Make Your Boss Listen

Your boss is a busy person and he or she probably doesn’t have enough time in the day to actively listen to everyone that might want to talk their ear off. Even if you can squeeze in a minute of their time, they might be so distracted that it doesn’t really seem like they’re actually listening to what you’re telling them. This is frustrating for anyone, but it seems to be extremely common with new employees, and even more common with young employees. You can’t really blame your boss, though. They’ve got a lot going on and it’s easy to see why they might not have time to listen to new and young employees.

Getting your boss to actually listen to you might take some experience and time, but follow these ten tips and you’ll be well on your way to having a voice your boss wants to hear.

  1. Put yourself in your boss’s shoes. Chances are your boss is less interested in how you were able to get something done and more interested in whether or not it got done and done properly. Try to understand what your boss is concerned with so that you can phrase what you have to say in a way that will make him or her listen. Keep in mind that your boss’ job is to maintain the “big picture,” so know what that is and understand what their priorities are.
  2. Show value. This one should be obvious, but you’d be surprised. True or not, just assume that your boss isn’t interested in what you have to say, at all, unless it helps them somehow. You need to be able to portray whatever you want to say as something that will benefit them, something they can see the value in.
  3. Make your boss look good. Again, let’s just assume that your boss isn’t interested in what you have to say unless it benefits them. I don’t want you to compliment how your boss is dressed, but you’ll get a lot further with what you want to say if you can find a way to compliment your boss at the same time. Something like, “you were right about X, that steered me in the right direction to be able to {fill in your point here}.”
  4. Know what you and your boss need to get out of the communication. Don’t approach your boss telling them all of your problems and not have a clear question for them. You need to know what your question is ahead of time if you want their feedback, otherwise, it’ll sound like you’re just complaining. Remember your selfish boss? You need to think ahead of time about what they need to get out of this conversation as well.
  5. Be respectful of your boss’ valuable time. Maybe it would be better to just send your boss an email that he can read when he gets the time rather than a face-to-face talk. This will depend on the topic of your conversation and the severity of it, but following this will ensure face-time with your boss that involves an important topic. Your time is valuable and so is your boss’, so start with the point of your conversation and fill in the details as they’re needed. You’ll want to skip the long-winded intro as to why you’re talking to your boss about this topic.
  6. Under-promise and over-deliver. This will ensure that most of what you have to say is good news. Think about it, if you told your boss that you’d be able to close a deal by Friday, but were able to close on Wednesday, this would be good news to your boss. You’re boss loves good news, and after a while he’ll start to catch on that most of what you have to say is good news. He or she will not just listen to you, but they’ll actually want to hear from you.
  7. Be authentic and stay above office politics and gossip. It’s easy to tell when someone is putting on a show at work, so stay true to who you are and don’t try to appear as someone you’re not. Also, your boss does not want to hear about the latest drama in the office, so rather than wasting your communication time with politics and gossip, use that precious time to make an impact.
  8. Create rapport with your boss. Your boss is busy, that’s true, but if you get a chance, try to get to know them on a semi-personal level. I don’t suggest stalking or anything creepy, but try to learn what makes them tick, what their interests are. You want to try to build a relationship with your boss, just don’t lose sight of the fact that he or she is still your boss. Even if you become drinking buddies with your boss, you still need to maintain a professional relationship at the office, so know the line and don’t cross it, that could hurt your relationship very quickly.
  9. Be a good listener and provide valuable feedback. If you want your boss to listen to what you have to say, be sure you’re listening to what they have to say as well. Your boss will take notice to who is actively listening when they are talking, and this might help them reciprocate the next time it’s your turn to talk. Also, if your boss is talking about something, it’s a topic that they are obviously interested in, so it’s a perfect time to provide some valuable feedback. They’ll be listening.
  10. Observe others. Pay close attention to your coworkers when they interact with your boss. Who does (s)he tend to listen to more? Who is having the same struggle as you? Watch these interactions and try to deduce what makes your boss listen and what doesn’t.
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