The good news is that you’ve got the job. The bad news is that no one seems to be taking you or your ideas seriously and they’re making you feel like a waste of space. The encouraging news is that it’s bothering you, which means you have a genuine interest in doing something about it and being of value to your employer, rather than sitting back and saying that if they’re not going to listen to you, then you’re not going to bother trying any more. That’s a good first step towards being the kind of employee who keeps their job.
There are a number of causes for this kind of problem, ranging from how you truly feel about yourself, to how you present yourself, to how people look at you due to your lack of experience, young age, or simply the fact that fresh blood was the boss’s idea and they don’t want you. Whatever the reason is, you have the power to do something about it to make things better - however, if you try all these tips and there’s still no change, then you might want to seriously consider finding a new job with better people.
So, let’s see what you can try changing about your inside and your outside self to project the kind of person you want them to see that will get the response you’re looking for:
1. You don't think about what and how you say some things
First, if you’re the one doing all the talking, that’s the first thing you need to stop. Think about the confident, serious people you aspire to be like: are they continually talking, or do they also do a lot of listening and choose their words carefully? Listening to others and taking them seriously is a good start to a mutually respectful relationship, and whether we like it or not, our relationships can sometimes be more important than our work. The more you listen, the more you learn, and the better placed you are to be able to make wise and valuable contributions.
Once you’ve listened and thought and decided what to say (without waiting so long that the moment has passed) you need to think about your delivery, from the words to your tone to your body language:
- Don’t upspeak: that’s when your voice rises at the end of everything you say, making it sound like a question? Someone who always sounds like they’re asking rather than telling is someone who sounds insecure and incompetent. It can also be annoying.
- Never resort to baby talk unless you’re talking about a cute office pet or a picture of a colleague’s new baby: the only time there is ever "a widdle problem" is if you have a speech impediment. Say things like that and you immediately destroy any professionalism you’re trying to convey.
- Make jokes when they’re appropriate, but don’t be the class (or office) clown and don’t be self-deprecating every time you open your mouth. No one is completely sure of themselves all the time, but you don’t need to draw attention to it. You always want to act like the most confident person in the room; seeming unsure of yourself might be endearing at first, but it will quickly grow old if it feels like you’re always fishing for compliments.
- Stand up straight, look people in the eye, and speak clearly. Make them realize that you have something to say and it’s something they should be listening to; if you act like you truly believe it’s important, they will too. Just make sure that what you say really is brilliant. (No pressure.)
2. You aren't dependable
Whether it’s doing things other people ask you to do, helping when people need it, or simply following through on the things you say you’re going to do, if you never keep to your word then people aren’t going to see you as someone they can trust and take seriously as a useful colleague. It’s fine to be the funny one if that’s what you want to be, but it’s more important to be the reliable and responsible one first; save the funny for the moment you hand them what they asked for. Always be on time and always be prepared.
People will find it difficult to take you seriously if you forever seem like you’re in over your head: get things done rather than make excuses, learn rather than saying "I don’t know" - even if that means approaching someone for help - and stick to your decisions once you’ve made them. If they see that it’s easy to push your buttons or to sway you, then you aren’t proving that you have conviction in what you say. Decide what you think, then consider what objections they’re going to come up with and be prepared to counter them with reasons why you’re right without getting into an immature "I’m right, you’re wrong and I’m not listening to reason" attitude.
3. You aren't humble
I know, I’ve been talking about being confident, but it’s important to remember that there’s a difference between confident and arrogant. By all means be the go-to authority on the things you truly do know everything about, but accept that there are things you aren’t so knowledgeable on and have the humility to listen when people try to tell you about them. Confidence commands respect, but humility earns it, and respect has to be earned. It’s only frightening and unreasonable dictators who should be confusing fear for respect. And you aren’t one of those, are you?
You should be prepared to work hard and pay your dues if you want to be taken seriously, and if you do make a mistake then you should be ready to admit to it and take responsibility for it. Making a joke or complaining that you’re useless will not get you taken seriously: taking the feedback and using it to become a better and more efficient employee will. Take responsibility for your mistakes and, while you’re at it, take on more responsibility; it’s what all the serious people are doing.
4. You don't dress to impress
Mark Zuckerberg can get away with wearing hoodies all the time: you can’t. Or at least you can’t right now, if you’re struggling to get people to take you seriously. When you’ve founded your billion worth company we can’t talk about hoodies again. But in the corporate environment the rule is that serious people wear serious clothes. Think of your clothes as your battle costume; it shows that you mean business, it shows that you have respect for yourself and, most importantly, it stops people thinking "how can I believe that this person cares about anything if they don’t even care about how they look?"
The way you dress can not only influence the way people perceive you, but it can have an influence on how you work. You might think you’ll work better if you’re comfortable, but an experiment actually found that in two groups of people told to wear lab coats, those who thought they were wearing a doctor’s coat performed better than those wearing a painter’s coat. Looking the part gets us into the mindset that we need to act the part, and it also signals the brain that it needs to be in work mode and act appropriately to the environment.
5. You don't separate work and play
Unless your office is a very informal one - and if it was, then you wouldn’t be having a problem with being taken seriously - then there should be a big difference between how you act outside the office with your friends and how you act in the office with your coworkers. The same way home problems should be left at the door when you walk in, so should home you; the two identities should be kept as separate as possible.
Think about it: do you have more respect for the coworker who focuses on work, or the one who insists on telling everyone every detail of their life? When you think of the serious people you want to be like, can you name five really personal things about them beyond the carefully crafted tales they released to help their image? You won’t find drunk pictures of them on social media, nor would you ever receive a written communication that reads like it was meant for a friend.
It might be good to get to know your coworkers, but there’s a time and a place for that. Go and have lunch with them, ask them about their family when you say hello in the morning, but keep it professional, don’t become a gossip and always keep a respectful distance if you ever want to be promoted above them and make impartial decisions that aren’t based on knowing intimate details about them.
You have to give respect to get respect, and you have to act seriously if you want to be taken seriously. Have the confidence, have the conviction that your ideas should be heard and you should be considered as a valuable team member and you will be seen as such before you know it. But give it time, because it takes people quite some time to get comfortable with new blood in the company.
Have you ever had a problem with not being taken seriously? What things stop you from taking someone seriously? Let us know in the comments section below.