Blog: What to do if you don't feel heard at work

Oscar Dominguez

Software Engineer

@oscard0m_

86%

That is the number of people who don't feel heard fairly or equally at their organisation.

And nearly half (47%) claim that underrepresented voices remain undervalued by their employers, according to global research conducted by The Workforce Institute at UKG in 2021.

Many engineers feel they don't have room to share their ideas and opinions. Are you one of them?

How often do you feel your perspective is taken into account? And is this as often as you’d like?

What to do if you don't feel heard at work illustration

How connected do you feel to:

  • The Product and its mission?
  • The Team?
  • The Company Values?

If your answer is

😔 "I feel disconnected. I tried to share my ideas but all of them got discarded so I got tired of bringing suggestions.”

😩 “Oh my God, it’s Monday again. I hate this project. I don’t like the direction in which this is going.”

🙁 “Hmm, I don’t know... It is what it is..."

keep reading because you are not alone.

According to a global research carried out across 11 countries by The Workforce Institute at UKG, the vast majority (86%) of employees feel people at their organisation are not heard fairly or equally — and nearly half (47%) say that underrepresented voices remain undervalued by employers.

It happened to me in the past and, worry not, there is a solution for it! 😀 🥳

The art of listening

As professionals, we want to feel we are being heard. When that does not happen, a feeling of disconnection arises.

This happened to me in the past and the following questions came to my mind by then:

  • Is this feeling normal?
  • Am I being selfish? I should be focusing on the company’s mission instead, right? They are paying me for that.
  • Is there something I can do on my end? The others are the ones not listening to me, there’s nothing I can do.

Let’s answer question by question:

Is this feeling normal?

Yes, it is a very natural feeling. And there is nothing wrong with it.

As professionals we want:

  • to feel valued
  • to contribute
  • to help others
  • to grow

When this does not happen we feel frustrated and this frustration ends up impacting the relationship with our team, the project in which we are participating, or even our relationship with our company.

Am I being selfish? I should be focusing on the company’s mission instead, right? They are paying me for that.

No, you are not being selfish. Your company needs you to be happy and enjoy your job.

When this happens, you show all your potential as a professional. Your team, the product and your company benefit from it. Your company is paying you for that, for your maximum potential. It’s a win-win!

If this is not happening, there is something wrong that needs to be fixed:

  1. Are you aligned with your company and team values?
  2. Is your vision of your career path aligned with the idea your company has in mind?

If the answer is yes, keep reading because there’s probably something you can do about it.

If the answer is no, this probably means you need a change.

Is there something I can do on my end? The problem is others not listening to me, there’s nothing I can control.

Yes, you can. You can’t control what others do unless you have very good hypnosis skills but you can decide to perceive this as a problem or not. What if you try to take the initiative? Let’s show the rest how The Art of Listening is and spread it to the world.

Take initiative with empathy

I’m pretty sure you have already tried to give your opinion to improve a feature, a process, a team ceremony... but nothing happened. No feedback, or automatically rejected.

I know, it’s very frustrating and you got tired of it. Maybe you stopped trying. The key question here is: Do you know why? Why did you not get feedback or why did it get rejected?

Identify the problem/s

Let’s assume the best of the intentions from your teammates, the stakeholders, the company or whoever should be the one listening to you. Why would they ignore you? Or automatically reject you?

The list of possibilities is long:

  • There is no time to attend my petition or suggestion
  • It is not a priority for them
  • There is not a clear process for me to share my thoughts
  • I’m not involved when decisions are discussed and taken and when I discover them it’s late.
  • etc.

The list is long and it varies depending on the week, a moment of the day or a topic.

The very first step is to identify the problem/s that are making your message go unheard by the rest.

Once that is clear, we can come up with solutions.

Choose your battles

Changes require time and energy between all parts.

Especially at the beginning, if the list is long, choose the topics which are:

  • more important for you
  • more significant for your team
  • more significant for your company

Don’t worry, there will be time for the rest. Or maybe they were not that important in the end 🙂

Propose solutions with empathy

I’m sure you already tried to use the processes in place to communicate your opinion, but this is not working so we need to come up with solutions.

To be effective, these solutions need to be empathetic with all parts. If they look good to you but they are not taking into consideration other parts involved in the conversation, it means they won’t get traction.

Is the process in place being empathetic with all parts? No? Let’s change it! Maybe it needs to change the channel, to use a meeting instead of being asynchronous to make it happen. Or the other way around, to be asynchronous because there is no time for meetings. Think about the proposal you want to talk about, think about the receptors and what could work for them.

Lead by example

You want to feel listened but, are you a good listener? If you make your colleagues feel heard maybe they replicate it. Don’t you think? 😜

Check these tips:

  • Pay attention. Make sure the other feels heard, not only listened to.
  • Show that you are engaged with what’s been told. Use your body language and gestures to give feedback to the other.
  • Ask with curiosity, not judgement
  • Don’t interrupt

Conclusion

Not feeling heard at your company is a global problem lots of employees suffer worldwide. You are not alone.

The first exercise you need to do is to assure you are aligned with your company and team values. Some questions from a book I just read may help you:

Should we not evaluate our jobs according to how much they help us find meaning and love in life? Do our jobs help us learn more about the purpose of our lives? Do they develop our level of self-insight and self-awareness? How good are we at creating meaningfulness for our colleagues?

One Life: How we forgot to live meaningful lives by Morten Albæk

This article tries to recollect some ideas and positive actions you can take to try to make you feel heard at work through the art of being a good listener. Take the initiative to dominate this art while being empathetic with the others:

We would love to hear your personal experience on this topic. Do you have any tip or story you would like to share with us and the rest of the readers? Feel free to comment on our Twitter or LinkedIn.


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