Last week’s post was a look at NW Nice, an ailment which is affecting business professionals in the NW corner of the country. Well, we heard from many of you across the U.S. letting us know that this plague is common in all parts of the nation, but it is known by different names depending on geography.
We also heard from people who saw themselves in the post and asked us to comment on managers and leaders who shut down any chance of bringing a dissenting opinion forward. As one professional put it, “I’ve given up – when I try to have an honest conversation about an issue, I get shut down . . . so, yes, I do go behind closed doors to vent. I know there must be a better way, but I’ll be [darned] if I can find it!” So, those of you who have been driven to having conversations behind closed doors, let’s tackle the issue of the leader who won’t listen.
If you are finding that you can’t bring forward a concern or express a dissenting opinion in a meeting or public venue, there are three things that you can do:
1. You can change your delivery. Bringing concerns or a dissenting opinion forward requires that you know your audience. You need to consider what they fear, predict how they may respond, and determine if you can frame the information in a way that creates a solution or success for them.
2. You can change your timing. Finding a time to introduce the information so that you limit defensiveness and increase the likelihood that you will be heard also requires that you know your audience. If possible, give your leader a heads up before bringing it up in front of stakeholders – build a collaborative stance about the information; especially if it is hard to swallow. Don’t bring it up 2 minutes before the end of the meeting, or as people are walking out the door. Again, consider what you can do to increase the chances that you will be heard and that your efforts will be seen as a contribution to their success.
3. You can stop trying. If you have tried both of the above steps several times and are still not being heard then your best recourse may be to stop trying, re-group, and assess whether you are working with a leader who values your input and/or whether the information you are bringing forward has real value. Unfortunately, if no one wants to hear what you have to say, or if you have gotten specific direction to keep certain information to yourself, then it may mean that your efforts at bringing forth information are simply not valued.
Any single instance of not being heard is not a reason to assume you’re not valued. Instead, you want to look for a pattern of behaviors (both yours and theirs). If you find yourself in situation after situation where regardless of how or when you deliver the information you are shut out of the conversation, then it may be important for you to consider whether you would be more successful working for a different type of leader who values the kinds of information you have to offer.