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THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Tokyo Japan

Oct 11, 2017

My Boss Doesn’t Listen To Me


If you reading this title and thinking this has nothing to do with my leadership, you might want to think again. We hear this comment a lot from the participants on our training. They complain that the boss doesn’t talk to them enough because they are too busy, don’t have much interest in their ideas or do not seek their suggestions. In this modern life, none of these issues from staff should be surprising. There have been two major tectonic plate shifts in organisations over the last twenty years. One has been the compression of many organisational layers into a few. The other has been the democratization of information access. Bosses have been struggling to keep up.


When we had more layers in our company structures, leaders matured like a fine wine. They rose up the ladder in small increments, over an extended period of time and were groomed for responsibility. There were assistants aplenty to do mundane, time consuming tasks. The striping out of the layers, for the sake of cost cutting and “efficiencies”, has thrown this world off its axis.


The fewer layers means the jumps are larger, the responsibilities greater and no assistants. Boss busyness has resulted in less subordinate coaching and delegation getting done. Explanations have been replaced with directives – “do this, do that”. Bosses don’t delegate much anymore, because they are time poor. They don’t have the bandwidth to explain, so they say to themselves, “it will be quicker if I do it myself”. Does this scenario sound familiar at all?


The internet has made information instantly available and free. Boss monopolisation of information is not as easy or replicable as in the past. The amount of information emerging everyday has become a massive flood tide against which resistance is useless. Bosses cannot be in command of its entirety, so they have to rely on others much more than before. They need their subordinate’s help, but the sting in the tail is that they are not doing enough about accessing that help.


Subordinates have good information, get ideas, are closer to the market, collect the most up to date experience and produce insights. Harassed time poor bosses have no time to seek out these ideas and bring these insights out into the open. They don’t create the time required to coach. They do delegation, but in a way guaranteed to fail, because they won’t invest the time to sell the delegation.


The consequence is that subordinates hesitate to engage with their boss, because they see how distracted and frantic they are already. When they do talk to the boss, it is all formulistic around reporting on progress on the various projects being worked on. Bosses don’t bother to enquire about the other key things going on in their subordinates lives. They fail to seek ideas and innovations because they are already preoccupied with their own work. They hover between distracted and selective listening. On a slow day, they might stray into the zone of attentive listening, but that would be a rarity in a year long period.


In fact, bosses tend to excel at pretending to be listening, because they are brilliant at multi-tasking. They are mentally fixated on something else, while they are talking to their subordinates on a completely different topic. Does this ring a bell? They are listening for key items which will be of interest to them and they are tossing out everything else. The subordinate doesn’t feel they are actually being listened to at all. They don’t feel it is attentive listening, let alone empathetic listening. They draw the conclusion that their actual perceived worth and value to the boss is pretty low. They get discouraged and soon just stop inputting ideas into the system.


If you have not been hit up with an idea from one of your subordinates in the last month, take a moment and reflect on exactly when was the last time that happened? The chances are it has been a long time between drinks. The reason is probably that you are not really engaging with the team and making sure they feel they are being listened to. They need to know that their ideas have value, that you are recognising their contribution. They want to see their ideas being put into application. Are you doing this? Are you really listening?

Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organisations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at


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About The Author

Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan

In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.


A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcasts “THE Leadership Japan Series”, "THE Sales Japan series", THE Presentations Japan Series", he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.


Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.