I write for a publication geared toward staff that isn’t calling the shots — the administrative assistants of the world. Recently I covered a workplace conundrum that many other workers have likely confronted at some point: the suspicion that no one’s listening to you.
Maybe you’re not invited to a meeting. Or you’re invited to the meeting, but then everyone turns glassy-eyed when you offer your opinion. Or you’re not asked for your input, even when a decision will impact you. What do you do?
To many assistants, it feels like a power issue — if they had power, this wouldn’t be happening, and people would care about what they think.
“Unfortunately, those feelings are nothing new within the administrative field,” says Jennifer Webb, a consultant, trainer and coach.
Reasonable enough. But I think it’s also about how you good you are at getting your ideas across, regardless of how much power you have. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you’re an assistant or a team leader or an executive. You still need to know how to talk, listen, persuade and rally support for your ideas up and down the ladder.
Advice for making your voice heard:
- Check your underlying beliefs.You may be undermining yourself. Ask yourself, “Where did I first hear that my opinion wasn’t valuable?” Don’t stop with the first answer you come to. “It goes deeper than whether or not you’re in an administrative position,” says Webb. “Imagine what you’d say to a daughter if someone said her opinion didn’t matter. That’s what you should tell the younger version of you.”
- Fake it. Could people be tuning you out because your body language reveals a lack of confidence? Even when you don’t feel confident, act as if you do. “Sometimes that helps us feel the way we believe we should be,” Webb says.
- Stop assuming the worst. “How could they not know how I feel?” You may think your body language is loud and clear. But others may not have picked up on it. “No one’s a mind reader. You’re going to have to articulate,” Webb says.
- Get past the title to speak like a true partner, says Webb. Forget that he’s the CEO. He’s just “Dan.”
- Tell people what you need. A martyr says, “Oh, they didn’t include me.” That’s not going to get you anywhere. Instead, advises Webb, “Say what you feel and what you need. When you get into the practice of doing it, it’s very freeing and a smarter way to work with someone.”
For example, pick a smart time to approach your manager and say: “I know you didn’t realize it, but I felt overlooked when you didn’t include my thoughts on XYZ. In the future, I’d like to share my thoughts, because I have a unique perspective on this. What do you think?”
- Make it about their success, not your hurt feelings. What’s important to the person you report to? Connect your inclusion to his goals.
For example, instead of saying, “I felt disappointed that I wasn’t included in the discussion,” say “You forgot to include me, but here’s why I need to be included next time: I have information about XYZ that others don’t, and I want our team to be as effective as possible.”
[Note: You can find the original article and more at www.businessmanagementdaily.com.]
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