There’s a whole lot of ignoring going on in the workplace

Grace had been successful in her prods to take her on a walk, but she wasn’t too happy having to wait again for me to take this picture. She is not the most patient dog, especially when she feels she is being ignored.

Have you ever been ignored by your manager?

Most every afternoon, Grace lets me know if I’ve been ignoring her. The first sign is the “walk-by,” meant to get my attention, and at this point, she’s actually quite diplomatic. She doesn’t whine or tap my leg. She just makes sure we have eye contact.

Then she goes away, either to her bed, or the other room and waits. It might be 15 minutes or 30 minutes. She returns. The next time, she gives a subtle whimper. Waits for a minute to see my reaction. Retreats.

After another 15 minutes or so, she returns. This time with a kick in her step and a more pronounced whine. She’s ready for our daily walk. If it’s raining, she has no interest in going out, so I’m left to get my work done uninterrupted. But most days, she’s insistent and it’s impossible to be unaware of her presence.

I love our walks, too. The stretch of road we walk on is peaceful and re-energizing and helps me think about my work, my day, all sorts of things. It also helps me burn off a few of those extra calories I tend to eat during the day. But I’m sure she thinks of this as our time together or perhaps just a favorite time of hers to get fresh air and check out all the new smells in her territory. If my schedule won’t allow me to take the 30 minutes, she is quite upset. It’s the equivalent of a manager’s lack of response for an employee’s request or need.

Before I started this blog, I would never have guessed how very prevalent that is. It is not an exaggeration when I tell you that nearly every day, someone is trying to find advice on how to deal with a person who is ignoring him. I can’t tell who is looking, but I can see the search engine terms used. Here is a sampling of what I see — on a daily basis — that has landed people on my blog:

• what to do when my manager is ignoring me
• when someone is ignoring you
• someone is ignoring you
• ignoring someone
• be noticed
• is he ignoring me to think things out?
• what to say if she is ignoring you
• how to know if someone is ignoring you
• how to communicate if she’s ignoring you
• best thing to do when someone is ignoring you
• how to find out if someone is ignoring you
• how do I get him not to ignore me
• how to get through someone ignoring me
• what do you feel when someone is ignoring you
• is there anything to say when she is ignoring you

There are more but you get the idea. There’s a whole lot of ignoring going on.

I think it’s easily a two-way street. When Grace started in with her little “it’s-time-to-go-on-our-walk-routine” yesterday, I was in the middle of a task; I thought it would take about 20 minutes and it ended up taking me an hour. I really wanted to finish before I left. She could wait.

As soon as I was done, we left for our walk. When we were nearing back home, I let her off-leash as I sometimes do. She ran up into the woods and promptly ignored my calls for her to return. Some gratitude for a nice walk, I thought to myself. But maybe it was only fair. She was now ignoring me after I had ignored her earlier.

I often hear from both employees and managers that they feel they have not been heard. Sometimes it’s caused from a lack of access where the manager just isn’t around, nor makes herself available. And other times, it’s because no action has been taken after a conversation where the expectation has been set for something to happen.

Grace has found a way to get my attention when she thinks I’m ignoring her. What advice would you offer to managers and employees who face this recurring problem?

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  1. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide on January 25, 2012 at 11:31 am

    I don’t know I think repeated walk bys are a good technique for humans too. Go Gracie.

  2. Renee on January 26, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Ah, the word “ignore” reminds me of the line in the movie “Fatal Attraction” where Glenn Close (Alex) is possessed with Michael Douglas (Dan). He, obviously, loses interest in pursuing her or in continuing the relationship; he comes to his senses about his loving family and marriage and begins to ignore her repeated calls and approaches. She becomes incensed and his ignoring her whips her up to a state of frenzy. When Alex finally gets to him face-to-face, in that frenzy state, she vehemently says, “I won’t be ignored, Dan!”

    I think the point of that scene was to show us that she wasn’t incensed because Dan had decided that he wasn’t all that interested in her (although, I think we could all agree that he was hosed from the beginning just by getting involved with her), but that he ignored her and didn’t respond to her when she tried to get in touch with him. It was the not-knowing that put her over the edge (again…I think there was a whole lotta other stuff going on with her) and her anger built up repeatedly as he repeatedly ignored her.

    It’s a tough place to be when we are working with no data. Depending on our resilience and ability to just be “in the moment” with the situation, one can build volumes of stories around the reasons why we are being ignored.

    Your closing point is so very important, Robin. We, as humans, just want to be heard. The result may not be our first choice, but if the other person is open and willing to listen and truly hear us, then we have a chance to test our expectations or, at the very least, come away from the conversation knowing that we were able to use our voice.

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on January 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      What a great analogy to that movie, Renee, especially because it points out how out of control a situation can get when we ignore it!

  3. LeeAnn on January 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Robin – I have been thinking about this post since you published it, and am really trying to consider every day – “who am I ignoring?” I have realized that I am doing it often! Not just my Gracie, and also Oprah, but my husband, my friend at work, my mother, etc. You have given me a very good reminder that we all need to be more sensitive to cues of any type – not just verbal. Thank you!

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on January 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      I probably do more ignoring than I’m willing to admit! Thank you very much for your continued candor, LeeAnn, which I feel is so important to helping us all learn and be better at the things that we don’t even realize we are doing. Love having you here!

  4. didiwright on January 31, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Hi, Robin, it’s great to visit your blog again, I’ve missed you and Grace! First of all, let me start by saying that Grace is a good communicator, there are humans who can’t make it clear what they want the way she does.
    I kind of know how you’re feeling about this, as my situation is pretty similar to yours. Because I, too, work from home, I often find myself in the situation of trying to finish a job, etc. when George has other ideas (he thinks it’s time for a game, a cuddle, a snacks, a walk, etc.). He employs the same techniques as Grace, there seems to be no end to the similarities between our dogs. It’s the whining and soppy eyes that I find hard to resist, so he wins most of the time. And when he doesn’t, I feel really guilty, especially when he makes sure I know he’s upset with me…But then, if we didn’t ignore them at times, we’d never get anything done, would we?
    I found that list of search terms extremely interesting…My guess is that you get a lot of hits from outside WordPress 🙂

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on February 1, 2012 at 10:33 am

      Hi Didi. I always miss you when you’re away but I understand how life gets busy! So glad you stopped by. Sounds like George and Grace know how to push our buttons — they are master communicators, aren’t they? The search terms are outside of WordPress, just had one earlier today for “right word if someone is ignoring me.” It is amazing to me how often it surfaces.

      • didiwright on February 2, 2012 at 7:17 am

        I’ve started to accept that life’s always going to be busy, at least whilst we’re a young(ish) family, so I won’t do any more moaning about it. I’ll just take things as they come and do the most of any spare time when I have it. So if you find that I’m doing a disappearing act again, don’t worry, I’ll always come back to visit you 🙂
        Is it just my impression, or are people today struggling to reach and interact with each other more than in the past? Your examples of search words make me sad, really…

  5. PeopleSense Consulting LLC on February 2, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Didi, I think you’re making all the right choices for your time management. And I will always look forward to your visits when you can fit them in. Your question makes me think of the irony — perhaps it is the busy lives we have that makes us more susceptible to “ignoring” others. It is harder to be present and focused on someone or something when we are worried about the next thing on our long list. That’s why I like your approach — you visit when you can take the time to do it right, being fully engaged versus rushing through the experience. Lionel is like that, too. He can’t come often, but when he’s here, he is really here. We all benefit from someone who is fully present in the conversation as opposed to pretending to be.

    • spiderpaw on February 3, 2012 at 2:40 pm

      First off, I must say that It is real easy to come back and catch up on your Robin. The posts are always a great read and there is always something I can relate to in each one. I usually pickup where I left off, get cozy, and dig in for all the Graceful goodness. As for this post, Our Sia, being a Whippet/Border Collie mix, will use the Collie in her to vocalize anything that she wants. And she can be relentless too.

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