My boss is not listening, what’s wrong ?

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The power of the right discussion at the right time

You’ve been through this before, and you know the team’s headed straight into a wall. You talk about it and no one listens to you, not even your boss. Why? You are not alone.

First, congratulating taking the time to talk to your boss is not always an easy thing. This is an imperative skill if you want to have more and more responsibilities. However, we have to know how to do it otherwise the consequences can be detrimental in the long term to your career and your relationships.

If you will have the chance or the bad chance to see things that others do not always perceive. You have most likely the ability to travel in the future, the challenge could be even greater.

My boss isn’t listening, and we’re heading straight into a wall

This week, I had a colleague, a manager of a research program, shared her frustration about not being able to explain her perceived risks to her boss. There is a big piece of technology associated with her program of work that is not covered by other activities in the organization. She thought so much about it and she understand the steps to get there. She clearly sees what is missing. The concern is that this important activity must be started now if we want to succeed with our next product line.

She is not sure that her boss understands that she is not covering this part with her project. She is afraid to be reprimanded in the future about this activity. She believes the activity does not belong to her but to a new project.

That’s a perfectly legitimate feeling. It’s often that kind of anxiety that you feel when you see potential futures. If you have the ability to read in the future, you certainly understand.

How to detect your boss is not following you?

  1. He quickly falls into avoidance mode,
  2. or he diminishes the situation to reassure you. He says thing like, “Don’t worry, it’s all under control”, but you can see that it’s not, because you wouldn’t have mentioned it.
  3. He doesn’t have time to listen to you. He’s too focused on thinking about something else. In fact, he may rarely have time to listen to you because he has much more important problems. (according to him)
  4. He changes topics quickly when you start sharing your vision for the future
  5. He rises his tone, or change his tone when he talks to you about the subject.
  6. He doesn’t look at you when he talks to you

All these signs are important to listen to in order to learn what to do next. You have to be alert and understand what stimulates your boss in order to influence him.

How to reduce our frustration of not being heard?

First, you have to start understanding a few facts about bosses. Second, you have to accept the fact that just because you see the future doesn’t mean you’re responsible for it.

  1. You don’t have access to the same types of information as your boss (frequency)
  2. You do not perceive the same details as he does. Either because you are an expert in your field and he does not. Either because he is not currently interested in such details (Frequency).
  3. Your boss is uncomfortable when it comes to risk, because he sees many others and feels overwhelmed. Or the shared one is very small compared to the others. It can’t take any more. So he is in denial or does not see the importance of the situation at your level. (Energy)
  4. Your boss is uncomfortable with the projection in the future at this level of detail. It’s because we don’t all have the same project management personality. He is not able to see the importance or understand the level of detail that you do. (frequency)
  5. Your boss is uncomfortable with the shared emotions. Perhaps you shown that you are afraid of the future? Or you started to show your frustrations about a situation he doesn’t understand yet. (Energy/speed)

You can also be that person who doesn’t listen, so be lenient.

If you are a project manager, a manager or a process manager, well you are also sometimes in the boss’s position. The statements above apply to you as well. Which makes it possible for you too to be in this situation as well .

So if you take these facts into consideration, it’s easy to understand that your boss is human and needs to be treated that way. If you are a boss yourself, you have to realize that sometimes you just have to listen and the solution is just in the listening and sharing. There is nothing to do in the immediate term than being aware of the existing risk.

Keep it simple – just listen if you don’t know what to do and feel overwhelmed

Isabelle Depatie – Time is the Key

How to capture your boss attention ?

  1. It is necessary to be certain before arriving with a reading of the important future to establish a good relationship of trust. It’s nice to wait for difficult discussions. Make sure you have a positive relationship. Find common topics of interest. Besides, it’s the same with all new relationships not only your boss: your colleagues, your friends, your spouse. These first moments together and these topics will help you in more difficult times.
  2. Make sure your boss is in the right frame of mind. To test, ask him: How are you doing? Is everything going as it pleases? Does he need help? Can you see if this is a good time to talk to him about your observations? If this is not the right time, tell her that you prefer to wait to talk to her about your comments, it is not so urgent. The simple fact of proposing to postpone will show that you are not here to clear your mind. Most of the time, the simple fact that you show her that you care about her state of mind will help her to listen to you.
  3. It is important not to start too intensively, as your boss may not be in the same energy level as you. He may switch to defense. It’s best to start in calm mode. In fact, a simple solution is to start telling the story that has made you see a risk and anticipate a problem in the future if nothing is done.
  4. Be clear with your boss about what you expect of her. It may be as simple as telling her that you would like her to be aware of the risk. The problem is that often we want our boss to fix everything and theyr can’t

The boss’s point of view

Bosses have a tendency to believe that all problems belong to them. They take everything on their shoulders even if they shouldn’t. Over time, they are the first to find avoidance strategies so they don’t have to consider the problem and have to work on it. A new risk equals a new todo on their list. Often they are overwhelmed by quantity, so they are not as receptive.

My advice: simply point out the risk, in phase I, just show the concept. We must not go too quickly into solution mode. Sometimes it is strategic to report and identify the situation. This step is the basis and will allow you to continue your story. The important thing is to understand that you can’t go faster than your interlocutor. If you go faster it won’t work.

Reminder for the time travellers

When you detect that you see potential future that others do not yet see, ask you;

  1. Your boss may not be willing to really listen to you, you just have to wait for the right time or actually go through the steps as discussed see above.
  2. You can’t force someone to listen to you, otherwise you create a bad energy in the relationship
  3. It is not possible to go faster than the slowest speed , if your collegue or boss don’t understand what you understand, they might need to go trhought the motion to learn and be aligned with you.
  4. There are things that only you or few people perceive, because you have expertise.
  5. The details that are obvious to you are inconspicuous to others. You feel that sometime you see the matrix. You’d love for them to take the right pill.
  6. You have to accept that after trying to transfer your understanding of the future, it is possible that you failed, stop to explain before hearting your relationship. It will mean that you to run into the wall. That’s ok ! you can’t go faster than the speed of the team.
  7. Don’t feel guilty if you hit the wall, even if you saw it. It’s a matter of teamwork, it’s the team that wasn’t able to see. Hopefully, the team will learn from mistakes.

A word from another boss

Thank you for sharing your understanding of the future with me and keep doing so. If you are in a managerial position, try to be open-minded and do not think that all problems and risks belong to you.

Being aware of a problem often does the job, because your colleague will have contributed and you will have more cards to make decisions in the future. It is not necessary to always take immediate action.

Add further down in the comments if this type of article is useful to you and tell me why. And the next time a similar story happens to you share it with us. Thank you. Isabelle

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