Working with a dismissive Executive

In fast-paced working environments, it can be easy for Executives not to listen to their team effectively. We are all running at one hundred miles per hour, and often, senior staff members do not have the time or the capacity to engage with those around them entirely. They often make decisions without notifying people, won’t listen or fully engage in meetings, and create a culture where their team won’t provide feedback because it has been ignored too often.

For Assistants, this culture can be highly challenging. Assistants need an open relationship with their Executives, enabling free-flowing communication and open dialogue. Having an Executive who looks right through you or dismisses your thoughts and opinions will inevitably lead to a lack of motivation to innovate and hinder any growth in the role.

Working with a dismissive Executive can be difficult for Assistants. Here are some tips on how to counteract this behaviour.

Meeting Agenda for Assistants and Executives

1:1 Meeting Template

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What is dismissive behaviour?

According to Mark McPherson, a dismissive person “lets you know they’re not interested in you, your ideas or your feelings. They dismiss what you have to say and treat them as worthless and irrelevant.” This behaviour usually manifests itself by ignoring you, changing the topic, telling you they are not interested in what you have to say upfront, and invalidating your concerns.

Are they dismissive of you or everyone?

Take some time to study your Executive. Are they dismissive of everyone, or is it just you? If it is everyone, it is a problem for the team to work through. Speak with your trusted colleagues to see if they feel the same way. If their behaviour only targets you, that is a different challenge entirely.

Do they understand your role?

Not entirely appreciating our work is a common challenge that Assistants face. Is your Executive dismissive because they don’t know the value you bring, your skills and what you can contribute to the organisation? Executives need to be reminded of this regularly, mainly if they are quick to dismiss your thoughts and ideas.

Please ensure you have a performance review meeting to get that time in their diary to discuss your career aspirations and achievements.

Speak up about what you have done and give them frequent updates on where you are with your work and project deadlines.

Plan out your communications

Over-communicating might seem necessary when working with a dismissive Executive but think this through. They may be dismissive because they are stressed and overworked. Spending time speaking with you or answering your emails will give them more work they will probably ignore. Leading to a horrible downward spiral.

Instead of overcommunicating, be strategic in how you communicate and when you deliver the message. Again, take the time to study them. When are they open to ideas, when are they willing to listen, and who do they listen to? Can you mimic their behaviour so that you are also heard?

Ensure you have a one-to-one meeting scheduled in the calendar

We talk about this a lot. But it is always worth repeating. Assistants need to have one-to-one time with their Executives. If your Executive is dismissive, it helps to pin them down so that you can work through the tasks you have that require their input.

Clearly define your work and expectations

If your Executive isn’t interested in your opinion, they don’t want you to innovate or help them move the organisation forward, clearly define those expectations.

If you know what is expected of you in the role, you can decide if that is right. If it is, then you can roll back your ideas and input. You will know you will not get much feedback and must work autonomously. You must give up your need to be heard and lower your expectations. If that isn’t what you want from your career, you can change roles or work with your Executive to change their behaviour.

Every Executive that disregards their team’s input and advice causes a trickle-down effect of opposition, fear and disengagement. With the right approach, Executives can create an atmosphere of connection, participation and appreciation that benefits everyone in the team.

Having that goal in mind is key to achieving success in any organisation. Assistants should take steps forward to setting up an effective communication style between themselves and their Executives by having open conversations and outlining expectations on both sides. That way, they can create a healthy working relationship which is mutually beneficial. If you’re an Assistant looking to increase your capability in managing the relationship with your Executive team, why not enrol on the Managing Up online training course? It will give you the knowledge and confidence to effectively navigate your work environment to support yourself and your Executive as best as possible within the organisation.