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I'm part of a leadership group of 6 at work where we have to make decisions about the structure of the company (i.e. divisions, etc.) among other things.

However, there are few, let's say very assertive, people in the group. Whenever we have discussions and I try to propose a new idea, my idea is either

  • shut down straight away, or
  • they try to increase the amount of work on it to make it unrealistic to carry out.

This then results in the discussions goes in circles and no progress being made.

I feel like I'm being pushed out of the group and I don't want to leave as I've spent the last 5 years working my way up to this position. I don't feel I can bring it up with the overseeing manager because then they'll see it as "not communicating as a team" and "going behind their back".

What should I do? Should I go see my manager or just take the hits and stay until the next leadership group comes in?

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Some context that may help:

  • I am the only person within the group to have received an award for best employee
  • it's an even split of gender (3 females/3 males)
  • 3 of them transferred into the company a year after me and are the main people who shut down my proposals/ideas
  • While he used the word assertive, I think he means domineering or overpowering -- which is not a good quality to have. – さりげない告白 Nov 15 '19 at 0:25
  • I don't think so. there's one other person who's not "assertive" and I have a good relationship with him. I present all the information when I propose new ideas. sometimes, i overhear people saying i'm "over-assertive". The politics within the workplace is really bad, there's a lot of "tight" friendships and this leads to people not having respect for me due to preconceived ideas about me. – spuddy Nov 15 '19 at 0:26
  • Possible duplicate of How to lead teams to turn criticism into collaboration – gnat Nov 15 '19 at 7:05
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    Suggest your ideas privately with each team member. It's easier to convince someone if you do it privately first and also if you take into account their feedback. Once you have enough team members supporting your idea, you can suggest the same idea in a group setting. – Stephan Branczyk Nov 15 '19 at 7:54
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    Are your ideas really shot down, or are they being challenged, and you don't have a good response to that challenge? – Mark Rotteveel Nov 15 '19 at 15:17
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You have a challenging situation. You feel like the "new people" can overpower you (and maybe the others), but this is based on perception. Then in your comments you mention that you are sometimes described as "over-assertive" but worry that is a misperception that the newcomers might assume is valid. Also, if you have experience and good ideas for long-term, strategic decisions for your company, but they get "shot down" in a single meeting, the meeting structure seems misaligned with it's purpose. So, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Take Notes and Keep Score
  2. Demonstrate that your ideas demand serious consideration
  3. Work toward changing the structure of the meetings

Take Notes and Keep Score

Your ideas may get shut down less often than others in the group. Focusing only on the response to your own ideas can create bias. Someone should be writing down the ideas presented and their disposition. If no one is doing that, start doing it yourself. Keeping track may help you feel like your ideas are better received than you realize (or maybe it will validate your concern). Also, documenting ideas that can be reviewed later will help you think more clearly about other proposals, etc. Also, others in your group may be more considerate if they feel like there responses are being "monitored" by your note-taking.

Demonstrate that your ideas demand serious consideration

If I were in these meetings with you, I would observe that your proposal is "shot down" like you have stated, but then I would be curious what happens next. Did you take notes to track and try to address the voiced concerns? Do you later provide research or data to refute invalid concerns? Are you a real "force to be reckoned with" or do you cower when faced with the opposition? Because someone that shoots down your ideas to look like a hot-shot in the moment during a meeting would take pause if they were worried that lack of careful consideration would haunt them.

Based on your intellect and experience, they should consider the political consequences when you revisit, and invalidate, their arguments in the next meeting based on evidence, anecdote or whatever. They should feel like arguments against your ideas should be presented with caution, not with disdain or guesswork. If you have good ideas and they are not being heard, then demand that they be heard by listening to concerns, recording them for your review and then providing evidence and data to dismantle the negativity of nay-sayers. Highlight that your ideas have value that demand consideration, discussion and attention.

In particular, if I see someone in a meeting that throws out ideas and then never revisits them or simply moves on to the next issue, I would be hard-pressed to become an advocate of anything they presented. But if someone presents an idea, listens to feedback and appropriately addresses concerns or criticisms, then I would be hard-pressed to challenge them. They should fear poorly constructed or rapidly dispensed criticism haphazardly thrown against your mental faculties and experience.

Work toward changing the structure of the meetings

Leadership meetings regarding corporate structure should deeply consider and evolve ideas from all participants tasked with that responsibility. Ideas should not be flippantly dismissed in a matter of moments. Not only is the company missing out on your good ideas, those that oppose you frequently may also have good ideas that you are probably not inclined to listen to closely or take as seriously as you should, given your emotional position on the reception of your own ideas.

The meetings should have structure that includes: A) Urgent Matters B) New insights or information on open issues/ideas from previous meeting(s) C) Discussing new issues D) Making decisions, if required

If you are given a problem and your ideas are shot down without further consideration, then the meeting format should include the recording of an idea that any member of the leadership team considers worthy of additional research or continued discussion to remain "open" until the group either reaches a consensus or else is forced to make a decision due to outside forces.

This kind of structure would invalidate any one individual being "shut out" by several others, while holding that individual accountable to the value of their ideas. If you feel strongly that your idea has merit, if only it were more thoroughly considered, then the meetings should be structured to support you - as well as others in your group that feel the same way about their own ideas.

Ultimately, it would be ideal if you could propose that the meeting be structured with an agenda like the one above, or another similar one, that requires an idea to be resurrected in a future meeting if any one of the members in the meeting deems it worthy or necessary. That allows the champion of the idea time to find support or better articulate the idea when others present opposing or negative positions. It removes their ability to bully ideas out of the discussion.

Hope this is helpful.

  • thanks, i will try to implement this meeting structure in the future. what’s funny is that during our online discussions via messenger, they act in a superior way to me, but during our face to face meetings they are scared to confront me about my proposals. this is frustrating because we only have face to face meetings once a week for 30 minutes and it’s hard to propose new ideas in such a short amount of time, so most of our new ideas come from our online discussions – spuddy Nov 15 '19 at 5:04
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Suggest the use of brainwriting for your next planning meeting.

Brainwriting is a brainstorming variant that was developed to deal with the issue of overly assertive individuals taking over and dominating planning meetings.

It involves each member of the group being given a pack of sticky notes or other small pieces of paper, then spending a fixed amount of time (e.g. five minutes) writing their ideas for solving a problem/analysing the components of a problem down on them, and doing so without speaking; once time has elapsed, the group takes their sticky notes and places them together on a surface in thematically linked groups. This can be done as an iterative process to drill down into the details of a specific solution for a specific problem.

  • I can see some "group" ignoring the "don't speak" part... However, I like the idea... +1... – Solar Mike Nov 15 '19 at 12:33
  • It will probably be shut down along the others ideas... – Cris Nov 15 '19 at 14:59
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You need to work on being more assertive, fight for your ideas (if you truly believe they're superior), and not allow yourself to be bullied, or pushed around. That's not something you'll learned overnight, and it may take years of practice until you learn to finesse these situations.

I would start by quickly reading some books on assertiveness. There's probably also something on group dynamics and the such.

Ensure that you have your ideas written down, with pros and cons listed. This way you won't lose your train of thought, and if necessary, you can distribute copies of these notes to the participants, such that your idea gets exposure even if you're not allowed to speak in the meeting.

Start establishing boundaries when people try to shut you down. Be firm, call people on their bullsh!t, and don't be afraid to shut the conversation down yourself:

You: I think a good idea is ...
Bully: Yea, well, my initiative is all about ...
You: Excuse me, I hadn't finished. We'll get a lot more done in these meetings if we actually get to hear everyone out.

Escalate from there. You're probably not the only person bothered by the bullying nature of those others, and others may back you up if you stand up for yourself.

Understand that if you don't learn to handle such situations, then others will conclude that you don't belong in the leadership position to begin with. Leaders must be assertive when necessary.

In a comment you also mention that there's a lot of politics in your workplace. Get involved, and form the necessary alliances to have your voice heard if that's what it takes to get ahead in that company. If not, like it or not, it's not the place you belong in.

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Study up on the topic of debate. There is plenty of online information out there, but you can go deeper and look at some of the theory behind it and different types of arguments, and/or when people are using non-arguments in rebuttal. Unfortunately, I'm finding many people don't have formal training in debate, as it is more of an extra-curricular activity in high school. However, when one is in a technical field and ideas are being thrown around, the ability to debate is a much-needed soft-skill that is useful for anyone. The ability to effectively communicate your ideas and make arguments against opposing views is vital to your career growth. Everyone wants to be heard, and good debate skills will help you to communicate your thoughts clearly and effectively.

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