seeking when proposing this idea in the first place, and the manager gets to tap into the business' unsolicited talent pool... As I said, in a perfect world.

davidt
davidt

- who is totally clueless, having been promoted way past his competence. In that case, you must baffle him with bull*%*@ to get the job done right.

smankinson
smankinson

I've had to watch what I say in front of managers cause they get repeated up the chain and that manager would get in trouble. I meant well and so did the manager, but uppers thought differently.

jfuller05
jfuller05

I probably made it seem that I was reviewing that article by my last sentence, but I wasn't. I was just expressing my thoughts. Defensive employees can be bad for the team just as much as an unsympathetic manager can be a waste of space; that was my point. I wasn't very clear on my previous post.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Thing is, I'm a boss. I don't employ switches. You wouldn't be out on your ass, because you wouldn't be in to begin with, puke.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

There's a root cause to that sort of behavior. If they can hide their own messes from the rest of the team, there is no team. That's a collection, or a mob, and that's another management failure. Things do not got wrong from the bottom up, but from the top down. If the people don't, won't, can't or aren't doing what the company needs, someone upstairs dropped the ball, if only by hiring less than outstanding people. Don't give them excuses, bad managers ignore all ideas, not just 'bad' ones.

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