When your boss won't listen to you

When your boss won't listen to you

It's frustrating to be ignored, but don't react in a way that will just make things worse.

There's little that's more frustrating at work than trying to tell your boss something important and realizing that she's not listening. You may have a great idea about how to serve your constituents. You may be telling her that her instructions make no sense. Or you may be warning her that her approach will destroy a project. Regardless of the context, when you see her failing to focus on what you say, you're left feeling dismissed, disrespected and powerless.

All too often, I've seen people respond to these frustrations in ways that are perfectly natural, but -- unfortunately -- self-destructive. These include:

  • Repeating themselves endlessly.
  • Blowing up in anger.
  • Telling everyone who will listen that the boss is an inconsiderate jerk.
  • Fomenting a coup.
  • Following their own path, disregarding instructions.
  • Appealing to the boss's boss.
  • Refusing to do anything.
  • Petulantly and mindlessly following directions, abdicating all responsibility.
  • Quitting in disgust.

Many of those responses will bring trouble on your head, and none is likely to help you accomplish your original goal of helpfully advising your supervisor and making your team and yourself a success.

So what kind of response would make the most sense? Figuring that out requires that you consider a few key questions.

If your boss doesn't listen, don't give up -- and don't start a fight. Think carefully about how you can get your message through and enhance your relationship in the process.

Paul Glen is the co-author of The Geek Leader's Handbook and a principal of Leading Geeks, an education and consulting firm devoted to clarifying the murky world of human emotion for people who gravitate toward concrete thinking. You can contact him at


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