How to pitch an idea to your boss (when they think it sucks)
You have a great idea, but your boss thinks it sucks. What do you do?
- Give up and resign yourself to a career pushing paper
- Keep on demanding that your boss listens
- Find a new way to present the idea in a way your boss will understand
Assuming your idea is actually a good one, option one is never going to work. You won’t get noticed, nor will you earn a more prominent role in your company’s success. You’ll just be seen as another cog in the machine.
But what about options two and three? Do they tell you how to pitch an idea to your boss successfully? Maybe.
The power of persistence
Option two has some credibility to it. If you keep on demanding that your boss listens to your idea, then eventually you might just wear him or her down. Did you know that Stephen King’s first novel was rejected more than 30 times before it finally got published? He is now a best-selling author!
Conrad Magalis is the Marketing Manager at Advance Acceptance, and he seems to agree with this approach.
“Keep repeating and providing examples” he says. “It takes the average person seven times to actually fully understand or listen to a new idea.”
But although persistence certainly seems like a key part of getting noticed, I can’t help but think that getting your boss to listen requires a little more tact. If you’re not careful, you might just cross the invisible line of good business etiquette, and land yourself in hot water.
Besides, didn’t Albert Einstein once say that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result?
How much is too much? Best-selling etiquette author has some expert advice
Richie Frieman – also known as “Modern Manners Guy” – is the best-selling etiquette author of Reply All… And Other Ways To Tank Your Career. I gave him a call to find out if wearing down your boss with multiple requests might be considered rude. Here’s what he said.
Yes… and no. For starters, when your boss tells you something is a bad idea, it’s improper to constantly bring it up, day after day. It’s also improper to act like a child when a parent says you can’t have dessert and the response is, “But wait, wait, wait. I have an idea!” They won’t buy it.
When it comes to pitching ideas to your boss or asking them questions regarding something you’re interested in (and they say no), you have to really ask yourself whether your request is something truly worth standing up for. See, bosses don’t want to have to always tell someone what to do — they want people to actually present ideas and take initiative. Knowing that, it’s only proper – and professional – to want your voice to be heard and to speak up.
“It’s improper to constantly bring it up, day after day. But having the maturity to not let ‘no’ ruin your day, and the strength to step up again, shows you want to succeed. And that will go noticed.”
However, the key is to NOT act as if your request is the single biggest issue in the company. As well, you can’t ask your request – or multiple requests – with such arrogance, that makes the boss appear irresponsible or wrong for saying no. With that, if you’re told ‘no’, you have to be able to swallow that and move on.
Being a professional means having maturity to take ‘no’ and not let it ruin your day or feelings. Hearing ‘no’ is just a part of business. But having the strength to step up again, means you want to succeed and that will go noticed. Always watch your timing and your approach.
How to re-pitch your idea without breaching good business etiquette
It seems like this is less a battle of willpower, and more a battle of wits. If you’ve been rejected once, then take time to lick your wounds – and re-formulate your plan of attack.
Once again, Richie Frieman gives some excellent advice on how to do this.
Re-pitching an idea, means revamping your approach. Your boss will see through your sneaky ways of asking the same thing, in a similar way, another day.
Instead, wait some time, do your homework, then bring up that request with a twist. Switch it around – in both verbiage and approach – like, “A while back I mentioned doing ABC and even though the timing wasn’t right then, now we may want to look into doing something similar, due to XYZ we’re dealing with currently.”
“Do your homework, and bring supporting facts. But don’t be too bold or aggressive – the last thing you want is “I told you NO!”
Also, bring supporting facts and documents. Something like, “In fact, if you look here, you’ll see that I found ABC will only cost us this…” Always have the ‘Why’ to you should doing something, not just “an idea”.
When you properly re-pitch an idea, you’re not harping on a “lost cause” from the past, rather, you’re trying to take a better route to get your desired results.
Bosses will admire fortitude and standing behind your beliefs, but you should remember that it’s improper to be too bold, too aggressive and too demanding, as to how dedicated you are to said issue.
The last thing you’ll want is for them to raise their voice and say, “I told you NO!” That’s always bad for business.
Remember what’s important to your boss
Richie makes an excellent point when he says “do your homework and bring some facts”. After all, just because you see why your idea is good, it doesn’t mean your boss sees it.
If you say to your boss: “Hey, I want to buy 10 new laptops” then he or she might just think you’re bored, and you want some new gadgets to play with. But if you explain how your employees are struggling to meet targets because their hardware is too outdated to keep up with your latest systems and software – and if you can reasonably predict the impact these new machines might have on productivity – well, you might be in with a better chance.
Abbey Chapman has a great story to tell, about how she went away and did her homework, to present her boss with a great idea that turned out to be a success.
How Abbey Chapman did her homework and successfully re-pitched her big idea
Abbey Chapman is a Social Media Executive at Roman Blinds Direct. Last year, she wanted to create a Halloween giveaway to boost her company’s social media following. But her boss had different ideas.
Halloween was fast approaching. I wanted to create a quick, simple and relevant competition to host on Twitter – just a simple giveaway of a bundle of treats.
We’ve had great success with small competitions in the past. They encourage users to follow us, and to share our content with their friends. Halloween seemed to be the perfect opportunity to offer our followers a treat. However, my boss was not convinced by my idea, and initially thought it was a waste of time.
“I mocked up the competition and compiled some data. It totally changed my boss’s mind!”
Rather than giving up, I dedicated extra time outside of work to mocking up the competition and compiling data to prove how successful it could be. When I presented this to my boss, it totally changed his mind.
It just goes to show that the most effective way to pitch an idea is with the evidence and research to back it up. Oh, and the Halloween competition was a real success, by the way!
If all else fails? Ditch your idea… or find a new boss!
If your ideas are great, but your boss never listens, then maybe you’re working for the wrong person. If you can’t learn to live with a boss who doesn’t want to try things your way, then you might want to find a boss who does.
Or maybe, at the very least, you need to educate your superiors on the benefits of having a little faith in the people they’ve hired.
We quoted Jason Averbook in a recent blog post, and his quote is very relevant here. He says: “build an authentic culture of innovation by trusting employees, removing fear, and keeping your finger on the pulse”.
If you think your boss is lacking in leadership and your company culture is dead, why not slip this little blog post under his or her door before work tomorrow? Don’t worry,
Stay ahead with HR
Get free HR insights, expert tips and exclusive interviews, and start making more impact at work
HR Software Optimised for Beaches or Sofas
What would you do with the unrestricted freedom to work from anywhere? Would you stay in the office, work from your sofa or kick back and work from the comfort of sandy paradise? This 1min video is all about HR software optimised for beaches and sofas. Enjoy!
Will Your HR Software Survive the Mobile Revolution
Why HR Super Heroes Need ‘Responsive Design’
Embark on your most ambitious HR journey to date
This short video takes you through the different ways people helps you work smarter, challenge your abilities and get yourself noticed – all using one simple, stunning cloud-based platform.
What is the Bradford Factor?
Ever wondered how the Bradford Factor formula calculates your employees' absence scores? Check out this graphic to have the Bradford Factor calculation explained to you clearly.
So… Who Exactly ARE You?!
If you like the sound of People, but you’re not familiar with the name… then it’s only natural that you’ll have questions.
6 Reasons People’s HR System Delivers Something Different
So many HR systems claim to be different. But when you actually look at what they offer, it’s easy to see that they’re all selling the same old thing...
See People HR in action
View our short video demo
Get started absolutely free
No credit card required