My Boss Doesn't Value My Opinion

Last Updated Oct 5, 2009 10:59 AM EDT

Dear Ron,
Whenever I say something in meetings or even privately, my boss dismisses my opinions and either goes with her own ideas or those of one of her favorites in our group. I'm productive and (I think) valued by other people in the company so I'm not in danger of losing my job, but I'm starting to get really frustrated. What should I do?
There's a few things you need to analyze here. First, look at yourself and examine your own strengths and contributions to the company, both now and in the past. You've said you seem to be valued there by others, so take some comfort in that and don't allow your boss's behavior to weaken your confidence in yourself.

Next, you want to examine your boss and what types of issues she may have. If she's under particular pressure from her bosses, try to figure out ways you can address and alleviate those pressures. If she keeps favorites, try to figure out what it is they have in common that makes them her favorites and try to emulate that behavior.

Finally, you want to look specifically at the dynamic that you have with your boss. Why do you think the two of you just don't mesh, and is her lack of recognition of your opinions causing you to become resentful, making matters worse? Does she perhaps prefer to receive information and opinions in writing backed up with a lot of numbers? You want to understand how you can work best with her particular management style and idiosyncrasies.

In the face of her lack of recognition of your ideas, you want to be extremely pro-active in doing what's expected of you and anticipating your boss's needs. You also want other people in the company to know how hard you're working and to comment on that to your boss. Ultimately, if you're unable to change your boss's attitude towards you, your goal is to at least neutralize her so that she doesn't give you a negative evaluation that hurts your progress at your company. In this case, if your boss just winds up saying you're OK, that in itself could be a victory.

I once had a client who was a senior manager at a manufacturing firm and who had a boss that never took his ideas seriously, particularly when he disagreed with her. His boss was a star-in-waiting at the company, though, so he knew he couldn't afford to have her give him a negative appraisal. So my client figured out a way to work with her--he realized that moving up was her primary motivation and so he framed his opinions and recommendations in terms of how she would benefit--and was able to salvage the relationship. When she left the group 18 months later on her way up, she didn't leave him with a glowing recommendation, nor did she take him with her, but she at least gave him a neutral evaluation that didn't impede his growth. And my client was subsequently able to move out of that group and work with a vice president there that he had a very good relationship with, and has managed to do very well for himself since.

He was essentially playing to live to fight another day, and that's how you should approach this situation, too, if you're unable to get the direct appreciation from your boss that you'd like.

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Send Ron your career and job-related questions.

  • Ron Brown

    Ronald B. Brown is a leading expert in the fields of leadership development and organizational change. He is the founder and president of Banks Brown, a management consulting firm that specializes in providing leading-edge skills to optimize the performance of leaders and organizations. He has served as a consultant to Fortune 100 corporations such as the Procter & Gamble Company, Avon Products, Inc., McDonald's Corporation, General Electric Plastics, Kaiser Permanente, Shell Oil Company, Eastman Kodak Company, General Mills Inc., and Motorola, Inc. Brown holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. and B.S. from Michigan State University.