You’re the boss. So why don’t they listen to you?

Just because you’re the boss, it doesn’t mean people will listen to you and do what you say. Here are 8 reasons why people don’t listen, what you can do about it and the chance to download our guide on ‘how to be assertive’.

Do you think that your ‘leadership’ is defined by your title at work? As an MD or senior executive you might assume that authority goes in hand in hand with your status. Sadly, that is not the case.

Many managers are so task-focused that they put work, and their authority as the boss over everything else. They assume they can either ignore the human aspects of working with others, or they never bother to learn the skills.

Most people want a personal, emotional link at work. They want you to care about them as individuals and encourage their growth and development. Their level of engagement will depend on this human connection.

What’s wrong with people?!

Most leaders eventually discover that the pips on their shoulder don’t count for much in influencing people and getting results. Why is this? You may think people are being perverse or stubborn, but here are 8 reasons why they might not always follow your instructions.

  1. They disagree with you. They think there’s a better way and want to exercise their own judgment.
  2. They think something else is more important. It’s up to you to set deadlines and make your priorities clear if you want to persuade them otherwise.
  3. They don’t understand what you want. Most work today requires some judgment and thought. You can’t explain everything in detail. You will need to trust people to fill in the gaps.
  4. They find circumstances have changed, invalidating your directions and forcing them to improvise.
  5. They dislike being bossed around. You may be the boss, but orders given in a tone of voice or choice of words that’s belittling invite only minimal compliance or subtle disobedience.
  6. People may have a view of authority that differs from yours. This is especially true of Generation Y who are likely to distrust and question authority. This isn’t personal. It’s simply a different point of view that you and they will need to work through.
  7. People may not comply because they’re confused. Multiple bosses and temporary teams can complicate and blur lines of authority. Your employees may be confused by what seem to them conflicting demands.
  8. Finally, you may be too far away. In virtual teams, distance undermines formal authority. It’s easy to forget about a boss 3,000 miles away, especially when there’s another just down the hall.

So your formal authority is, at best, an uncertain means of influence. You can command how people spend their time, even where they direct their attention, but you must win their commitment by winning over their hearts and minds.

This is what you need to know about your formal authority:

  1. It cannot create genuine change

Change often brings uncertainty, loss, and pain for those it touches. Real change requires that people alter not only their behaviour but their thinking, assumptions, and values as well. Authority cannot compel such change.

  1. It is less likely to elicit people’s knowledge and insight

Every individual in an organisation possesses knowledge, skills, and new ideas of potential value. (If they don’t, it’s your responsibility to replace them with people who do.)

If you manage people by telling them what to do, without genuinely seeking their input you are unlikely to benefit from their knowledge and ideas.

  1. It doesn’t allow for the fact that they weren’t brought up as you were

Well-educated, digitally competent, socially networked, Generation Y are uncomfortable working in hierarchical organisations. To get the best out of anyone under about 3o years old you need to adapt your leadership, culture and technology.

Generation Y are not afraid to challenge authority figures and they have the tech, tools and networks to help them do it.

Adapt and survive…

Adaptability is the key to survival. It’s counter-intuitive for some, but in business very often less control leads to improved performance.

It’s all about leadership culture and attitude. As a leader, you have to come to terms with the reality that control is an illusion. Really all you can do is influence.

Success in business today requires you to get everyone involved at every level – and you won’t do that by throwing your weight around!

If you want more information on how you can improve your influencing skills and get people to listen to you, then click on the graphic below to download an extract from Kate Mercer’s book ‘A Buzz in the Building‘:

how to be assertive guide

With thanks to Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback (adapted from ‘Being the Boss: 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader’)