You Being Listened To At Work?
at a meeting to discuss ideas for implementing a new
program in your department. After some discussion,
you tentatively throw out an idea to the group.
It is ignored.
Ten minutes later, one
of your co-workers says “Hey, here’s an idea ...” and
restates your suggestion almost word for word.
This time, “your” idea
is met with a chorus of “Great idea!” from your
If this has ever happened
to you, you are not alone.
Dr. Sonia Herasymowich,
Ph.D., a university instructor and consultant on
mental diversity, says one reason ideas are sometimes
not acknowledged the first time they are stated is because
of differences in thinking styles.
(most of whom are women) tend to be intuitive.
They may jump to a conclusion and express it before
their left-brained colleagues (most of whom are men)
have arrived at the same conclusion. It is only
after the discussion has logically led to the
idea that it is likely to be embraced by the left-brained
Dr. Sonia, as she is
known to her clients and students, suggests that right-brained
thinkers can get credit for an idea by writing it
down on a flipchart or white board immediately after
expressing it. While the group continues its discussion,
the right-brained thinker can be working backwards,
writing the steps leading up to the idea.
“At some point, the
group will look up and say ‘oh great, you’re writing
it down’,” says Dr. Sonia. “At the very least
you will be seen as someone who has helped the team
reach its conclusion.”
Whether or not your
ideas are listened to may also depend on how clearly
you express them.
In her book Talking
From 9 to 5, Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., reports
that when it comes to communicating in the workplace,
employees who get heard at meetings tend to be those
who speak more directly, more loudly,
and at greater length than their co-workers.
Trying to be polite
may backfire. Says Tannen, “Many people try to
avoid seeming presumptuous by prefacing their statements
with a disclaimer such as, ‘I don’t know if this will
work, but ...’ or ‘You’ve probably already thought of
this, but ...’.” Such disclaimers may result in the
rest of the communication being ignored.
However, simply telling
employees to speak up is not the answer to ensuring
everyone’s contributions are heard. Some employees
may need time to reflect before speaking, while others
may not speak up at all for fear of looking foolish.
Companies that want
to take advantage of contributions from all their employees
need to teach their managers and group leaders to foster
Says Tannen, “The most
important point is for managers to become skilled at
observing group process and noticing the role that each
group member takes.” The group leader can then give
credit where it is due and encourage greater participation
Going around the table
and asking everyone to state their opinion is one way
to encourage greater participation. However, participants
are often influenced by what has been said before them
and may not risk disagreeing with someone higher up
in the organization.
A better idea, therefore,
is to invite employees to submit their opinions in
writing either before or at the meeting.
Another option is the
Japanese practice of "nemawashi" in which a facilitator
meets one-on-one with participants before the meeting.
The facilitator can then make a presentation which includes
the variety of opinions, thereby ensuring that everyone’s
opinion is taken into account and saving face for those
whose suggestions are not followed.
To elicit ideas from
those who need time to reflect after the meeting, Dr.
Sonia suggests managers conclude with a comment such
as “If anyone has any more ideas before tomorrow morning,
put them in writing and leave them on my desk.”
Companies that follow
such practices may be rewarded with ideas and innovations
well beyond those expressed during the meeting itself.
e-books that can help you break into a "fab" job. Visit