Making Sure Your Voice is Heard at Work
Ensuring that your voice is heard at work plays a key role in your job satisfaction. Below are four steps to help you learn how to do that, as outlined by Sarah Landrum.
They say no man — or woman — is an island, and that becomes especially important in a workplace. Businesses, regardless of their size, can’t succeed without their teams. In some cases, it might seem like one voice is lost in the crowd, especially when you’re dealing with a large team or company. If that voice is yours, the situation can make it hard to get your job done. What should you do if you feel like you’re not being heard at work? Here are four steps.
1. Start by Speaking Up
If you feel like you aren’t being heard at work, the first step you should take is to try to speak up. Pick a meeting or a situation and politely speak up for yourself. If you’re used to being ignored, this time can be the perfect opportunity to advocate for yourself.
The key here is to be polite — rudeness won’t get you anywhere and might end up getting you disciplined for your behavior. If your ideas or suggestions are being blown off, gently bring the attention of the room back to them — ask questions that are directed at the people ignoring your ideas or not listening to you.
This strategy might take some practice. It can also take some time to learn what each person responds to — some might respond better to questions while others like direct statements that bring their attention back to the subject at hand.
If advocating for yourself doesn’t have any effect, it might not have anything to do with you as a person — it might be how you’re communicating.
2. Change Your Communication Strategy
When you’re presenting an idea, how do you hold your body? Do you make eye contact with your audience, or do you make it a point to avoid meeting anyone’s eyes? Do you stand with your shoulders back and head up, or do you hunch your shoulders and keep your arms crossed? Your body language can have a lot to do with whether or not people listen to you.
Even your voice can determine whether people hear you out. A trick that can help is one that call center agents have used for years — just smile. Even if they can’t see your face, they can hear the smile in your voice, and that will make them more likely to listen to what you have to say.
Be mindful of your body language when you’re speaking. The more confident you look, the more likely it is that people will listen to you when you take the time to talk.
3. Take It up the Chain of Command
If advocating for yourself isn’t enough, it might be time to take it up the chain of command. Again, be polite. Don’t go in and act accusatory, like it’s your supervisor’s fault that your coworkers aren’t listening to you.
One good way to approach the situation is to ask if there’s anything you can do to ensure that your voice is heard. Your company may prefer that ideas are presented in a specific format or that you wait to introduce new ideas until a designated brainstorming session or after a meeting. It’s entirely possible that they aren’t listening to you because you aren’t complying with how things are done in that particular setting.
If you’re being ignored, however, speaking to a supervisor can make all the difference.
4. Pack up and Go
You deserve to be a valued part of your team, even if they don’t agree with or automatically implement every one of your ideas. If speaking up for yourself, changing your communication strategy and speaking to your supervisor hasn’t changed anything, you have one good option left — start hunting for a new position with a company and a team that will actually appreciate your contributions.
It might not be the best option or one that you really want to think about, but if your work is being continuously unappreciated or ignored, it might be time for a change. Make sure you leave your current job on good terms and after you’ve found a new position. While they might not appreciate your ideas or your work, you don’t want to burn those bridges — they might give you a glowing letter of recommendation as you transition to your new job, and that can make all the difference.
Make sure you give enough notice and wrap up any projects that you’re currently working on. Offering to train your replacement, even if your current company declines the offer, can also make you look good both in the eyes of your current boss as well as the new one. Consider connecting with your coworkers, too — networking is a vital skill. Even if you’re no longer working with them, chances are, you’ll cross paths with them again sometime in the future. It's always good to leave things on good terms.
No one likes to feel like their work is being ignored or unappreciated. You have every right to stand up for yourself and have your voice heard. If you’re still being ignored no matter what you do, consider that it might be time to move on from your current position. You might be surprised at how much better your career becomes once you’re finally being heard at work.