In the spirit of the Women’s March on Washington, we are sharing some of the best practices to help everyone get their voice heard — in the workplace.
At The Bagg Group, we’re all about promoting happiness at work. We know that when you’re in a meeting, and for whatever reason, you don’t get acknowledged when you speak, it hurts. No surprise that it results in a decrease in your productivity, job interest, and overall wellbeing.
Being ignored may feel deliberate, but often it’s really not. The best-intentioned people, at the best companies (and we work with them all in and outside the GTA) can simply fail to notice a voice or two in the conference room. It just happens. So check out these strategies should it happen to you, or a colleague.
Amplify: This a great tip from The White House staffers, courtesy of the Washington Post. Female staffers at meetings say they used to find themselves speaking into the wind. Their male counterparts just weren’t hearing them. So they decided to make a point of amplifying each other.
In a terrific show of solidarity, whenever a female staffer made a key point that went ignored, other women around the table repeated it. They made sure to always state the name of the person who said it first. This way, no one else could steal credit for the input.
The staffers report this became an everyday strategy at meetings. But they didn’t have to keep it going for long. Very soon, when anyone spoke, everyone paid attention.
Ask questions: As many as 50% of employees are introverts, according to research. Susan Cain, author of Quiet, makes the case that thoughtful, observant introverts can too often get passed over by the more assertive extroverts in the room. So in a meeting, she suggests piping up with a good question.
Questions get noticed – and they get answered. As a result, you are automatically included in the dialogue. Plus, questions contribute a great deal, they help clarify and direct thinking.
Sum up other people’s ideas at the table: This sounds counter-productive when trying to get people to hear your ideas, but Susan Cain’s research says it works. And we agree.
To get people to take notice, capture the thinking you’ve heard so far. For example, “What I hear Nick, Jordan and Nadia say is (—–). What if (speak your thought)?” You will also get kudos for doing everyone the favour of synthesizing ideas.
Sit in the middle: British psychologist Sam Owen says you increase your chance of being seen and heard when you take a seat in the centre.
Speak early on: To be blunt, get in there fast. Prepare for the meeting so you have a relevant contribution to offer at the onset.
People pay more attention to speakers at the start of a meeting than toward the end when attendees get restless.
Exude confidence, not frustration: It’s easy to wilt when you feel invisible. But that’s your cue to physically sit straight and lean in. And when you do speak, adopt a tone of calm authority.
Check in with yourself to make sure you don’t project your feelings of hurt exclusion, frustration or indignation – doing so weakens your image around the table.
Make no excuses: There’s much research on how women, more typically than men, start off speaking with a kind of disclaimer, such as “I think” or “I don’t know if this applies exactly but…” Communication experts urge against this practice as it prompts listeners to, unconsciously, prepare themselves to overlook or dismiss your ideas.
You show up on people’s radars when you own your idea or question.
Bagg Pro, Bagg Technology Resources, Bagg @ Your Service, Bagg Managed Resources, and Turn Key Staffing Solutions places high-achievers every day in full-time, part-time, contract and temporary placements. We know how much valuable insight comes from listening, and when you share your idea, you’re contributing to everyone’s learning.
The bottom line: Challenge yourself to get heard, and if you notice someone in a meeting who can’t seem to get attention, help them out by clearing an opening. With more than 45 years of experience to our name, we can assure you it’s true that teams are stronger together –and it’s in these ways that happy, respectful workplaces are created.
Gene Hayden, author of The Follow-Through Factor: Getting from Doubt to Done, is a career coach and The Bagg Group’s writer-in-residence.