WORK-LIFE BALANCE / OCT. 04, 2015
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5 Reasons Why No-one Takes You Seriously

Do you ever wonder why you, or your ideas, are so readily dismissed? Why you keep getting passed over for promotion? Why other people’s ideas and opinions are given priority over yours? The reason could be that you’re not being taken seriously enough at work. And if you’re not taken seriously at work, it helps to understand the possible reasons why.

Below are some of the typical reasons why people find themselves in the situations described, along with some suggestions for how you can start changing things.

See Also: How to be taken seriously at work

1. Poor physical appearance

Sure, some people can get away with looking dishevelled and as if they’ve never seen a shower. But these people are the ultra-clever rocket scientists, data wizards and brain surgeons whose work has earned them the right look as unkempt and as they untidy as they want. You and I probably aren’t rocket scientists, data wizards and brain surgeons. We have to contend with the fact that people will have made up their minds about us within milliseconds - this has been repeatedly proven in a myriad of studies.

If your grooming is poor, if you regularly rock up to meetings in clothes that are ill-fitting and with your hair looking bedraggled, if you look sloppy and uninterested, this will be interpreted by others as a ‘couldn’t be bothered’ attitude. It shows a lack of care for yourself, for others and/or laziness. Your body language is also important: how we feel is typically reflected in our body language. So if you don’t value yourself enough, your body language will betray this. You won’t be taken seriously.

What to do: Some industries have clear dress codes, but others don’t. Still, there are general rules that apply pretty much across the board: avoid wearing tons of makeup, say no to cleavage, ditch the excessively high heels, ill-fitting clothes and what must be surely the worst crime of all: visible panty lines.

If fashion isn’t your forte, pay attention to the dress code of the best-dressed people at work, and ‘borrow’ as much as you can from them. In today’s world, appearance is everything, so resolve to put as much effort into your appearance and body language as you can so you can project a confident, professional image.

2. Poor general knowledge

If your knowledge of what’s going on around you isn’t very good, the chances are that you’ll have little to contribute to discussions in your place of work. Those who are taken seriously at work will invariably have in-depth expertise in one area in addition to a broad spectrum of general knowledge that enables them to enrich discourse on various subjects.

What to do: Commit to reading at least one relevant business publication daily in order to contribute intelligently to discussions about your industry. In addition, ensure you are up to date with developments in other fields, for example tech, science and popular culture, that you find genuinely interesting.

3. Poor follow-through

Perhaps you’re someone who finds it easy to start projects but often fails to see them through to completion. It’s the same with your personal life: you rarely finish what you set out to complete - you still haven’t taken your partner to Paris despite your numerous promises and you still haven’t signed up for that exercise class. Truth is, your inability to see things through will paint you as unreliable, and people won’t take you or your plans seriously.

What to do: If you find it difficult to commit to goals, why not use technology to help you? There are several, very good goal setting apps available, many of whose effectiveness is backed by science. Another thing: stop talking about your plans. Instead, talk about what you’ve achieved. This will spare you the embarrassment you’ll inevitably feel when people ask you about plans that have failed to materialise.

The embarrassment is real (trust me): someone asks you about your move to a rival company that never happened, your gaze narrows and you find yourself in a state of compressed discomfort, the kind that afflicts people when they’ve eaten a stupid amount of pickled herrings.

4. Poor preparation

"If I miss a day of practice, I know it. If I miss two days, my manager knows it. If I miss three days, my audience knows it." Andre Previn, via Leadership Now

If your ideas and proposals often get torn to shreds by your co-workers, this is a sign that your preparation isn’t up to scratch.

What to do: Be better informed and better prepared than everyone. Treat every meeting as an audition for Dragons’ Den: pre-empt every question and have all the answers to hand. Expect your proposals to come under intense scrutiny. Yahoo’s Marisa Meyer “grills her employee like an expert chef” and Telsa CEO Elon Musk’s “demands” that his people are “super prepared”, writes Business Insider’s Drake Baer.

5. You hang out with the wrong people

According to motivational speaker Jim Rohn, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. Regardless of how Rohn arrived at that figure, it’s certainly true that our decisions, beliefs and outlook on life are significantly influenced by those whom we spend time with.

If the people around you are not well regarded, for example if they’re known for whingeing and whining and moaning and groaning about life’s challenges, you will find it difficult to be seen as any different: people will assume you are cut from the same cloth and won’t take you seriously.

What to do: Be highly selective when it comes to your inner circle of friends/co-workers. Surround yourself with people who are super-smart, who can add value to your life and vice versa.  Don’t make the mistake of surrounding yourself only with people who will agree with everything you say: aim to have one or two critics in your circle, people who can give you a different perspective and help you make more considered decisions. Being selective with your inner circle doesn’t mean that you should drop your other friends. Our friends are there for a reason: friendship. It does mean that you should ensure that the people you spend the most time with are those that can make you a better person or co-worker.

See Also: How to develop habits that will get you promoted

How others see and respond to you reflects how you see yourself. And you project your view of yourself into everything you do and say. This means that if you don’t see yourself as being someone of value, you’ll fail to care for yourself. You’ll neglect fundamental areas such as your grooming. You’ll make little effort to prepare for anything because you have such low expectations of yourself and your contributions. You won’t take necessary steps to improve yourself because you won’t think you’re worth the investment. You’ll lack the motivation to see things through. And you won’t seek out people who can add value to your life. People will respond to the image of yourself that you project.  In short, you won’t be taken seriously.

A simple change in perspective can turn around your fortunes. By choosing to believe you are a person of value, you will behave as such. You will invest in yourself, and this will be reflected in everything you do and say. And if you behave as a person of value, you will be treated as one.

Can you share any additional tips on how to be taken seriously at work? If so, use the comment box below.

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