3 things to do if you are not being listened to at work

ARE YOU BEING LISTENED TO AT WORK?

THE FIRST 3 THINGS TO DO IF YOU THINK YOU’RE NOT BEING LISTENED TO:

1. Step out and OBSERVE the bigger picture when you’re feeling isolated and unheard.

2. Focus on what you’re doing right, build your confidence with evidence.

3. Take some time to reflect where your beliefs about yourself come from. Self-awareness is the mark of a mature, emotionally intelligent professional. 


I was coaching a female exec in London a few years ago. She was part of a senior leadership team and her day began with an early am whip meeting. It’s a creative environment with the sharing of ideas as a core part of what they do. The client explained that she had a dread both physically and emotionally when walking into the room every morning. Her tummy would feel queasy and she kept questioning her contribution – she felt it wasn’t good enough.

“I’m not listened to or taken as seriously, it feels like I’m being humiliated. I share my ideas and the first thing that I’m asked is ‘have I got anything else’. I’m left feeling like I have nothing substantial to contribute and I’m useless to the team. Where does my confidence disappear to?”

She was considering either asking for a demotion because she thought maybe she just wasn’t cut out to be in the senior management team, or alternatively finding a new job.

The following is the homework she agreed to do after we discussed options and clarified the rational as to what information we were looking for. I thought her learning might be useful for us all reflect on during those times when we think were not being heard.

I have edited her learning in italics under each piece of work.

HOMEWORK:

For the next week, step out of your own headspace and observe your colleagues. Does the same thing happen to them? If so, what do they do in response?

Of the 8 people present, 2 women 5 men….and the boss. 3 were also not really listened too. Interestingly it is all the women, and only one of my male colleagues.

It would appear that other senior managers might be feeling the same way I do?

It was incredible to watch it play out. This sounds a bit bad, but it actually made me feel a bit better about it all. I wasn’t the only one! All of them shared their ideas, but the difference was in their responses. No one actually rolled their eyes, but it was as if they all expected for their ideas to be rejected. I think maybe I was doing this as well.

Slight drop of the head with a fixed smile on rejoining the moment.

My male college was actually worse somehow, he was so tense when sharing his ideas, and he fumbled with his words a little and didn’t sound confident at all. Interestingly he’s not like that at all during the normal working day when you speak with him. 

Look back over every morning meeting over the past month, and identify where your unique ideas were taken up.

OMG when I actually looked at the detail it probably averages out at one idea a day, which isn’t really that bad. In fact, it’s better than some of the people I consider high performers. 

In the past month, identify where you did contribute positively to discussions in regard to other people’s ideas at these meetings.

Around 2/3 of the time I had some kind of contribution, somewhere in one form or another. I started thinking about this and I could see a pattern.  Once the meetings are over we usually move towards the kitchen to make a coffee. It’s there, that I get asked for my opinion! My boss isn’t around but my colleagues clearly value my input… I could see it happening.

Who is being listened too at these meetings? How do they deliver their ideas, is there a process, a core skill they employ that makes people listen?

Major learning… it’s not just me! No one was really being listened to consistently. I noticed the boss usually had his head down, either just staring at the floor or checking his phone under the desk. I was really interested in one techniques used, one colleague literally stops talking until the boss raised his eyes, then my colleague continued.

There might well be a process they follow, I need to observe more to be sure, but it’s something like - share the idea, relate it to the outcome for the client, usually there was a statement at the end, and we would be the first that have done before - it will be a feather in our cap. The boss clearly likes the thought that we are first or better than our competitors.

Take 30 minutes in a quiet place and a notebook (lunch break in the park around the corner from the office.) I asked her in roughly chunks of 10 years to reflect on how people have listened to her. Family, school friend, teachers, Uni, first jobs etc. Nothing too onerous, just think about important conversations and how people listened to you.

Well this was a revelation. It would appear I have a bit of an issue with getting my point across with men. Most of the negatives were with males. Dad seems to appear quite a lot as someone who didn’t really listen to me, or at least I felt that. He didn’t really think what I had to say had as much weight as my brothers. Very old fashioned my dad!

The others were mostly disagreements I had had with a few people and interestingly I didn’t exactly find resolution with any of these people. That will be me avoiding conflict again Sian, hehe.

Hope this has been some food for thought and some useful tools for next time you’re feeling unheard at work. xs