Don’t Let Others Ignore You

It has happened to many of us. The one thing worse than a rejection. Being ignored. Being ignored makes you feel invisible, unimportant, weak. As if you didn’t exist and didn’t matter. And yet, many ego-centric people and people in managerial roles ignore others with excuses of being busy and quoting different priorities.

Let me describe a case I have seen playing out numerous times with slight alterations. A young and ambitious manager went to a time management training and read books about prioritizing what is essential for him. In these training sessions, you usually learn that you can’t be a slave of urgencies imposed by other people as that prevent you from achieving your own goals. He decided that it is not essential to answer emails from other people if those requests don’t align with his own goals. Unfortunately, it happened within a company culture that pretty much revolves around email. Email was the primary communication tool.

Following his trainers’ advice, he decided not to answer emails from people he didn’t feel important enough or on topics that were not on his priority list. The results? He had more time to finish his goals. His performance should skyrocket. And it sorts of did on specific tasks that didn’t require collaboration. However, his ability to get things done in general plummeted. Why? He alienated many people he needed in future projects. Many hard-working people who cared about the organization were made feeling invisible, diminished, and ignored.

These people created a story about the manager, an arrogant jerk, lazy, self-important, thinking that he is above others. His reputation tanked within a couple of months to a level that no one wanted to work with him. Yet, the only thing he did was to ignore communication attempts from others. If he decided to respond, it was in a way that showed he believed others were a nuisance.

If you are in a managerial position, in a position of power, or just interacting with others, you need to keep this in mind. And remember that all of us have interaction with others, and all of us have some influence.

Acknowledging others is the very basics of human interactions. But it is not enough to make others respect you. If you want to make sure that people interacting with you will value your opinions, you should exhibit the behavior you would expect from them. Lead by example and be proactive.

You often experience the “I won’t answer to the person who is not at my level in the hierarchy” attitude with super busy top executives. It makes sense. They do run big teams, the demands on their time and attention are high, and they need to prioritize to get things done. It also makes sense for you to be careful about what you expect from them. You should be realistic about whether your problem is something you need to involve them in.

But if you have done your homework and you genuinely do need the cooperation of people levels above you to achieve your goals that came from their business objectives, then you should reach out to them. And being ignored in this situation is not acceptable since you are all working towards the same goal. If your priorities are not worth their time, then you are not working on the right things.

What do you do if you send an email asking for help, approval, or permission to do something, and all you get back is silence? There is a relatively simple fix, though it is not necessarily easy to implement. It requires a certain level of courage on your part. Give them a second chance. Send it again. People may be busy, may have overlooked your first email, may have felt that there is no urgency. Be very civilized about it. I usually don’t even indicate that I sent it before, so the person in question can save face. If they didn’t see it the first time, then they will respond without any problem. If they remember that you already sent it, they will feel guilty on their own without you reminding them, and they will respond fast.

If even the second attempt fails, and even your phone calls are not being returned, you need to provoke a “no” answer. Send a concise, one or two sentences email along the lines of, “It seems you are busy with more important matters, so let me get this done. I consider this initiative approved and moving forward. Please, let me know if you want to proceed differently.”

You either get again silence, which at that point it is okay since you can always claim the silence was the approval. Or you trigger a “no, let’s talk about this.” In both cases, you got your answer and are not blocked anymore.

It may feel that you are on purpose mislabeling the reality, but in situations like this, you need to get some response, and eliciting some emotions will help. Proactive people don’t wait indefinitely. They take the initiative and get things done. You may feel that it is not a particularly professional approach and is even a bit rude. Maybe a bit. What truly is unprofessional, rude, and unacceptable is others completely ignoring you.

What are your thoughts? How important is affirmation and acknowledgement? Have you ever used the tactic to ignore someone to reach your goals?

Photo: Graehawk /

Follow me on Twitter: @GeekyLeader

Categories: Communication, Life

Tags: , ,

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