Why Your Boss Doesn't Always Listen to You

Last Updated Jan 26, 2010 4:34 PM EST

Most leaders, managers, entrepreneurs, and overachieving types in general, have one thing in common: They think they're right most of the time. We can spend forever trying to figure out why that is, but for now, just assume it comes with the territory.

Anyway, when I was a young manager, there were countless times when my boss didn't listen to me. Can you believe that? Well, you know what? Getting snubbed by my boss or, even worse, a top executive or CEO, was a real demotivator. I suspect it's especially true for overachievers - like me (and you) - who take their ideas, job, and the company's success very seriously.

Well, a lot of years have passed since then, and I've spent a good many years on the other side of the fence. And since I've got a unique perspective on the subject, I thought I'd share a few secrets: Why the boss doesn't always listen to you or your ideas, why he sometimes shouldn't, and why sometimes he should but doesn't. Here are 10 scenarios from my own experience:
  1. Low priority. Your ideas, while good, aren't a priority. Every executive and manager has x things that are critical and even more things that are important but non-critical. Everything else, in all likelihood, falls in the crack.
  2. Bad leadership. Frankly, most senior managers aren't strong enough leaders to know how important it is to take the time to hear a middle manager's views and share his own perspectives. Sad but true.
  3. Narrow view. What might seem important to you may not be important or such a good idea one or two levels up. The higher up you go, the more important it is to see the big picture.
  4. Dumb idea. It's such a naïve or otherwise idiotic idea that he doesn't know where to begin to explain it so he just nods politely and waits for you to go away.
  5. Bad timing. Sometimes there's some really hairy stuff going on - finance issues, a merger or acquisition, a major product or customer issue, or even something personal - and she's distracted or can't be bothered.
  6. Politics. Oftentimes the answer is an ugly truth that some executives don't want to admit to you or, worse still, don't even want to think about themselves. Corporate politics is real.
  7. You're intimidating. Or you're inflexible and never back down. This happens a lot, believe it or not. Just because he's the boss, doesn't make you any less of a pain in the butt.
  8. Dysfunctional management. Your boss and/or the entire management team is dysfunctional. I use this as a big ole bucket of scenarios, but some management teams just don't know how to function right.
  9. Not in her job description. That's right; in all likelihood, her annual compensation plan doesn't have a line item that reads, "Listen to Bob."
  10. He did listen. You just don't know it. Sometimes your boss considers it or sends it up the flagpole, and for whatever reason, it doesn't fly. And getting back to you fell in the crack or he doesn't want to admit defeat.
So, the next time your boss doesn't listen to you, try to get a little perspective and, above all, don't take it personally. And if you are "the boss," investing time by explaining your views can go a long way toward inspiring a young up-and-comer.

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