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How to Get the Boss to Listen

Topics: Career Advice
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Contrary to what the standard knock-it out-of the-parkstanding-ovation movie pitch might have you believe, getting higher-ups to respond to your ideas isn’t always easy. Whether you’re struggling to find the time for a sit-down or feel like your asks are falling on deaf ears, getting the boss to listen up can be tricky. The next time you need some solid attention from your boss for a problem, pitch, or process change, give these tactics a try.

1. Get out of the office.

Sometimes the easiest way to get your boss to take you seriously is to find some middle ground. The next time you need to discuss something tricky, suggest a one-on-one offsite over coffee or lunch. Start the conversation with some real-life talk, then get down to specifics. You’d be surprised at how much more receptive they’ll be just from being on neutral ground.

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2. Ask to brainstorm together.

Reverse psychology doesn’t just work with toddlers — it works in business, too. If you know what you want, but know you also need your boss to help make the idea happen, get them on your side. Ask to brainstorm together about something you’ve been working on, and as you’re working toward solutions, casually slip your idea into the conversation. This lets the two of you talk it through together, and even lets the boss believe they had a hand in the idea (not wrong!).

3. Make your pitch … and make it an easy yes.

Let’s be honest: the role of a manager is a complicated one. Between leading employees, reporting to higher-ups, and juggling tasks of their own, talk time with a manager can be hard to come by. If you really want to get the boss to listen, be prepared! Make your pitch as clear, concise, and well-structured as possible, include proof points, and include plans for how your ask would ideally be carried out. If it helps, make a deck, then present your plans in person. If there’s logic behind an idea (or even better, an upswing), it’s pretty hard to say no.

4. Get some windshield time.

In a former role, I spent a lot of time in the car with my boss. The “windshield time,” as she called it, was some of the best we ever spent together. We talked shop, worked through problems, discussed my future with organization, and even mused on the trajectory of the company. She solicited feedback from me and offered hers, and the conversation made the road trips pass by a lot faster. If you’re looking for open dialogue with your manager, there’s really no better place to get it than in the car. Take time to get to know one another as people first — ask questions about their life, their families, their work history, and projects they’re excited about. Once you establish a genuine connection, the tough conversations start to feel a lot simpler.

5. Have your manager handle it.

If there’s an issue that needs attention and you can’t get the head honcho to take notice, try going through your manager. That’s a big part of what they’re there for! Managers are in place (in part) to help move things along, handle the tough stuff, and offer guidance, so if you can’t get the boss to listen, don’t be afraid to pull the manager card.

Tell Us What You Think

What tips would you add to our list? We want to hear from you. Tell us how you got your boss to listen in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Megan Shepherd
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