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How to make sure you are heard at work, when it matters the most

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

Often, it’s hard to have our voices heard at work because - Sorry, no, never-mind. Go ahead.

I was just going to say it’s not always easy to be heard in the office because - What? No it’s okay, don’t worry, go on.


Sometimes, we feel unable to contribute, due to - No sorry, you go first. It’s nothing, it’s not important.

If this sounds familiar, there’s a good chance you’re having trouble showcasing your value at work. Maybe it’s the intimidating open-plan office, the colleague who talks over your points or perhaps you lack the confidence to express opinions in front your manager.

Whatever the reason, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with nerves or self-doubt when a meeting goes by without your contribution. Not getting a chance to speak is not only frustrating, but demoralising. If left unresolved, we can quickly start to feel under-appreciated and powerless to inspire any kind of change in the organisation. The longer it goes on, the less passion and motivation we have to even consider fresh ideas.

When an opportunity for a promotion arises, our lack of visibility inevitably hinders our chances and we are left to wallow at the bottom of the career ladder, grumbling complaints to the coffee-machine while passively scrolling job boards in search of a fresh start.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take a megaphone or a voice like Brian Blessed to have your points heard at work. You just need to make a few conscious changes:

1. Be assertive

If you’re struggling to have your voice heard due to niggling doubt about how intelligent or sensible your input is, congratulations: you’re already smarter than those willing to shout any answer until they find the right one. The trouble is, these Employees will happily take advantage of your contemplative silence to hog the proverbial spotlight and voice their stream of consciousness. Before long, the topic has changed, and you’ve missed your window.

The solution to this ongoing cycle is not to shout over your colleague - you simply need to have more belief in yourself. If you’ve been recruited into the role, it’s with good reason: your skills and experience have been acknowledged as useful to the business, so don’t hesitate to say give your view when a great point comes to mind. Don’t downplay your suggestion like it was a scribble on a napkin - speak with conviction and try not to fill your sentences with filler words that scream uncertainty.

2. Ask good quality questions

If you’re still feeling uneasy about adding your own input into a team meeting, begin by asking questions about what other Employees are saying. Of course, this isn’t an invitation to undermine everyone else’s points (try this and any future points you make will be torn to shreds by those seeking revenge). Instead, it’s an opportunity to prove your attentive nature.

To a manager, great listening skills are viewed as incredibly valuable - in fact, you’d be surprised as to how few people in the workplace can truly call themselves good listeners. Proving your strength in communication will lay a foundation upon which you can build later on; asking a valid question demonstrates that you aren’t just here to nod and agree with whatever you’re told.

This is a chance to learn how to challenge, not criticise or confront your colleagues in order to devise the best approach to a particular project or task. Remember, the quality of your questions defines the quality of your answers, so don’t just ask anything for the sake of having something to say - this will only backfire, hold up the meeting and frustrate others in the process.

3. Send pre & post-meeting emails

If you’ve been invited to join a meeting, take some time beforehand to consider what you wish to achieve from the meeting. Are there any areas you’d like to focus on, questions you have to ask, issues you need clarifying or ideas you have in mind?

Get yourself on the agenda by letting the organisers and other attendees know what’s coming, for example: “Thanks for setting up this meeting, I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on X and Y”. Similarly, taking the time to write a follow-up email to a meeting can make all the difference, as it helps to reinforce your points. It’s also a good idea to set actionable points within your email to ensure your input has a life beyond the meeting, for example: “Great to chat earlier! Could you let me know when you’ve had a chance to look at X and Y? That way we can proceed with the project.”

Taking centre-stage to voice new ideas can be nerve-wracking, but it’s through increased visibility that our value is recognised by decision makers in the business. A healthy dose of active listening mixed with a shot of self-confidence should help to put you back on the radar when the next round of promotions comes along.

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