Recently, I’ve been hitting a brick wall with my manager. I just gave an awesome presentation on why we need to change our e-learning approach. But my manager insisted that “it’s overkill for what we’re doing.” I’ve got all of these great ideas for creating interactive and engaging e-learning courses, so I’m getting really frustrated! What am I doing wrong?
-Frustrated in Florida
We hear stories like yours all the time in the e-learning field. You’ve got some great ideas for change, but the boss/manager/company isn’t coming along for the ride. Frustrating, right? But before you blame yourself, let’s take a step back and consider your situation through the lens of another experience:
I have a friend who’s changing careers. On more than one occasion, interviewers have told him that he’s overqualified for the job, which can be frustrating to hear when you’re a candidate. However, some research indicates that overqualified employees experience less job satisfaction and less commitment to their employer. So it makes sense that employers are concerned about whether an overqualified employee will stick around and be happy in the job.
On the other hand, job candidates know that the “you’re overqualified” stamp can be coded language for something the manager either can’t legally express (“you’re too old”) or doesn’t want to admit (“I’m intimidated by your qualifications”).
So, what does this have to do with your situation?
Sometimes a Simple PDF is Better Than an E-Learning Course
Your manager might have a legitimate concern. For example, let’s say your manager asks you to create a simple job aid featuring common keyboard shortcuts. But you want to create an interactive scenario where the learner needs to use the keyboard shortcuts to save the fairy princess from the evil emperor Zorgon before he uses her to activate the pink mushrooms and destroy the purple bizzles! Super creative idea—and total overkill. In this scenario, your “overqualified” course is simply not an efficient use of company resources.
My Boss is Intimidated by Me
On the other hand, your manager could be veiling the truth when he says “it’s overkill for what we’re doing.” It could be that he’s intimidated by your ideas because he doesn’t fully understand them, or that he’s worried about being shown up by the new kid on the block.
Here’s what I’d do:
- Be honest with yourself. Are your ideas truly overqualified for the task at hand? Though we might not want to admit it, oftentimes, our managers are correct. If that’s the case, then drop the issue and save your great ideas for an appropriate course. However, if you truly feel as if your manager is using coded language, then…
- Seek First to Understand. I’ve always loved this Stephen Covey principle because it’s so powerful when we practice it. Sometimes we want so badly for our ideas to be accepted that we fail to understand the other person’s point of view. So put aside your ego and ideas and schedule a meeting to find out where your manager’s coming from. Approach the conversation with a genuine sense of empathy, collaboration, and compromise. Remember, the meeting is not about YOU and your point of view. Focus on your manager and make an attempt place yourself in his shoes. Taking this approach gives you the opportunity to…
- Be an ally. If your manager is anxious about his position, build him up and support him. It never hurts to say “Hey Jim, I really value your opinion and I was wondering if you could help me out on this.” With a thoughtful and empathic approach, you are inviting your manager to be a part of the change process. Validate his concerns and search for some common ground. Once you do, you can…
- Take baby steps. Change is hard for a lot people, and baby steps are a good start. For example, maybe you can agree on a small change to the course structure, or the course navigation. When you find some common ground, implement the small change, and be done. Then on a future course, work on another small baby step. It can be slow-going, but your manager just may surprise you when he sees the positive results! And a side benefit is that your workday will be a lot more enjoyable if you’ve got a good working relationship with your boss.
I hope this helps give you a start. As with most workplace dynamics, it’s about relationships. Start with that, and work to be a positive agent of change within your organization.
PS. If you have some advice for "Frustrated", or have been in a similar situation, please share your thoughts in the comments section below!