What Can You Do When Your Manager Won’t Listen?

Do you have a manager who likes your ideas, but gets so excited that they forget to listen to your full concept?

I’ve had managers like this. If we met in person and I said, “I have an idea, we could have formal mentor training.” Rather than listen to the rest of my idea, the manager might say, “That is a great idea! I used to have a mentor. He didn’t work in my department, but he was really good at providing me guidance…”

This particular manager was capable of continuing for another 10 or 15 minutes without hearing the rest of my suggestion. While he liked my ideas, I felt like he rarely understood them in their entirety. How do you handle this situation?

Keep in mind that communication is a 50/50 proposition.

You are as responsible as your manager for the conversation to be fully completed.

If you have a warm working relationship, just say, “excuse me, there’s more I’d like to tell you.” This might be sufficient to continue your part of the discussion. But if you have a more formal relationship with your manager or you are uncomfortable with interjecting, then writing out the main points in advance of the meeting and sending them to your manager for review at the meeting is an option.

Depending on the level of impact of your idea, it might be helpful and appropriate to email both your manager and their manager with your suggestion. If your suggestion is appropriate only to your department, then you should likely stay with discussing it only in your department. But if it is something that might impact the whole division, email your manager and the division director.

Unfortunately, sometimes managers don’t listen or review your written contributions. You might be able to address this problem if your employer offers 360-degree reviews that allow employees to provide anonymous feedback about their manager.

Sometimes you need to share challenges with your manager.

To ensure that issues are dissolved it is important to talk to your manager about the problem.

Recently projects were distributed in my department by our new manager. The distribution had taken place at a meeting that I was not able to attend. Our manager came into the position only a few months earlier, while there was still a great deal of disruption from the pandemic.

I had one project assigned to me during the meeting. Everyone else in my group had three, four or even six projects. My project was relatively brief and already nearly complete. Some of the other projects were very complex. I’ve found that if you don’t have responsibilities, it’s difficult to be successful.

At my next one-on-one meeting, I brought my lack of assignments to my manager’s attention by asking her what the plan was for me but failing to specifically mention the distribution of projects. She initially explained her distribution of the projects but didn’t offer me any additional projects, which did not seem satisfactory to me.

After I specifically mentioned that I had one project and everyone else had multiple projects she said, “we can fix that.” We then discussed which projects would be appropriate for me to work on. My manager listened to me, and I ultimately felt much better about the situation.

Communicating with your manager is important. Consider the best way to share information, whether written or spoken. Make sure that your message is sufficiently thorough. If you communicate well, your manager will listen.

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