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Don’t Jump to Conclusions

Dear Career Tips:
"Don’t Jump to Conclusions!"

From Career Tips, 2004 Volume 5, May 2004

Dear Career Tips:

I recently had a great idea for improving our department’s operation, but at the last minute my boss cancelled the meeting, and he hasn’t rescheduled it. I’m really frustrated that he doesn’t respect the value I’m trying to add!

Adding Value

Dear Adding Value:

Wow, that’s a loaded statement! Without a serious discussion to put this event into context, particularly with past interactions you’ve had with your boss, it’s impossible to diagnose your problem. But let’s look at a few of the questions you can ask yourself that may help you see how to proceed:

  1. Does your boss frequently reschedule meetings with you, or was this unusual? Does he do the same with meetings scheduled with other people?
  2. How often have you had meetings like this one (as opposed to regular status or project meetings), and how has your boss reacted to them in the past? If most or all of your meetings are ‘routine’, and this one was ‘special’, perhaps you need to prepare your boss a little better to recognize its importance to you.
  3. Have you clearly explained to your boss why this idea is important? (And have you put it in terms of how it will help HIM/HER?)
  4. Was there anything about the idea that might be threatening to your boss? Or anything in the way you presented it that might turn off your boss to the idea right up front?
  5. Could something have come up at the last minute that caused your boss to cancel? Perhaps there was a critical project deadline, a last minute request from senior management, or even a personal situation to deal with.
  6. Does the idea impact other people or areas that your boss may have wanted represented at the meeting? That could compound the probability of last minute conflicts that may be beyond your boss’s control.

Think about these questions carefully and try to avoid the trap of reading too much into one cancelled meeting. There could be many valid reasons that have nothing to do with whether the boss respects your ideas. Explore those options first. It is very un-empowering to assume the worst, and can create a spillover effect on your work and future interactions with your boss.

However, if the end result that you have a boss who routinely ignores your suggestions and doesn’t respect your input, you should deal with that directly. Figure out what you can do to create a serious dialog and improve your relationship. And if that doesn’t work, you may need to consider exit strategies.