Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

THE QUESTION

I have a delicate situation at work. My immediate supervisor has me run all my proposals for new projects through her. I spend a lot of time and creativity on these ideas to improve the business. I see an area where we are lacking, and I propose a way to make things better, such as more convenient for customers, or a more efficient process. But these proposals are often rejected, and the reasoning seems flimsy. A few times I have taken a project for which I received a flat-out "no," changed the proposal to fix the perceived problem, and have been given a totally different reason as to why the idea won't work.

I'm trying not to get too attached to my work, but is there some kind of power struggle going on? She just doesn't seem to want to invest in my ideas, and I have no idea how to respectfully address this with her.

Story continues below advertisement

THE FIRST ANSWER

Heather Faire

Human resources executive, Atlanta

It is common to have ideas vetted through a manager and equally common to have them rejected. While the reasons may seem flimsy to you, your boss may have information about what works and what doesn't that you do not. Your disappointment is understandable but don't let it get in the way. Try different approaches.

Offer to buy your boss a coffee, discuss your desire to make a difference and ask for feedback on your ideas. Ask your boss if she has ever been "in your shoes" and how she handled it. You might gain insight as to how you can garner support for your ideas. Offer to help work on ideas that are important to your boss's credibility.

Ask to be assigned to projects that other senior managers are leading, to get exposure to other decision makers. Seek out a mentorship and get yourself paired with a senior leader who works in an area of the organization where your ideas might be useful. Consider reading books or taking courses to develop your influencing skills and then test what you learn.

If you feel you have tried everything and nothing has worked in your current environment, change it. Find a job with a more innovative company.

Story continues below advertisement

Remember, many great ideas are met with rejection. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by Harper Collins, Penguin and Transworld. Sir James Dyson struggled for years to persuade people there was a better way to clean carpets. Now his vacuum out-sells key competitors by more than two to one. After being turned down by Parker Bros., Clarence Darrow went on to produce Monopoly himself.

Keep the faith, don't give up and good luck with your big ideas.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Billy Anderson

Founder, Made You Think Coaching, Toronto

A power struggle is pure politics, and politics is conflict without trust. Does your boss think you are gunning for her job? If so, you might want to pander to her insecurities to see if she changes (that thought might make you feel queasy, but such is the world of office politics).

Story continues below advertisement

Part of everyone's job – like it or not – is to make the boss look good. If your supervisor is worried that you will show her up, you could try bringing her into the process more so that it becomes an idea from both of you. That might be less scary for her while ensuring you still get to be creative. She might then back off a bit.

Telling her "I've got an idea and I would love your input on it" might help her ego relax for a moment. After all, is getting half-credit for your ideas better than all of them going straight into the waste can? The smart people in the company will see that you're the brains behind the ideas.

Have you discussed this with other people who report to your manager? Do they encounter the same issues? If so, how are they dealing with it?

Your creativity and enthusiasm would be a dream for most employers. Have a conversation with your boss, help her see the opportunity for her to look good, and if that doesn't work then it might be time to dust off your résumé.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers. Check out past columns at tgam.ca/ninetofive

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies