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How to Deal With The Idea-Killing Boss

The idea-killing boss

You have a great idea. Maybe a better way to do things, a new twist on a project or a fix for a problem. You tell your boss, and he or she begins with a giant ‘yabut’.  Yabut we’ve tried it before. Yabut it’s too expensive. Yabut it’s never been done before. Yabut we don’t have the time. Yabut, yabut, yabut….

And bosses like this wonder why people hesitate to come to them with solutions instead of problems.

Idea-killing bosses yabut themselves too

In order to best deal with idea-killing bosses, it first helps to understand them a little bit. For starters, most idea-killers have no clue of the negative impact their yabuts have on other people.

In fact, as part of their internal thought process, they are continually yabutting themselves as they assess options prior to reaching decisions. They come up with ideas, and the devil’s advocate part of their brain tries to look for flaws in those ideas. They will even silently scold themselves when they come up with a silly idea.

They don’t realize, however, the negative impact that is created when they use that process aloud and with other people.

Have a little fun with it

The best option for dealing with  idea-killers is to make your bosses aware that they are shooting you down. You can take a direct approach, with something like, “Boss, you need to know that it really hurts my feelings when you dismiss my ideas.”  But a better way is to assume your idea-killing boss is actually well-intended, and to have a little fun with it.

For example, the next time your boss shoots an idea down, you could say things like:

  • “I’m giving up my subscription to the idea-of-the-month club.”
  • “Just trying to be innovative boss.”
  • “Come on. There’s a 5-second rule on ideas. You have to think about them for at least 5-seconds before you decide they suck.”


It might take a few times, but most bosses will eventually get the message and realize what they are doing. It’s worth a try!

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