“Can You Hear Me Now?”: What To Do When Your Ideas Aren’t Being Heard In the Workplace

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Have you ever had a moment at work where you have this amazing idea, one that has the potential to resolve that big problem? You know, the problem that has everyone scrambling eagerly for a solution. Well you have the answer which is great but you don’t seem to be heard. So suddenly your bubble has been burst and left a huge puddle of soapy bubble juice (because I don’t know if there’s an actual a name for it) all over the floor. In a figurative sense that is. Unless you work at Toys R Us. I digress.

It’s frustrating when you feel like you aren’t being heard. Whether it was that one occasion or on a daily basis. It’s easy to take it personal, shut down and never speak another idea out loud again. Well you could do just that but what would that be contributing to your employer and more importantly, yourself? You were hired because of the unique set of skills you possess. That idea you hold back could be the difference of whether or not you receive a promotion. Sticking behind your idea could be building the tough as nails, thick skinned type of confidence you need to get you to the next level.

Below are 7 tips to help you cope with these moments of disappointment and maintain your confidence.

1) Timing is everything! Be patient.

I have witnessed this pretty frequently through my own career. Sometimes it’s not the case that your answer isn’t heard or will never be utilized. It could be that the timing just isn’t right. So be patient. There have been occasions where I’ve made a suggestion that didn’t get recognized right away but a colleague or superior came to me weeks later wanting to discuss the idea in more detail as we prepared to implement it.

Had I morphed into a 6 year and stomped away like a brat the moment my idea wasn’t heard originally, odds are a follow up opportunity wouldn’t have come my way. Patience truly is a virtue!

2) Let the other person process your idea first.

This is a follow up to my first point. You never know what space a person’s head could be in upon the presentation of your idea. Maybe they’ve had a bad morning and can’t focus. Perhaps they have multiple projects going on and the project associated with your idea is at the bottom at their priority list. They had to chase their dog down the street and put him back in the kennel all while trying to get themselves and their kids out of the house that morning. Their spouse texted them asking to transfer money to the in-laws again. The possibilities can go on.

My point is, you never know what variety of things a person has on their mind at a given time. And even when someone is laser focused on what you are saying, everyone processes things differently. So give them time to do just that.

3) Pick your battles.

On the flip side, even some of your best ideas may never make it to fruition in the workplace. You just have to pick your battles. But know that all is not lost. My advice would be to pull out your trusty notebook (hardcopy or digital) and jot down those ideas. Then keep them in a handy place for future reference. You could end up utilizing them in a future position. Or who knows, one day when you have your own company (if that’s your goal) you may see what was just another idea that got shot down become the blueprint of your vision.

4) Know your position.

Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, there is a pecking order in the work place. Not to say that you should think of yourself as a peon. Never that. Though it is important to recognize your position. If you’re in an entry level position, odds are you’re not going to have the same voice as a CEO. Continue to voice your ideas but always do so in the most respectful and humble manner possible. Perhaps this humility will be the distinguishing factor that makes you stand out and have your idea implemented.

5) Recognize your environment.

I realize that some people may struggle with a scenario I haven’t spoke on yet in this post – the competitive co-worker. You know, that person that doesn’t let you get an idea in without trying to sabotage it all. Perhaps they shoot back with an idea they proposition as “better” or take your very same idea and twist it to make it seem like this genius suggestion was their own the whole time.

A colleague once told me “Messy people never win”. She was referencing a different type of situation. Though it still applies here.

Even though that person may crawl under the depths of your skin as they scheme against your great ideas, know that this is temporary. It won’t last and they won’t win. So know your environment and how to professionally work through the politics. Don’t let them allow you to give up on your ideas. The temporary discomfort will pass.

6) Reposition your ideas to use elsewhere.

In tip #3 I suggested that you document your ideas in case you need to wait to use them at a different time. To elaborate on that, consider using your ideas in another space. What are you involved in outside of work? Perhaps that new tech advancement you wanted to be made can be utilized your PTA group. Or that awesome team calendar that you put together can be shared with friends who need help getting organized.

Want to step it up a bit? Pair your idea with your expertise to profit your business or creative venture. The practice will help build your professional portfolio and assist others in need at the same time.

7) Talk to the source. Meet with your boss.

My dad has a saying “don’t go talking to the janitor”. There is a story behind that but to simplify for times sake, the message is – address your issue with the source. Don’t discuss it with everyone else that’s not able to resolve it.

Perhaps you’re frustrated because your boss is the person you feel is not listening to your idea. Ask to meet with him/her to express how you feel in a calm and professional manner. Most times, supervisors appreciate the feedback of their employees but are often so overwhelmed with their own work, on top of overseeing staff, that they may come off as unapproachable or uninterested. One-on-one conversations are always best because it allows both parties to talk through the situation.

It could be that they value your idea but right now is just not the right time (refer back to tip #1). Or maybe they misunderstood your idea at the time of presentation but have a better understanding now that he/she is in a space to ask more specific questions.


What are some methods that have proven to be successful for you in these types of work place situations? Or if you’re someone who hasn’t been successful in this area (yet), don’t be discouraged. Know those ideas have been planted on your mind, and even heart, for a reason. So keep plugging along. They will be implemented at the right time and in the right place. Hang in there!


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