Sharing ideas on teams is how work gets done nowadays.
It can also result in getting noticed by the boss. What happens when it’s hard to get your two-cents in? It’s common for some workers to feel muzzled at work.
Your good ideas and contributions remain unspoken and unacknowledged. Which takes a toll and means good ideas never leave your silenced head.
To help you understand how to get heard, ask yourself these Questions:
Why do you have more trouble being heard at meetings than others?
It can be a matter of personality.
Being an introvert in a room full of extroverts is hard. Extroverts enjoy the limelight and have a gift for holding the floor.
Introverts work better in small groups and like to think before they speak.
Gender plays a role too.
Women tend to find themselves drowned out, or afraid to speak at meetings, especially if they are in the minority.
Workers high in emotional intelligence tend to hold the floor.
They are able to manage their emotions and come across as calm, authentic and knowledgeable.
Workers defer to managers, so the hierarchy can make a difference.
For Example: A manager told me he routinely waited until everyone else had spoken. He found his opinion held too much sway. Some of his employees still tried to figure out what to say.
So, he’d summarize what everyone said and then add his own ideas. Over time they realized he really wanted to hear their thoughts.
What are the effects on you when you can’t get into conversations at work?
It’s demoralizing to have a lot to say and not be able to say it.
Sometimes a worker breaks into a conversation and his or her idea gets attributed to someone else.
It can hurt your career; promotions may pass you by. Workers earn less if they aren’t seen as contributing. Performance evaluations suffer.
A director at a sales company was passed up for promotion. Her evaluations were alright, but not the kind that would help her get a promotion.
Great ideas or new ways of doing things don’t benefit the company, or the team if they aren’t shared.
How can you get more airtime if you find yourself feeling muzzled or not heard?
- Work on becoming more emotionally intelligent. Especially when it comes to managing your emotions.
- Be able to recognize an emotion like anger or withdrawal while under fire. Then you won’t react defensively or angrily. You’ll be able to stay steady and be determined to make your point.
- Watch your body language. Often, you’ll see people at meetings, lean back with their arms behind their heads. Then they start speaking and lean forward. They automatically get the floor.
A client of mine used to become defensive when asked questions. She felt criticized even when none was intended.
She had to learn to answer in a calm way by re-interpreting questions, as signs of interest from colleagues, not attacks.
What can you do if you find yourself constantly interrupted?
This is a common problem on teams or work crews. Everyone jumps in and no one listens.
- Make a no interruption rule. If that doesn’t work try to defend you air time by being polite and saying something like: “Excuse me”, and continue talking. Or, put a hand up and say, I’ll finish by saying…” and continue talking.
- Prepare well.
A woman on an all-male team, she got flustered when everyone was talking over each other. Her tactic was:
- Wrote down some points she wanted to make, in advance.
- Learned not to wait until there was a break in the conversation.
- Waded in with her point.
This can sound exhausting, what can team mates or bosses do to make sure everyone is heard?
- Make room for introverts. Ask reserved people for their thoughts. If they don’t like to speak, have the team pair-up to discuss something. Then report the discussion to the group.
- Do a round robin to get everyone’s thoughts. Build on each other’s ideas, rather than just repeat what the last person said.
- If getting dissenting opinion is hard, assign someone different each meeting to be the Devil’s Advocate.
Ask for feedback about the meeting—did everyone get a chance to speak if they had something to say?
Dr. Jennifer Newman is a registered psychologist and director of Newman Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development company. Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality. Dr. Newman can be contacted at: email@example.com