10 ways to get your boss to listen

Find out who at the doctor's practice is in charge of billing decisions. It's probably not the friendly receptionist but the office manager. That's the person to approach about getting a discount. If you've lost your job or health benefits, be sure to let him/her know. In my own practice, I often extend discounts to patients in need. So do other doctors I know. istockphoto

When CBS first launched the reality series Undercover Boss, I was skeptical, to say the least. For one thing, I don't watch reality TV unless it's a cooking show. I'm also reasonably sure that no CEOs I've ever worked with in the high-tech industry would "go undercover" to connect with employees.

Then I started interviewing the Undercover Bosses, and a common theme emerged: "management doesn't listen or care." More often than not, the undercover CEOs wanted an unfiltered view of what was going down in the trenches with the ultimate goal of improving worker conditions and sparking employee engagement.

Come to think of it, as a young engineer at the bottom of the org chart at Texas Instruments, I had more than my fair share of beefs with management that I thought, at the time, went unheard. Of course, after long years scaling the corporate ladder, I've developed somewhat of a different perspective.

So, having been on both sides of the issue, here are the ten most important things to consider if you want your boss or your company's management to actually listen to you:

Make sure it resonates with them. All too often, employees think everything's about them. It's not. When you want to get someone to listen, you need to position it in terms of what's in it for them. Your ideas and feedback may be great, but if it's not a priority for the powers that be, it won't be heard or acted upon. Understand that managers have a long list of top priorities and an even longer list of responsibilities. Everything else more or less falls in a crack.

Don't beat around the bush. Most senior-level managers and executives aren't interested in nuance and, these days, nobody has time to listen. So give it to them straight, right between the eyes. Get in, tell them what you think, what you think they should be doing differently or better, answer any questions they have, and get out. End of story.

Survive the pinch of middle management

Consider your timing. Employees often act like everything is a life and death crisis. Sometimes companies have major stuff going on -- finance issues, a merger or acquisition, a major product launch or customer issue -- and your boss or management is distracted and can't be bothered. If you think that might be the case, pick a better time; you may not have more than one opportunity, so do it right.

Stay clear of politics. It's an unpleasant truth that most executives won't admit to employees and some won't even admit to themselves: in businesses and companies big and small, politics can be a big deal. Whatever you do, don't point fingers or place blame. Try your best to discuss the issue without throwing individuals under the bus. You'll come across far more professionally, as well.

Don't be difficult or intimidating. You might not believe this, but a lot of employees are way more intimidating and difficult to deal with than their bosses. If you want to be heard, don't be angry, emotional, annoying or inflexible. Just because he's the boss doesn't make you any less of a pain in the butt. Just get your ducks in a row and try to relax and be yourself. Also, it wouldn't hurt to have a sense of humor and humility. 

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