I have too many ideas for my boss

A reader writes:

I’m very creative and productive, and, at 62, have years of work experience, including having my own boutique PR agency. My manager just retired. She and her boss always encouraged me to contribute my ideas and suggestions, and took up many of them. My former boss and I had multiple contacts a day; I would send emails with suggestions titled “Topic for Research Meeting’” and she would say “let’s discuss” or “let’s hold off.”

I’ve shared suggestions with my new manager, who told me “Could you put a hold on this type of non-project work while you are handing project work off to (colleague)?” I had handed the work off at her request as he had nothing to do for several weeks, and our researchers seek me out.

I did try to tell her that I’m not distracted and am focusing on my work. I just have ideas while walking the dog, for example, and share them in an email that takes me five minutes to write. She’s very black-and-white, linear in her approach while I am more big picture and creative.

I was distressed that she thought I wasn’t working on my projects when I was and am. I have had great reviews, been promoted, given higher than standard living increases, and told that it’s up to me to “carry the flag” for our group. (My old boss was not replaced; responsibility for our group was given to another manager.) I realize that she might be too busy to communicate with me as I worked with my former boss. But I don’t know how to contribute my creativity in a way that is comfortable/acceptable to my new boss. (I have been praised for creativity my entire life, and having hard time being discouraged from sharing it.)

It sounds like there are two issues here.

The first one is that your boss mistakenly thought you were spending your time coming up with new ideas while not doing your own assignments, not realizing that you in fact getting all your work done. So you definitely want to make sure that’s corrected if it hasn’t been already.

The second issue is that she might not want the constant flow of ideas that your previous boss welcomed. That wouldn’t be terribly surprising — it does sound pretty distracting and even annoying to get a steady flow of multiple emails a day with ideas in them, when she has other priorities she needs to focus on. You’ve got to remember that even though you have time to do it, it doesn’t mean that she has time to field all those ideas, especially if they’re coming at her multiple times throughout the week.

Your previous boss might have been unusual in welcoming that. Or you might have worked together long enough for the two of you to have a different understanding than you’ll have with a new boss. For example, the longer relationship with your old boss might be what made it possible for her to just say “nah, let’s not to do that,” whereas other managers might feel obligated to share more of their thinking with you so that you didn’t feel you were being blown off — which can take up a lot of time if they’re having to do it multiple times a week. It can also start to feel like an emotional burden — because, as a manager, if you’re constantly telling someone no, you have to wonder if they’re going to be demoralized by that and whether you need to figure out how to ensure that’s not the case.

Your old manager also might have known that she could say “yes, let’s do that” and just hand off the idea to you with confidence that you’d implement it the way she’d want. But you and your new manager haven’t worked together enough to have that kind of alignment — she probably doesn’t know you or your work or how you approach things well enough to take herself entirely out of the loop the way your previous manager might have done. That doesn’t mean that she’s skeptical of you or thinks you’d do a bad job. It just means that new ideas tend to have a lot of implementation details that will need to be worked out — and she might quite reasonably want input into that, and not have time to give it.

Or it might be that your new manager just has a different style and different priorities than your old manager. She might want to focus tightly on your team’s existing goals and not get sidetracked on other projects. Even very worthy projects usually mean taking time away from existing priorities, and she might not want to make those trade-offs. Or she might be quite open to new ideas, but wants to consider them all at once, like monthly or quarterly. Or who knows, maybe she’s still be learning the lay of the land and might open to this stuff in six months but not right now. Or she might never really want a lot of new ideas coming at her — which wouldn’t be a great way to operate, but some managers do.

The best thing you can do here is to talk to her. Explain that with your old manager, you’d gotten in the habit of shooting ideas over throughout the week, but that you realize that might not be the way she prefers to operate. You can say it was something your old manager encouraged and that you’re careful not to let it get in the way of other work, but that it’s led to great outcomes like (fill in with a couple of examples). And then say, “I don’t want to continue doing that if it’s not the way you prefer to work. I will say that being able to contribute creatively brings me a lot of job satisfaction and has historically worked well for our team, but I want to make sure what I’m doing works for you. Would you rather I store ideas up and raise the ones I think are most promising at intervals — maybe every one or two months — rather than sending them piecemeal? Or cool it it altogether? Or is there something else that would work better for you?”

When you have this conversation, be attuned to signs that she doesn’t really want your focus to be on this at all. She might be fine with a few ideas a year, but not the volume that you’re currently generating them at. If that’s the case and it’s not the way you’d want to operate, it’s possible that the role is evolving in a way that isn’t an ideal fit for you anymore … in which case you’d need to decide if you could adapt to that reasonably happily or if you’d prefer to look somewhere else. But I’d give it some time and see if that stays true once you’ve had a chance to develop more of a working relationship with each other.

{ 191 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Rusty Shackelford

    Honestly, as a boss, I’d find this exhausting. They take five minutes for you to write (especially since it sounds like you’re composing them in your head as you walk the dog or whatever), but they’re a larger intrusion into her day to read and process. What if you saved all of your ideas for one big weekly or monthly email instead of sending them as you think of them?

    Reply
    1. The Other Dawn

      I would find this exhausting, too. I like when my team members come up with ideas, but it’s generally one or two, here and there, not multiple ideas in a day/week. And when they come to me with an idea, it’s generally already thought out and they are close to having a plan for how to tackle it.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        That’s the thing! Several emails a day is a LOT. Like, if I were getting pinged this often, it’d be a major distraction and not welcome.

        This line jumped out at me, because last lines often unconsciously lay bare the core issue, and I’m gonna ask a slightly brutal question about it:

        “I have been praised for creativity my entire life, and having hard time being discouraged from sharing it.”

        OP….are you looking for creative ways forward that could benefit your team, employer, and its mission? Or are you looking for coins to feed into the validation machine? Because if the latter – if you hit your boss with a new idea a few times a day mostly so they can go “oh gee, this is a fantastic idea, great job with the creative problem solving!” – that sounds perfectly exhausting to be on the other side of. I can understand why they’re not interested in being on the other side of that, because a boss willing to give that level of praise and validation is going to be rare.

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        1. AKchic

          All of this.

          Were I the new manager, I’d be talking to my boss to find out why this has been encouraged without giving said idea-producer a management role. What has stopped this person from moving up? Why am I being flooded with all of these ideas when I am now being tasked with a second group to manage and this veritable flood of ideas that never ends?
          I’d be exhausted after the first week.
          Now, LW, my exhaustion is not to say that *you* are in the wrong for having ideas. I’m saying that for me, personally, I would not want multiple-times-daily emails about a variety of unsolicited ideas for the job. I am not questioning your dedication to the company. I am questioning the boss who would have put me in charge of this whole thing, and the boss’s motivations and if the boss sees something that they haven’t shared with me (or perhaps they have and you just aren’t privy to it). If I had the background information from the boss, yeah, all of Snark’s comment and then some.

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        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          This is really helpful framing. I, too, would find this exhausting, even if the ideas were lovely and interesting. And if I were a newish manager? The exhaustion doubles, because I simply don’t have the bandwidth to get my arms around my job, and I don’t have the experience at that particular employer to know how to filter the proposals.

          And multiple emails a day with non-project ideas is a lot. If I get my chance, I share 1-2 new ideas with my boss each year (and that’s far fewer than the number of ideas that go through my head). And I volunteer to head up the labor on those ideas if there’s not a better allocation. But I think I’d get fired if I sent him a daily email, let alone multiple emails.

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        3. AntsOnMyTable

          It is *so* many ideas. Theoretically that means she is coming up with 500-1000 new ideas a year. I can’t even imagine a job that has that many things that can be improved in one year. I honestly feel if even a fraction of those ideas were good she would be a superstar but it still means there is a lot of chaff to have to wade through. I agree with what a lot of other people said – sit on the ideas for awhile. If in a week they still seem good then do some basic research to see if they are good for you company without taking time way from your other projects. Then maybe sit on it a bit more.

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      2. RUKiddingMe

        Oh god yes. I had to have this discussion just today.

        It basically boiled down to”I don’t have time for every single half cocked idea (yeah I said “half cocked”) you come up with. If you have an idea, write it down, flesh it out, research it, show me (on paper) how it’s actionable, financially feasible, etc. Write a report/proposal. Do this for at least 3-5 things before you send me anything, then send them all at once. Other than that just do your job and stop asking me about every single nit picky thing. If you can’t figure it out by now, maybe you don’t belong here. That (what he was working on) is your job not mine. Use the document template that —even though I don’t have time to do it— I made for you, fill in the information I requested, nothing more, nothing less, and no do not just give me chicken scratching on a piece of lined paper. Make it a proper report. Final discussion.”

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    2. W.D.W.

      Agreed. And are all your ideas really good ideas? Maybe writing them all down and then presenting them monthly will give you time to pare down the list, i.e., “Oh, now that I really stop and think about this, it’s not feasible because of X/Y/Z.”

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      1. Antilles

        Yeah, that was my thought as well. If you’re coming up with so many ideas that you’re sending multiple emails a day with them, I honestly wonder if you’re not being nearly judicious enough in thinking them through before sending them off.
        I once worked with a guy who made an infamous habit of showing up to basically every weekly meeting with at least three different ‘suggestions’. Of course, in a relatively conservative industry (construction / engineering design), there just isn’t that much room for wildly different ideas, so after about two weeks, he suggestions tended to be almost exclusively (a) things we were already doing, (b) something we’d previously considered and rejected, (c) completely unrealistic within the constraints of budget/time/energy, or (d) straight up dumb ideas. He saw it as presenting lots of options, but for the rest of us, this was miserable and exhausting.

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        1. AnnaBananna

          “I honestly wonder if you’re not being nearly judicious enough in thinking them through before sending them off.”

          This. Frankly, I could have totally written OP’s letter myself. I am that person who twitches with new ideas constantly and I just want to SHARE them, so that they can get out of my head and make room for other things. However….that’s actually really selfish. Yes, we are idea generators, but we can’t treat others (especially our leadership) like we’re playing hot potato. They too have their own ideas and work details that they’re trying to work through themselves, and bombarding them with new directions all the time – it makes us feel better, but makes them feel like we’re dumping a crap ton of new responsibility on them.

          Like others have suggested (and what I have personally have done and vouched for), I keep a running/living tally of ideas and organize them by urgency (and be hyper critical of “urgent”!), and to help those I will be sharing them with, I also add resources needed to make it happen (staff time, buy-in, more budget, etc). Once a week I rate these ideas and hand in those that have been fully fleshed out during my one on one with my leader.

          It sounds like your new leader gets easily distracted by lots of external stimulation. The best way to work with both sets of work habits is the above: make sure you get a week meeting on the books and use that for your suggestions (unless they’re urgent – and maybe set up a quick 5 minute walk-by chat in the morning).

          Good luck!

          Reply
      2. Turquoisecow

        Yeah this was my thought also. If you’re coming up with multiple ideas a day, I can’t imagine that you’re devoting a lot of time to implementing many of them. Is that because some of them aren’t great, or because some aren’t feasible for whatever reason, like budget constraints or logistics?

        In the past, did you throw ideas at the manager and then discuss them in detail afterward? And, if so, did you realize that a lot of them weren’t good ideas, or would be nice but aren’t in the budget, or would never fly with management for cultural reasons, or otherwise shoot down 95% of them?

        How many of the ideas actually were followed up on and enacted? And did you do the follow through on them? Because it’s great to come up with ideas, but if they’re never getting enacted, then it’s kind of exhausting for your boss to be hearing these proposals all the time with no possibility of enacting them, or with then also being given the responsibility of enacting them.

        If boss would welcome your ideas, and I’m going to presume that they might, maybe they would appreciate it if you fleshed out the ideas more. Instead of “I have a great idea! What if we had the teapot designers wear green vests!” (which is an interesting idea but would cost money and might not really be popular but you thought of in the shower) flesh that idea out more. Why is it awesome? What would it improve? How would you implement it? What are some objections people might have, and how would you counter those?

        A more detailed proposal like that might be more useful and interesting than a dozen daily emails. If none of the ideas are getting implemented, I can see why management things you should be spending your time on other things.

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        1. AMPG

          This is so true – I once had a coworker who loved to come up with new and exciting ideas, but it was always someone else’s job to implement them, as far as she was concerned. Most of them weren’t worth the time and effort it would take to implement, but she’d pitch them as an “intern project,” ignoring that 1) our interns were all doing essential support work, and 2) most of her projects required a more sophisticated knowledge of our field than an intern would be expected to have.

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    3. Lilly

      Something I learned the hard way as an employee is to never rationalize that it only takes x minutes and still do it.

      In my situation this was my boss’ way of telling me to stop my organizational system because she thought I was wasting time. I told her it just took a few minutes from my day and went on as if it were a mere suggestion. Fast forward a month when I left the office in tears after being written up for disobeying orders.

      Even if it only takes 5 minutes a day, she wants 0 minutes a day.

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      1. Snark

        Yeah this. One time, my old boss pushed back on reviewing something I sent over to her, and I dropped the “but it’ll take you 10 minutes” line. She got TORQUED. “And that’s 10 minutes I get to decide how I use, which is not reviewing your side project!”

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        1. Alldogsarepuppies

          If the new boss absorbed ADDITIONAL duties/reports then she will most likely have less time than your old boss too, so probably doesn’t have those 5 minutes to read your email.

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        2. Bea

          Oh lordy, I’ve been on the snapback side of this. The guy didn’t even understand why I was so mad. If I has 10 spare minutes at that time, I would have been eating, not lost 30lbs in a month and thrown out my back. I sure didn’t want to pull 10 minutes from my magic backpack of spare moments for the project be decided to try to do.

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      2. Drago Cucina

        On a professional listserv this piece of advice came through last week: “Your boss’s priorities are your priorities.”
        Yeah, 5-6 minutes x 5 days a week. That’s a half hour I needed for something else.

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    4. OhGee

      I have a colleague like this, and I find them exhausting and unhelpful. They usually don’t offer to pursue the feasibility of their suggestions, and sometimes use it as an opportunity to name drop. I feel like a total stick in the mud when I point out that we don’t have the capacity to pursue their idea, or suggest that we stick with our current approach to something — and if I *do* think it’s a good idea, I end up being the person who starts the reality check conversation about how we will actually pursue the idea.

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      1. Seriously?

        Yes! I have the tendency to have a lot of ideas and I have found that it works so much better if I write them down to go back to later. I can then pick the ones that still seem like a good idea and try to develop them a bit more and list out time and resources needed to actually pursue the project. If it still seems like a good idea after that, it is time to share with my boss.

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      2. Aurion

        Yeah, this. At multiple emails a day, I doubt OP has spent enough time sitting on these ideas to consider if they’re all feasible ideas: that is, they fit into the scope, budget, expertise, and other constraints related to execution of any ideas.

        I don’t want an Idea Machine unless the ideas are actually good ones that have a snowball’s chance in hell of being implemented. And sure, maybe non-management can’t know all the ins and outs of what makes execution possible or feasible…but that means they should be more judicious with their ideas, not less.

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        1. WorkLady

          Seconding OhGee and Aurion. I spend quite a bit of my day fielding “bright ideas” from people who haven’t spent any time thinking about feasibility, timeline, budget, or project history. It’s really exhausting and I’m not surprised your boss is put off by it. A well-thought-out idea takes way more than 5 minutes to put together.

          Maybe your ideas are great. But the way you’re presenting them is not.

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      3. Formerly Arlington

        Agree! I had a direct report who did this and it felt lazy…he seemed to think his ideas were revolutionary, but they had all been explored before, and if he had done any research, he would know why we weren’t doing them anymore. It required time and the energy necessary to be politely not encouraging for me to handle these suggestions. It also called attention to the fact that his workload was lighter than his colleagues.

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        1. Steve

          I take public transit to work, and it provides me with opportunities to think up ideas and write them down, so the amount of time spent developing ideas does not necessarily correlate directly with workload. However…

          I only write down the better / feasible ideas, and those which still seem feasible / good after a few days are likely shared with colleagues to get feedback. If they survive that round then I share them with the most appropriate manager. I might have a few of these suggestions a month (at most), and perhaps a few more which address problems they have mentioned (which I guess is in a totally different category, isn’t it?, if managers are asking for feedback on X).

          I often need unique solutions for my work projects, so most of my creativity and transit-thoughts are directed at my workload rather than suggestions for management. If I was in a similar situation to the LW – focusing my ideas energy on management problems – I would use the same tactic as others have mentioned : develop a list, think about them more (some of that creativity can be directed to implementing the ideas, as it’s not just the initial brainstorm), and then pick the best ones at the end of each month. Or if the LW is so focused on being creative, then perhaps talk with the manager about specific focus areas where the creativity could be effectively applied?

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    5. EditorInChief

      Yup, me too. Exhausting and annoying. Incessant emails of random thoughts isn’t useful. I’d be wondering why you’re not focussing on core job duties.

      I welcome and expect well thought out ideas from my team. But they need to be actionable. A well thought out idea that promotes our business objectives along with a plan of execution takes more than five minutes to write up.

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    6. Kelly O

      Yeah, I have to admit this would drive me a bit nuts.

      A new manager especially is still getting up to speed on a lot of things and does not need every idea that comes from an employee in her inbox all the time.

      Could you maybe consider whether these ideas are truly valuable to a new manager and worth her time? I’m not trying to stifle creativity or whatever, but sometimes ideas that feel brilliant and like a no-brainer to us have pitfalls at higher levels we may not be privy to.

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    7. Beatrice

      I have one of these, and it can be exhausting. A lot of her ideas don’t fit my priorities or don’t work because of big picture reasons she’s not privy to. I do share the bigger picture with her when I’m able to, but sometimes she stretches far enough outside her role that it doesn’t make sense for me to explain, or I can’t share that much with her.

      Another factor, for me, is that she’s made it very, very clear that she isn’t interested in advancing beyond her current role, and she has plans to leave the company/industry in the next couple of years. If that weren’t the case, I’d invest more time in helping her understand the bigger picture and I’d want to give her projects to implement some of her ideas to help her grow. She really just wants to be an ideas person, though, and there’s a limit to how helpful that is.

      Reply
    8. Is It Performance Art

      Yeah, it can be really time-consuming to sort through all those emails.
      One thing that I have found helpfu is to sit on my ideas for at least a day. If I’ve forgotten them or had a new idea that seems even better, there’s a good chance they weren’t that useful in the first place.
      I also second putting the ideas you think are best in a single email each week. Then it’s easier for your boss to find them and you’re not going to be filling up her inbox.

      Reply
  2. BRR

    You might also have to limit the number of ideas you present. I know with my manager I can only present, let’s say three. Which stinks because there have been times where I need her attention for five things but have to limit myself to three. Anything more and we run out of time or she can’t realistically think about them all. I frequently move things to my next meeting agenda to ensure certain things get their appropriate time.

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    1. Lil Fidget

      Yes, I try to keep a running email of all my ideas, but edit them down to send the top, say, three. That might be three in a month, or three in a week, depending on your role at the company (comms/marketing would have more than say, compliance protocol manager).

      Reply
      1. media monkey

        agree with both commenters above. maybe keep a note of them, review for the best ones say once a month and do a little bit of digging/ further thought to see how they could be viable. can i also suggest outlining actual tangible benefits that would arise if the idea was implemented? sometimes bosses of a certain level prefer to see and are more motivated by results than ideas!

        otherwise i am reminded of Alan Partridge (i’m going to guess this might be a UK only reference) coming up with ideas for TV programmes – monkey tennis, inner city sumo, cooking in prison…
        if you want to watch it, it’s here:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X06g7_LHiGo

        Reply
  3. Four Lights

    You said you’ve just gotten this new boss pretty recently, so this is also growing pains with getting to know a manager and what works. I’ve had a lot of jobs, and I’ve found this can take several months to get to a good place of understanding each other. So besides Allison’s advice I would also give it some time.

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  4. Holly

    I agree with Allison that this sounds like an arrangement that worked with your old manager, but is reeeally not common and a new manager would – expectedly – be overwhelmed by this or not appreciate it in the same way. I would use Allison’s script but if your manager makes it clear that they are not going to be interested in the same way, you might want to consider weighing going into consulting/doing your own thing again so you can be your own boss and get paid for your ideas.

    Reply
    1. Snark

      Yeah. If I were just starting to get a handle on managing a new group – in addition to my old group – getting strafed with random thoughts would be a lot.

      Reply
  5. Snark

    One other thought, from someone who has worked with people like OP and is one, to an extent: if you’re going to approach your boss with an idea, it may need to be a to be a fully realized proposal rather than just an inspiration – not just the inspiration, but the execution, logistics (additional training and/or funding?), expected outcomes and benefits, how it relates to overall goals and strategic planning. This may be what your boss wants, and is not getting from you when you excitedly ping her with “Hey I was walking the dog and thought we could do Thing!”

    My grad school advisor smacked me down hard for being an endless fountain of creative ideas, the execution of which I had barely even considered and which often involved grants, travel dollars, manpower, equipment, and expertise our small lab didn’t have and wouldn’t have. And which were often not in tune with his goals as the primary investigator in any case.

    Ideas are thrilling and easily come by. Proposals are how stuff gets done.

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    1. Matilda Jefferies

      Ideas are thrilling and easily come by. Proposals are how stuff gets done.

      Yes. And especially if the boss is a black-and-white, linear thinker as the OP describes, she’s definitely going to be the type to want specific details rather than just ideas.

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    2. Kathleen_A

      With my boss, I’d have to go somewhere in the middle. Boss would not like getting a lot of unfocused ideas, but Boss would also not like me to spend too much time fleshing them out before getting approval. So I’d have to find a happy middle, somehow or other. It isn’t easy.

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      1. Snark

        That’s a valid point. I think the goal should be that the boss will have a reasonable idea of what’s involved in implementing the idea and what the costs and benefits will be – but it doesn’t need to be a totally fleshed-out game plan.

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        1. Baby Fishmouth

          Yeah, if I have an idea, I usually just send an email to my manager saying something like “I’m just wondering if there’s a reason we do this process {this way} – I’ve been thinking about it, and it seems like if we did it {this different way}, it would make X, Y, and Z a lot easier, and we’d have extra time for A, B, and C. Of course, there may be something I’m not considering – but let me know if that might work.”

          It’s not a ton of time, but shows more thought than just ‘Let’s do X process like this!’

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      2. motherofdragons

        We have similar bosses. Plus, our time is allocated via cost codes for current contracts, and there is only a small pool of money that we can tap into for developing new projects. So I literally can’t get paid for fleshing out ideas without my boss’ approval. So I try to strike that happy medium by sharing my idea, the outcome of what little research I was able to do, and possible next steps. Then she’s usually pretty good at either saying no, proposing other steps, or giving me the green light.

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      3. Specialk9

        I would make a template with the relevant elements, and fill it out for each idea :
        -Problem this solves
        -Overview (in very simple non-jargony language)
        -Benefits
        -Cost
        -Rough timeframe (in 1/4 years)
        -Partners you’d need to work with
        -Impact to daily work or current schedule

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        1. Tehanu

          Great list and I would add, don’t assume you’re having an original idea. Can you think of reasons why this hasn’t been implemented in the past? Chances are, someone else may have thought about it, and it didn’t fly because of *reasons*.

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    3. Seriously?

      This exactly. If the idea can be adequately conveyed in an e-mail that takes five minutes, it is likely not developed enough for the manager to spend time on yet.

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    4. Hills to Die on

      Yes, yes, yes. Make sure you have thought through all of the pitfalls and execution steps. If you do save these, see how you can fit several together as part of a comprehensive plan. I say this as a project manager whose job is often to come up with new ideas and creative solutions.

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    5. gecko

      Yes, but I think OP knows that, and was asking their old boss, “is this worth putting in the time to make the proposal?” and their old boss would feel free to say yes or no. That’s why OP is now getting stuck with the new boss–the new boss is like, “you must have spent time to make this a proposal, because that’s what I expect. You shouldn’t have done that, and your proposal is half-baked.”

      So OP has to adjust to the new boss’s expectations of when they’re going to get ideas–much later in the game than their old boss wanted them.

      It’s also completely fair for OP to feel pretty disgruntled by this, though their recourse is limited; it’s a change from how they interacted with their last boss, and it’s not fun to go from a collaborative relationship to one where someone’s enforcing more of the power dynamic, all of a sudden. OP isn’t a bright-eyed grad student.

      Basically…it’s fair for the boss to say, hey stop this please, but it’s also fair for OP to be kinda bothered about it.

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      1. Snark

        The OP could choose to be bothered by this, but I’d really encourage them not to, or to be bothered for as little time as possible. A supervisory relationship where one is encouraged to churn out ideas like bright-eyed grad student is fairly rare, and this is more of a return to the norm than an imposition of onerous restrictions.

        In general, a boss willing to be the first line of “is this worth developing” review is a rare one.

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        1. Kelly O

          With you on this – you could choose to be annoyed, or you could just accept how your new manager works and move on.

          OP can be annoyed, just not to the boss, and it shouldn’t affect her work on any level.

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      2. Lexi

        Several idea emails a day, it really not fair for the OP to be bothered that the new boss doesn’t have time to back and forth with her multiple times a day on ideas when she is managing 2 groups now. I cant imagine fielding several idea emails a day from one employee. If it is enough that the boss is asking about if OP is getting her work completed then its most likely more than 2-3 a day. If the previous ideas were truly great or game changing I would think OP would have been the one to take over her bosses position not to push them under another manager.

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      3. Turquoisecow

        It’s possicle, but the fact that OP is coming up with multiple emails a day says to me that she’s not following up with a lot of them. It would be one thing to come up with an idea, email it to the boss, and then if boss says okay, go ahead with that idea.

        But if OP is sending multiple emails, I don’t think there’s much follow up on the green-lit ideas.

        Reply
      4. Blue

        It sounds like OP’s creativity has often been viewed as one of her greatest strengths and she’s grown accustomed to being appreciated for that skill, specifically. I think it’s totally understandable that she would fill a bit adrift (not to mention underutilized) if that suddenly changed. But, realistically, if you start working for a new person, you need to spend some time adjusting to them, their priorities, their work style, etc. OP and her boss may be able to find a happy medium (a brainstorming meeting once a month to discuss some of her more actionable ideas? one “suggestions” email every other week?), but if not, and this is something critical to OP’s professional satisfaction, she may need to start looking.

        Reply
    6. Lynn Whitehat

      Yes, I was thinking the same thing. It’s easy to come up with an idea like, for instance, “our company should have a booth at the industry conference!” Which would probably not be a bad idea. But have you considered:

      1) who is going to contact the conference organizers? When does that have to be done? What do they want to know? What rules do they have?
      2) Do they charge for booth space? How much? If it varies, based on what? (Size, placement, etc)
      3) What is the goal of our booth?
      4) How will we prepare people, printed materials, etc to meet that goal so that we’re not just occupying space?
      5) Who is going to work this booth? What isn’t getting done because they’re staffing the booth?
      6) If the conference is not in the same city as the office, who is making the travel arrangements? What bucket is the money for the travel coming out of?
      7) How will we evaluate whether we succeeded and should do this again?

      If I receive an email that’s just “what about a booth at IndustryCon?”, I have to come up with at least the questions for you to chase down answers to, in order to begin to say yes or no. Or maybe we have tried this and it flopped, but being new, I have to go find people who know where the bodies are buried and ask whether we tried this before, if not why not, if so why we stopped etc. And I have to consider the possibility that you, not being new, know it doesn’t make business sense, but you have some agenda of your own. (Free trip to the conference city? Planning the booth would be a fun break from your usual tasks?)

      So yeah, if you’re sending random brainstorms a few times a week, your boss may want more fully-thought-out proposals.

      Reply
      1. nonprofit manager

        THIS. This is why the “ideas” are exhausting. OP is doing the easy part (“we should have a booth”) and pushing the hard part on to her boss. This is the opposite of helpful.

        Reply
      2. AMPG

        I deal with this a lot as the Development Director at my organization. People email me links to available grants with little or no explanation about why they think this funding is a good match for us or which of our programs it would apply to. It’s up to me to look at the funding requirements, application rules and deadlines, and my own schedule to determine if it’s even worth pursuing, and THEN I have to pitch it to my boss before doing any work on it. I usually get a couple of these per week, which is about all I can handle on top of my own workload. More than that and it would be overwhelming.

        Reply
    7. The Original K.

      That’s what I was thinking. If the OP is just saying “Hey, we should do x!” without giving any consideration to how x gets done, that’s even more work for the manager – she has to suss out how the idea would actually be implemented, if it’s even possible (and she may have to suss out the feasibility of the idea itself). If you present ideas that are fully formed – “Project X will take this much time, money, and manpower, and will position us to achieve our strategic goals in ways A, B, and C” – you may get more traction, OP. This may mean presenting fewer ideas.

      Reply
    8. Lora

      Heh, my grad school advisor told me if I thought it was such a great idea, I should write the grant application myself. It was good practice, especially at taking rejection…

      OP, not only would I recommend you only present things to your boss as a more developed proposal than as a “hey I had an idea,” but also consider whether you can do some feasibility / pilot scale work on the idea on your own to test the idea before presenting it. Some managers are FAR more risk-averse than others, and if you have some preliminary data to support an idea, it will go over much better than if you just have an idea.

      When I was in early stage R&D, I was supposed to be chock-full of ideas, but also capable of independently designing a way to test the ideas and develop them a bit before letting anyone else know. This is helpful because, importantly, most ideas don’t work out – you will be known for chronic failure if you spread it around that you had an idea before it was tested for feasibility and then it fails in early testing. It’s much better to run a small initial test and when that is successful, ask for support to develop it further. Years of experience often count for nothing.

      When I moved over to the extremely, EXTREMELY risk-averse later stage development and engineering groups, even a small, well-tested, decades-old, relatively inexpensive technology change is seen as a HUGE BIG FKING THING that could kill them dead, and I had to adjust to the level of risk they could tolerate. Which meant dialing it way back on the new ideas at all.

      There is also the possibility that your new manager is of the type who hates draft / preliminary / collaborative writing copies of anything. I have had a few (not many, thank god) who appear to despise the entire concept of reviewing work before it goes outside the department, even when there’s an SOP that requires them to review it (proposals over a certain dollar value or what have you). I do not understand this at all, but it is definitely a thing in the world.

      Reply
    9. Escapee from Corporate Management

      I know someone who does this. Generates a boatload of new ideas, some of which are compelling, some of which are just different from what we are doing now, a few that are simply not good. He is in a senior enough position to say this is the way the group will move forward. And then…nothing. No proposal, no implementation plan. He is off to the next idea and now nothing is getting done. It generates a ton of work (and rework) for the people on his staff and for the people who supervise him.

      The less for you, OP, is that you should definitely have the conversation Alison recommended. Learn what your new manager wants before volunteering these new ideas all of the time. It may be taking more of her time than you think.

      Reply
    10. ECHM

      OP, what if rather than emailing all the ideas to the boss, you emailed them to yourself and a week (or a month) later looked through all the ones from the past week (or month) and picked one or two to develop further and present to your boss?

      Reply
      1. Alicia Florrick

        We have an Asana board for just this! One process ideas, one biz development ideas, one other random ideas – all discussed quarterly. Anyone can put anything on there, and after this awesome thread, I’m thinking we need to also ask for a bit more thought with each entry.

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    11. writelhd

      I agree with this, with the bias of being a very linear thinker who has worked with “idea people” but Isn’t One, yet who has been tasked with collecting people’s ideas and vetting them and trying to get them flesh out, only to find the Idea Generator usually wants to do none of that work his or herself, just wants to submit the idea then move on…..and that part of my job just takes my motivation right off a cliff…

      But, I’ve also found a general experience gap between workable ideas and poorly thought out ones. (Or ones that somebody else more senior probably already thought of, but realized the difficulties in, but an inexperienced person thinks is their very own unique brain child.) The OP stated he or she has quite a lot of experience within that company, so that changes the equation a bit from an initial gut reaction of “Ahhrg how annoying” which I would totally have if somebody without a lot of experience was expressing frustration that their boss wasn’t reacting well to the ideas they’d thought of while walking their dog and fired off in a 5 minute email. I agree it’s totally worth trying to have a more frank conversation with the boss about how the OP used to operate, with such questions about how the new boss would like that stuff to be harnessed going forward. And would second that if the new boss shows signs of not being able to deal, remember that Idea People can make us linear thinkers crazy, so taking a little bit more time to flesh out a few of them, do a pro forma or a basic analysis of some kind on your favorite ones, and offer to take the work further yourself to a reasonably degree if the boss approves, can be a way to start to build that bridge back up again, and can lay the groundwork for building trust for future reception of ideas.

      Reply
      1. Birch

        But, I’ve also found a general experience gap between workable ideas and poorly thought out ones. (Or ones that somebody else more senior probably already thought of, but realized the difficulties in, but an inexperienced person thinks is their very own unique brain child.)

        This is so true. Great ideas have to be built on some foundation, some background. “Creativity” is often code for “I didn’t research this.” Sounds like OP has plenty of work experience in their field, but I think the experience gap here is in curating their creativity. That’s so difficult for people who have always been encouraged to be creative, because we think everything we do is amazing. But just like learning how to write concisely makes you a better writer, learning how to pare down your flurry of ideas and build up just the good ones will make you a better Idea Person!

        Reply
    12. Birch

      So much this. Was literally dealing with this today. Great ideas, no clue whether logistics would be possible. “Hey I want to use the 3D Teapot Printer to make guitar-shaped teapots!” Ok… but 1. we don’t have the budget for that, 2. no one on our team is trained in 3D Teapot Printing, 3. you aren’t senior enough to be allowed access to that machine, 4. have you seen any of the previous work on guitar shaped teapots? No. Bring proposals. And it should be related to what your team is already doing. You were hired for a reason–you can’t just expect to go off and do all your own projects!

      Reply
    13. smoke tree

      Yeah, I think even something as simple as making a habit of waiting a week or two can help. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new idea, but if you give yourself some time to mull it over, you start to think of the reasons it might not work out.

      Reply
    14. Sarah

      I was once in a meeting with a boss and we were throwing out ideas and just generally spit balling. Being relatively new to our team, he wanted to hear what was going on and I had good relationships with a few departments but not a ton of experience really running big projects. You can imagine my panic when I threw something out there in a, “I wonder if we’ve ever tried x,” way and was told to make it happen. Two MONTHS of research later I found out not only were we working on it, it was sombody’s greenbelt certification project. Ideas are great, but you can bet I was very, very careful about what I said even in informal meetings after that.

      Reply
      1. Cedrus Libani

        Very early in my career, I did that. I threw out a “I wonder if we could…” in a meeting. By the next day, I’d had a chance to look into it. Apparently it had been tried and didn’t work. To my dismay, I found that my boss had pitched it to the grand-boss, they both thought it was a grand idea, and it was now my job to make it work. I couldn’t talk them out of it.

        Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. Took me MONTHS to prove it, though. And I learned an important lesson about thinking out loud.

        Reply
    1. writelhd

      This is a good point. We have something like this, and it’s a helpful way to get feedback from a lot of places across the company—if management is asking for it. Which they should be–to a point. Even so, there are certain people who are known to just fill it up with their ideas, and others who never submit, and the people who over-use it do seem to have their ideas less likely to be taken seriously than others.

      Reply
    2. Persephone Mulberry

      I’ve seen Trello used this way, too. I’m only vaguely familiar with how it functions, but from what I gather, the LW can be posting ideas as they occur to her and the boss can review the carss under New Ideas at her leisure and move things to Yes, No, Research Further, Tabled, etc. I think it even extends to other people being able to +1 and comment on each card.

      Reply
      1. Project Mangler

        That’s still work for the manager though, just in a different form. If I don’t want to field the email then why would I want to go into Trello to rank ideas I had no interest in?

        Reply
  6. Bagpuss

    It may be how you are giving her these ideas, as well as the fact you are doing it.
    Why not e-mail them to yourself, then you can perhaps review them once a week or so, select a couple to offer her. Or keep them so that if she asks, you have a range of things to offer.

    You may find that she would prefer one or two well thought out suggestions, with ideas about costs, timing etc, once a month, rather than a constant stream of ‘initial thoughts’. or she may not want you to present them at all, unless she specifically asks

    I think it is absolutely reasonable for you to reassure her that you are not handing off your work to anyone and that you are focusing on and completing your projects.

    Reply
  7. MK

    To be frank, OP, I think you should have had this conversation before starting to bombard your new manager with several emails per day. Unless you are in a field or company where this is the norm (and it doesn’t sound like it is), you really shouldn’t have assumed you could just go on doing this with the new boss before you got her ok, or at least waited a bit to see how your dynamic would play out.

    Also, you say your former manager wasn’t replaced, but the new one was handed responsibility for your team. Was there a restructure? If not, and the manager was handed this extra responsibility, or even worse if the two roles were merged, it’s possible that development of new ideas is something that will simply not get done in the future.

    Reply
  8. KHB

    Ideas are a dime a dozen, but the resources to implement them are not. It may take five minutes for you to write down the idea, but surely it takes a lot longer than that to get all the pieces into place (possibly including things like financial, regulatory, and safety constraints, depending on the nature of the ideas) to make them a reality. It’s not clear from your question who’s doing that follow-up work, whether it’s you, your manager, or someone else entirely. Does your new manager know how your old manager used to handle the implementation of your ideas?

    Reply
  9. AnotherAlison

    My department has a spreadsheet that was implemented by a previous manager where people are supposed to go and add new ideas for improving processes. The spreadsheet gets very little attention, like maybe 4 ideas/yr, so I would find what the OP is doing a little excessive. We don’t have many details on the nature of the OP’s business, but I don’t think she should share ideas that she hasn’t spent more than 5 minutes on. I wouldn’t want to see, “We should get team hoodies.” I want to see, “We should get team hoodies. An order of 15 would cost $600 from our normal supplier and delivery would be 6 weeks, in time for our 2018 Team Builder. This would also help raise the visibility of our department and make us look more fun, which could help with recruiting since people say we’re boring.” I’d suggest she start keeping her own list of raw ideas, hold onto them and vet them herself once a quarter, and then provide the ones that still seem good to the manager, with a little more preliminary vetting added since this manager may be busier or less informed about the OP’s department than the previous one.

    Reply
  10. Amber Rose

    How about you put all your ideas in one document or folder which is saved somewhere that you can both access it? Then it’s not like you aren’t sharing them, but you aren’t flooding her inbox, and you can pull on them as needed.

    Reply
  11. Essess

    A new manager might not be willing to start jumping in and making changes without having a grasp of the way things work currently and before having a chance to see what does and doesn’t currently work. Also, a new manager doesn’t have the insight of what has already been tried and failed. I would be irritated to just get into a role and get constant (multiple times a day) requests to change processes before I’d had a chance to do my own evaluations and analysis, especially since each suggestion would require me to do a bunch of research as to whether it had been tried before and what were the previous outcomes. One or two suggestions are far welcome than a constant stream of demands for change. Your previous boss had the historical background to make decisions about changes which your current boss doesn’t have yet.

    Reply
    1. writelhd

      This is really, really true. If so, the OP can probably help, since he or she has been in the department a long time, by offering to give the manager insight on what has worked and what hasn’t over time, when such discussions about new things come up, or to put that kind of context into whatever kind of idea-conveying-mechanism he or she and the boss work out after discussing it.

      Reply
  12. Matilda Jefferies

    OP, I’m curious what process you use to think through these ideas for yourself, before you send them to your boss. Do you send her all your ideas as you think of them, or do you send only the ones that you think are truly great? How do you decide?

    Do you keep track of your ideas as you generate them (but before you send them)? If not, how do you know you haven’t already sent this same idea – or another idea that completely contradicts this one? If you have sent the same or a contradictory one before, do you remember how it was received?

    The reason I’m wondering is, if you’re sending multiple ideas a week, there’s a good chance that they’re not all of the same quality. Which is nothing against you or the ideas themselves, just that there are only so many good ideas in the world, and even fewer that are truly new AND truly great AND practical in any given workplace. Ideas that meet all three of those criteria happen…I don’t know, maybe once or twice a year? Certainly not weekly, in any case.

    If you have been doing all this self-editing, great! That will give your ideas more weight once you come to an agreement with your new boss about how she wants you to present them. If not, now is a good chance to start. , so It’ll give you some practice separating the wheat from the chaff, and making sure that by the time you send an email with an idea, you already know that it’s new and great and practical.

    Reply
  13. EmilyG

    This reminds me a bit of my dad who, when he first retired, sent me perhaps 5 emails per day of articles he had read, ideas he had, questions, etc. They accumulated in my inbox and stressed me out so much I eventually told him he had to consolidate them into one per day. The idea of this happening at work with someone where I don’t have a relationship where I could just say “okay, but cool it” definitely gets my heart rate up.

    OP is asking for a lot of attention handling things that are outside what she has on her to-do list. It’s not just time but emotional labor of diplomatically shooting down some of the ideas, which I’m sure she feels she has to do even if the old boss was more brusque.

    Also, I kind of get the vibe from the letter that OP doesn’t like the new boss. Maybe she’s not linear and black-and-white, but focused on goals that have been communicated to her by her new boss. If OP projects that they think the new boss is a killjoy who just doesn’t understand their creative genius, I don’t think that will make the boss more receptive to their ideas, because it will be framed as a power struggle for her to maintain her authority.

    Reply
      1. soon 2be former fed

        Please, no ageism! What are “current communication norms” anyway? I’m an “older” person who makes it my business to stay up to date.

        Reply
        1. Lyman for President

          It isn’t necessarily ageism to point out that something is correlated with age, if someone has noticed that pattern – ageism requires some form of discrimination or prejudice. It wouldn’t be ageism to say “I’ve noticed that 20somethings are more apt to send rapid fire texts”. There are always exceptions to patterns.

          It’s pretty well documented that the 20s/early 30s often have different approaches to technology use than 50s+.

          Reply
        2. Project Mangler

          This may or may not fall under “current communication norms” but it seems relevant since the OP offered their age in the letter. Just because the OP is near the end of their career does not necessarily mean that their ideas should be given more weight than if they came from a person at the start of their career. I work with alot of “lifers” at my job, and some seem to think that their main job is to offer their opinion on everything, even things unrelated to their work.

          Reply
    1. CMart

      Oh, it wasn’t just my mom who did that when she first retired? Ha.

      I’ve actually had several people in my life do this to me in some form or another, and for them the common factor boiled down to “more time to spend reading/thinking” while I had the same amount of non-time for reading/thinking. So things just piled up and I felt increasingly worse that they were reaching out to me and I wasn’t able to reciprocate.

      This isn’t to say OP has too much time on her hands–kudos to her for thinking up process improvement ideas on the commute or walking the dog! But most people have already allocated their time to thinking about Work Things, and the new boss probably a) doesn’t have work time allocated to OP’s random ideas and b) has other things to think about while walking their own dog.

      Reply
  14. Photographer

    People here have offered really solid options for OP to think about. Please also consider the fact that you may need to find a new outlet for your creativity. Perhaps a volunteer organization would be happy to receive all of the energy and ideas to serve their goals.

    Reply
    1. SoSo

      This is a good addition. While all of these are great suggestions, the new boss might not want or need OP to be the “idea person” for the team anymore. I’ve worked with people who are full of ideas like this and while they’re great to brainstorm with, that’s only a small portion of the actual job. There are lots of hobbies that are great for being creative and coming up with ideas to improve things or problem solve. Hopefully OP can find that happy balance.

      Reply
    2. Cathy Gale

      I had the same thought. A start up volunteer organization that is under ten years old would probably love to have you, and let you implement some of the ideas, source additional volunteers, look into funding, etc. May be true also for some older organizations that have new chapters, or need an injection of fresh blood and ideas.

      Reply
  15. Bea

    I would compile everything! Save them for a weekly one on one or such. I’ve had to retool my behavior to for different bosses and it’s critical to present these ideas in ways this new manager sees as valuable. It’ll take time but given your creativity, you’ll be able to hammer something out.

    Reply
  16. CaliCali

    I think the other thing is that she’s new to managing your group, and could see your presentation of “ideas” as an attempt to backseat drive the team. It may not be your intent, but I can certainly see how someone new (and maybe not as settled in their role) would see it that way.

    Reply
    1. Duffel of Doom

      Came in here to say this. At Last Job, they hired someone to assist me with my growing role, and instead of learning the day-to-day tasks, she immediately wanted to be the ideas person running the show. It was a really rough situation (made worse by the fact that I wasn’t actually her manager).

      Reply
  17. Agent Diane

    One option may be to ping your idea emails to yourself, as you have the ideas. Then review and offer up the best, in the timeframe and format your new boss wants. This gives you the immediate outlet and allows you to demonstrate you’ve heard the new boss’s feedback and can adapt to it.

    Reply
  18. Spider

    In my department, we all have access to a shared project board in a project management website/app (in our case, Asana), and one of the project headings is “Random Ideas”. Anytime anyone gets an idea, we just add it to the list without assigning it as a task to anyone — that way, anyone can see it when they check the project board, but no one gets bombarded with emails.

    If your department doesn’t already use an app like this, you can get it for yourself to store all of your ideas and curate your list before sending it to your boss on a more viable basis (like once a month).

    Reply
  19. animaniactoo

    OP, what’s your success rate with these kinds of ideas? Did you have a good of what kinds of ideas were more likely to be taken up and which were more likely to land in the not pursued bin but you passed on as a wild shot because you never know? If yes, how much of that was because of how well you knew what your manager was looking for or thought about company direction in general?

    What’s your sense of what your current manager wants in terms of goals for your department and for the company in general?

    I can be creative all day long – but unless my ideas fit in with what my manager is *currently* looking for, it’s unlikely they’ll get far.

    I think part of the conversation you need to have with this boss is what kinds of ideas she wants, how many she can handle reviewing, and how thought-out she wants them to be. And then you need to revise your current process to work with her as an individual and not a machine slot replacement for your previous boss and the working method that you had developed with her.

    Fwiw – I pour a lot of additional creativity into other areas of my life because my brain needs outlets. Sometimes it’s a game, sometimes it’s new recipes (mostly my favorite is new ice cream flavors and testing them out), sometimes it’s getting involved in something politically or in my community, or a project for my family.

    So think about that – you’re not necessarily being asked not to be creative – but you are at the very least being asked to refine how you are being creative and where. That’s a challenge. I encourage you to be creative in meeting it.

    Reply
    1. Snark

      “OP, what’s your success rate with these kinds of ideas?”

      And what’s the failure rate? I’m sure you’ve knocked a few out of the park, but what’s your batting average? Enough to keep you in the majors?

      Reply
      1. Bea

        And what kinds of ideas are usually accepted and what are denied? If you’re saving us money, I’ll pour into an idea. If you’re costing money or creating high work without an equal or better payoff, don’t even bother me! Especially if I’m trying to pull a failing spiraling business out of the gutter.

        Woah my flashbacks to last year are so strong right now with this letter. Yikes.

        Reply
    2. smoke tree

      I think it helps to know your team for this kind of thing. I’ve made a few process suggestions in my current job, and most of them have been implemented, but I waited until I had a good idea of how the team worked and what kind of suggestions are likely to actually happen (in my case, mostly ones that were relatively easy to put in place).

      Presumably the LW’s method worked fine for her previous manager, but now that there is a new manager in town, it might help to reframe it almost as if she were starting fresh with a new job, and to test the waters a bit to see what kind of suggestions will work in the new paradigm.

      Reply
  20. Dr. Doll

    In my line of work, it’s practically insulting to be called a “black and white, linear thinker” in contrast to a “big picture creative thinker.” I personally don’t think this should be the case — as Snark points out, ideas are a dime a dozen but actually getting ’em done requires setting down the steps — but boy was I annoyed one day at a colleague who said condescendingly, and I quote, “Oh, Doll, you’re just not a holistic, big picture thinker like I am.”

    So…some appreciation for your boss’s way of approaching the world might open her up a bit to all the lovely ideas.

    Reply
    1. Snark

      Yeah, we have this tendency to glorify holistic, big-picture creative thinking, and as a big-picture thinker I appreciate that, but if you can’t discipline that way of thinking…..it’s not actually all that useful. Linear, objective, nuts-and-bolts thinking is a mode we all need to be able to flip into, or failing that, recognize the critical role played by people who think like that can have.

      Reply
      1. Escapee from Corporate Management

        Maybe I am reading too much into this, but I saw the phrase “black and white, linear thinker” as a bit disparaging. OP, if that is not your view, then I apologize for that assumption. If it is your view, bear in mind that one can be both creative AND focus on lineal implementation. Steve Jobs, for example, was an incredibly creative person who focused on the process of implementing his ideas. Same with Henry Ford and Lee Iaccoca.

        Creative does not mean that one can ignore the practical implications of a great idea. In fact, it’s the combination of creativity and “black and white, linear thinking” that turns inventions into successful innovationa.

        Reply
        1. Archaeopteryx

          Yes, this kind of phrasing can come across as though you think you’re brighter / more insightful / otherwise more special than the ‘black-and-white’ person, so I’d be careful in how you discuss this with the boss. That type of attitude is common in people fresh out of college, but tends to be less forgivable in experienced workers.

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      2. Overeducated

        I don’t even see them as opposed. I like to think I’m a big-picture person, but I literally think in flow charts, which could be the definition of linear. The “big picture” doesn’t make sense to me if it’s just a kind of amorphous cloud. I will admit that maybe I’m not the world’s most creative, but I really don’t think being holistic is the opposite of being linear or understanding parts and processes in a structured way.

        Reply
    2. EditorInChief

      I’ve moved from creative to management and understand both sides’ perspective. In my current role I’m a “black and white, linear thinker” because I’m the person who has to Get Things Done, not because I’m not creative. I can pop out ideas all day long, but if they aren’t realistic or actionable, or demonstrate value to the business they don’t matter.

      OP needs to dial it back. She is taking a very dismissive tone towards her boss and I get the impression she thinks she knows better than her boss how the boss should manage their department.

      Reply
    3. Aurion

      Oh wow, I’d have been hard pressed to bite my tongue if I’d received that kind of comment from my coworker. What was your response?

      Reply
      1. Dr. Doll

        Can I tell you what I *wish* my response had been? ;-)

        Anything I could have said would have been shot down, because the person who said it is indeed good at pulling off the very few things he actually does.

        Reply
    4. anonforthis

      Personally I’d rather have ONE idea come to fruition than a hundred super awesome holistic big-picture ideas that didn’t.

      Reply
    5. Matilda Jefferies

      In my first professional job, I had a manager like OP’s – very much a black-and-white, linear thinker – and a senior manager who was very much like the OP herself – big picture and creative and so on.

      They worked brilliantly together. Mr Creative would come up with all these grand new plans and visions, and Mr Linear would figure out how to implement them (or not.) Mr Linear would come up with all these detailed rules and processes, and Mr Creative would figure out how to strike the balance between complete anarchy and complete control. Everything was great, as long as they were both there to keep each other in check. If Mr Linear went on vacation, he was likely to come back to discover that we had painted the whole office pink and were now spending our time lounging on couches and chatting rather than getting any work done. If Mr Creative went on vacation, he would come back to an office so bogged down by the rules about attaching the correct cover pages to the TPS reports, that it was impossible to get any work done.

      TL;DR – we need both of these types in the world! But for the OP, if you’re the Ms (or Mr) Creative, you need to allow your boss to be the Ms Linear, or everything will fall apart. And as I and others have suggested, it couldn’t hurt for you to learn some of the skills and strategies involved in being a Ms Linear as well, to help her out. Even if it’s not your natural behaviour, it’s important to at least be able to understand her perspective, and why she might feel overwhelmed by being the recipient of Ms Creative all the time.

      Reply
    6. Lora

      Heh, my mother was like this, pre-dementia. Before she retired, she was actually a reasonably successful commercial artist. It was literally NEVER her job to figure out the execution of a project, only come up with ideas. It’s always been absolutely maddening to me to have to deal with this behavior, because I’m on the other side (R&D, engineering) who has to explain that we tried their bright idea five years ago and it doesn’t actually work in real life, or it’s not a high priority, or it costs a lot more than they think it will because of factors they didn’t consider.

      It is not, contrary to popular belief, “big picture” thinking. This is very very small picture thinking. Big picture thinking includes the review of existing technology and state of the art, market analysis, engineering and operations review, regulatory compliance documentation and validation and supply chain support.

      Reply
      1. Allonge

        Your second paragraph is what I wanted to say here. Big picture has to include some reality, otherwise it is… well, useless, to say the least.

        Reply
    7. Half-Caf Latte

      Oh yes- Grandboss is a big idea thinker, and has no patient or aptitude for details or implementation.

      It’s made a project quite challenging, because every time we talk she has another big idea, but literally tells me “it can’t be that hard” to implement, since her concept of it is clean and simple.

      I’m also expected to act on every new idea, which means getting anything done is like whack a mole.

      Reply
  21. Ophelia

    I think the other thing OP should consider – particularly since this manager seems to be overseeing a larger group than she was before – is limiting ideas to those that solve a specific problem or constraint, and identifying to the manager, “I noticed our teapot handling procedure is still yielding a 5% broken handle loss, which is roughly $1000 per year. If we upgrade to using HandleWraps instead of CheapWraps, we will pay an extra 2 cents per teapot, but save money in the long term because we will lose fewer teapots. Would you be interested in my exploring what it would take for us to make the upgrade, and what the likely savings will be?”
    If I were the manager, I would probably be overwhelmed by so many emails that–while creative–might often be a cool solution in search of a problem – which might be great in some industries, but really frustrating in others.

    Reply
  22. GermanGirl

    OP, you have been told that you’ll have to carry the flag for your group now, and your manager wasn’t replaced.
    That tells me that the new manager needs to get the filtered list of feasible ideas that she used to get from your old manager and that she needs you to do the filtering that your old manager used to do.

    But better ask your new manager whether that interpretation is correct.

    Reply
  23. NW Mossy

    OP, there’s a whole lot here, so I want to pan back a bit and take in the whole scene. The “what do I do with all my ideas?” question is entirely legit, but it also looks like a symptom of something literally much larger: the scope of change generally at your organization, and for your boss specifically.

    Think about this from your boss’s point of view for a bit and this becomes a bit clearer. It sounds like what happened was that your former boss retired and your new boss folded your area into her existing portfolio. That means that she’s effectively doing two jobs right now – the one she was doing before, plus the new one of managing you (and any teammates you have) and the area you’re in. This is a lot of change for her just with that, and the larger dynamic of not replacing your former boss in full hints at larger strategic changes you may not even know about yet. Eventually all of this will consolidate down to one job as she finds the overlaps and efficiencies, but she’s not there yet.

    This is the scene you’ve now entered, emails and energy and ideas in hand. It’s abundantly clear to her that ideas are life for you, and she doesn’t want to shut you down entirely. But she also knows that she’s way too overwhelmed to spend a lot of time in creative-genius headspace when she doesn’t yet have a handle on all the brass-tacks stuff like the right email aliases and recurring invites. You’re seeking a sort of attention and praise that is both fine and also something she’s not in a good place to give.

    So here’s what you do to get a hearing: redirect your creative energy towards coming up with ideas to smooth out her transition. Look for things you can take off her plate. Be an accessible resource for the day-to-day grease-the-gears info – things like “Oh, if you want to know about Project X, Jane’s been on it since the start!” and “Yeah, that vendor’s notoriously hard to get a hold of, but I’ve had good luck with calling on Friday afternoons.” Run some interference for her if you can by fielding inquiries from others that fall into your purview.

    It’s going to feel stifling and small for a while to do this, because you already know all of this and it’s not fresh and new to you. But right now, your boss could really benefit from a right-hand sort of employee that can keep the day-to-day moving. If you can knock that assignment out, you’ll win yourself the sort of ally who will gladly listen to your ideas and help you execute them. And in the meantime, keep ’em in your black book until the time is more opportune.

    Reply
      1. Lana Kane

        I am your boss, and I have a direct report who has a style similar to yours. From my perspective, this is great advice. Right now my most helpful and valuable staff member is the one who has helped me with the day-to-day tasks of keeping the team going, and who can anticipate where I’ll be needing the help. The person giving me ideas is, in the end, just giving me extra work because all ideas need further thought and behind-the-scenes work in order to properly implement them.

        Reply
  24. Xanax Tea

    OP stop sending emails, OMG I cant imagine how many emails your poor manager has being in a new role getting regular work emails for the new job, emails still for the old job, corporate emails, junk emails and then you trying to prove your worth emails. Your boss has to trust you first before they trust you can change things, and at the moment she doesn’t think you are doing your job. You may believe that your creativity was job altering and it may have helped in some ways but if you were significantly providing great ideas that would be your job, not the job you have. I’m guessing that you most likely sent hundreds of ideas and less than 10% were usable. Its great to have ideas and to share them but not in this capacity and not at this rate. Well thought out, and researched ideas don’t come 4 times a day, and there is no way you are researching these ideas if you are sending this many out. Your previous boss was appeasing you so you weren’t discouraged, you are not going to have that with this boss you are going to have to reign it in before you put her on nerve pills.

    Reply
  25. drpuma

    OP, since your old manager was not replaced, is it possible that some of your ideas should be going to folks other than your new manager? Get your new manager’s blessing first, of course, but especially if you have a good track record you may be able to work something out with other teams who would love your contributions.

    Reply
  26. AKchic

    My husband has ideas. I call them Pipe Dreams. He wants to do this and that and start X business and have Y career, but only if he goes back to college for another 4 years, and man, it would have been great if he’d started this when he was 18-19 instead of in his mid30s you know…

    He is a stereotypical Xennial/Elder Millennial. He is lost in a sea of failures-to-launch, non-thrivers, successful-careers, family-minded-folks, and all-sorts. He’s adrift and not sure of his place. He drives me batty. We’re still paying off his $60,000 student loan for a degree he isn’t using and won’t use (and the credentialing is outdated by a decade) and because it was a ridiculous for-profit vocational place, the credits are non-transferable.
    I have had to be hard about it. I’ve started and successfully run my own business. I know what it takes. You have an idea? Fine. Write me up a business proposal/plan. Show me where you’re going to get the capital. Show me you have potential investors who are interested. Backers. Someone besides *me* and the family money that we earn to pay rent and feed the kids, because that money is *not* on the table to help you.

    Ideas are wonderful in theory. However, if you are bombarding a manager who has just doubled their workload and you are asking them to take multiple 5-minute emails a day for “ideas” without concrete plans, you are asking way too much of them.
    If you want to be serious about these ideas, you need to give these ideas substance, otherwise they are just Pipe Dreams and time wasters.
    How many of your multiple ideas a day actually get to be a finished product? One in 10? One in a hundred? How many have had pins put in them for later (but don’t get used) or just outright don’t get used?
    Do you think that maybe your last boss was letting you down easy rather than shutting you down like she should have because that 1/100 idea had merit, with some work/retooling for the situation?

    As I’ve told my husband… stop trying to carry sand in a colander. See an idea through. Make the plans to make the idea viable, otherwise it’s not a feasible plan in the first place and you’re just trying to nail jello to the wall.

    Reply
    1. Cassandra

      My father (Boomer) was, and when he can find time continues to be, quite like this. Wild business and research ideas, some of them even potentially viable, but absolutely no follow-through — or where he does follow through, it’s on a tiny piece of the project that doesn’t make sense to anyone external to it. And he spouts his ideas in all directions endlessly; it’s hard to convince him to talk about anything else (except perhaps politics, but that’s even worse), much less take appropriate conversational turns.

      This might actually be something to think about in your case, OP. How much listening to your new boss are you doing? What’s the idea-spouting/listening ratio? How many emails does your boss send you per day (all-staff broadcasts don’t count here)? Your boss wants to feel heard, I guarantee it.

      I learned to tune my dad out while nodding my head and repeating his last phrase at appropriate intervals because he’s my dad, not an employee who reports to me. Rattling on for hours on end is his thing, and he expects me to put up with it. It does not endear him to me, but eh, he’s my dad.

      OP, you don’t want your boss to be in the headspace I’m in while dealing with my dad. There are lots of great suggestions in this comment section for how to approach Not Being My Dad; I won’t repeat them. Just don’t be my dad, okay? Your boss can shut you down in a way I can’t shut my dad down… and you don’t want that.

      Reply
  27. Not A Morning Person

    TL;DR all the comments, so in case this is a repeat, forgive me. OP, you’ve said both your previous manager and manager’s manager appreciated your creative ideas. Now with your new manager your previous ways of working are not working. That’s a hard change when you are doing what you always did and it was successful. It can be very hard to let go of a practice that worked for so long. One way to think of this new adjustment is that you have a new job and in that new job, you are the one who has to learn. You are the one who had to walk more gently until you find your path with your new job. You are the one who has to question and observe and learn how your new manager expects you to work. You will need to build a new reputation with your new manager. It’s going to be a whole new way of interacting, just as if you were the one who had changed jobs.
    Alison’s advice to talk with your new manager about her expectations for how to work are great. It’s just the kind of conversation that any new employee would need in order to learn their new job and how their new manager expects them to work. It feels uncomfortable because you were there already doing the job and being successful. To be successful now requires a change and one way to accomplish that change can be to think of it as a new job. Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Marie

      Reframing it as I have a new job, not a new boss is a great idea!
      (And it require neither a proposal, nor a plan, nor a budget.)

      Reply
      1. Greg NY

        But that would feel like a demotion to a lower level position. When you are contributing ideas and improvements to the organization, that is much, much different than pushing papers (or the equivalent). I wouldn’t blame them if they no longer felt as valued after the change. When you are demoted, you do look it as “I have a new job”, but that new job is clearly not the same as the old one, and is almost always more busywork and less creative work (or decision making) than the one you previously had. And that’s even if the pay is the same (as is the case here), the majority of demotions involve a pay cut as well.

        If I was demoted because of a performance issue (which, if you’re trying your best, amounts to the job simply not being the right fit), I would either be relieved that I was out of a position I couldn’t handle, or I would work hard to see if I could fix the deficiencies. This employee isn’t going to have the same opportunity, especially if they don’t speak up about it.

        Your job shouldn’t change substantially just because your boss changes. Certain aspects of it might change (I recall a post a few weeks ago about email vs. walk-in communication styles), but this seems like a material change in their position.

        Reply
        1. DKMA

          I agree that this is a material change in the position, but it’s not a demotion, it’s more like a shadow promotion. Before she could be an idea person and her boss was able to filter the ideas to focus things on the few that mattered enough to be shared with more senior leadership.

          Now her boss IS more senior leadership. She needs to do the work her boss used to do for her. It might be less fun, but it’s more responsibility, not less.

          Reply
    2. Jane of all Trades

      Completely agree.
      LW, I think it’s important to build a better relationship with your boss before you start offering up ideas again, for two reasons:
      1. It seems that she specifically asked you to not send anymore ideas. She does not know you yet, so if you keep sending more ideas she will come to know you only as the person who is outright refusing to follow her directive. That creates a bad working relationship. Since you have been working longer on the team, and see yourself as carrying the torch, depending on what specifically the ideas you contribute are, she could also perceive them as your attempt at backseat driving and as trying to manage the team in her stead. That will not make for a good working relationship.
      2. Please disregard if I am misinterpreting, but based on this excerpt from your letter, I get the sense that your boss may currently be thinking that you are not achieving your daily tasks: “Could you put a hold on this type of non-project work while you are handing project work off to (colleague)?” If my read is correct, then I think you absolutely need to take a break from submitting ideas, because it seems that she is saying you are spending time on projects while your tasks have to be reassigned to others. I would make sure that you are on the same page about your performance with regard to your assigned duties before offering more suggestions. Also because if she currently does have that slightly more negative perception, she may not be receiving your ideas with an open mind. I have been in situations where a person who worked on my team, and was not meeting expectations, would submit a lot of suggestions. Due to my frustrations with that person I would then receive the comments with a negative mindset. If this is the case with you and your manager, work on building some of that capital you had with your previous boss, before starting to submit ideas again. And when you do, as others have stated, I would self review for feasibility and quality before submitting.

      Reply
  28. CR

    I think if you unpack this a bit the real problem is that OP doesn’t feel appreciated despite her years of experience (as she repeatedly mentioned in her letter) and age, and is resentful of her new boss

    Reply
    1. Lemon Bars

      I was wondering if OP was upset she was not given her boss’s job since she has given them so many ideas, and has run her own PR company. It just seems crazy to be mad at a new boss because they don’t want to talk about your ideas all day.

      Reply
      1. writelhd

        I mean maybe, but that’s not taking the letter in good faith, and she didn’t say she was mad at the boss, just asking what to do. Asking what to do doesn’t imply being mad.

        Reply
        1. Lemon Bars

          Mad is not the best wording I agree, I think op is more than upset at this point. There just seemed to be too much emphasis on what OP has done (owning her own PR firm, ideas used, carrying the flag for the team, explaining her boss was not replaced, that op is big picture and boss is not). I may be wrong but that stood out for me and all I could think was OP wanted that job.

          Reply
          1. AKchic

            Okay, but you can wave the flag all day long and still not be in charge. You can wave a flag all over the place and simply be telling people where to go because that’s what you’ve been told to do. However, this is slightly derailing and nitpicking, so I’m going to stop myself.

            Reply
    2. Lil Fidget

      I think I agree with this. It seems like the commenters are being a little hard on OP today, assuming that these ideas are half-baked or not very good or not practical. We don’t really know if there’s just quick things to implement (like “oh, maybe we should post photos of the new teapots to the instagram account!”). To me, it sounds like OP might be struggling to scale back their role under new management, and not really feeling valued. That could also be a symptom that it’s time to branch out, maybe reconsider being your own boss or otherwise switching it up.

      Reply
    3. Mr. Bob Dobalina

      I was reading between the lines also, and interpreted the situation similarly, but probably wouldn’t have used “resentful”. The OP thinks highly of herself and doesn’t feel valued by her new boss. But what OP is doing seems objectionable generally–I don’t know that many bosses would appreciate all those random emails.

      As soon as I read “while walking the dog”, I immediately thought, oh boy, it’s like that gal that I used to work with who would send tons of brief, random, poorly-worded, misspelled emails while driving in the car or sitting on the toilet or playing with the kids or in the grocery store check-out line. When I tried to gently discourage her from doing this, she explained that she just wanted to get the thought off her plate, because she might forget later. Ug! Not all thoughts need to be expressed in the moment. And I basically ended up telling her to stop the random (sitting-on-the-toilet half-baked) thoughts, and to take time to think things through, summarize issues, and communicate more effectively, during working hours.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        And if you need to get it out of your brain to make it real, that’s what the Notes app – or Evernote, or any of a dozen others – is for.

        Reply
      2. Dust Bunny

        Yeah, the “walking the dog” comment struck me, too.

        I had a coworker when I first started Current Job who had been there for years and thought very highly of herself and her ideas. Basically she tormented everyone with a stream of idea hit-and-runs, but never followed through. A very few of her ideas were picked up and implemented by other departments, but not many, and often not in their original form. I think basically the higher-ups didn’t want to deal with her and let her do this rather than fight it; I’m not sure how much positive feedback she actually got, or if what she did get was sincere and/or enthusiastic rather than simply polite boilerplate. She was exhausting, overbearing, and lacked perspective.

        Reply
      3. AKchic

        This. One of my bosses used to call and leave voicemail messages for me at all hours of the night. Until he accidentally called my cell phone and was upset that I answered my cell phone (I didn’t check the caller ID, I just knew it was a weekend and my phone was ringing at 2am so it was logical to think that a friend may need a designated driver ride). How dare I answer my personal cell phone when he wanted to leave a voicemail message for me to listen to Monday morning after I got to the office!
        So, he started emailing instead. I’d come in to work and by 8am I’d have at least 3-5 emails since 5pm waiting for me, bolded, highlighted, different fonts, colored, all for a variety of emphasis, on what he wanted done, some contradicting the previous emails, some to retract the contradicting emails. All because he needed to get the thoughts out immediately because otherwise he’d forget.

        Reply
    4. HumbleOnion

      I was wondering about the age dynamics here. The previous boss retired, so I assume she was in the OP’s age cohort. If the new boss is younger, perhaps the OP feels her years of experience are being disregarded.

      Reply
  29. Katie the Fed

    OP, you need to remember too that your boss is NEW. This type of thing can be exhausting in the first place, and when you’re new to a job it’s even more so because you’re busy trying to learn the lay of the land, get your footing, get to know your employees, etc. It takes probably 6-12 months to fully settle into a new job – that’s not usually the best time to start changing things up (unless you were specifically brought to change things). It’s REALLY frustrating to field a bunch of ideas for making changes when you’re brand new.

    Reply
  30. Lynn Whitehat

    This may not be fair, but the LW reminded me of my mother-in-law, who is always generating bright ideas for how I should be raising the boys, with not one thought to implementation. “You should get the boys calligraphy lessons! It would be so good for their fine-motor control!” I’m sure it would be, but:

    1) who even offers calligraphy lessons in the year of our Lord 2018? To children?
    2) what does it cost? (a lot, I bet)
    3) who is going to make them practice when they balk, which they surely will (not her!)
    4) what will they have to drop to make room for this in their schedules? what happens to the teammates etc they are thus letting down?

    And the next day it’s something else. Luckily I can get away with just nodding along, “yes, calligraphy would be good for their fine-motor control. Mm-hmm.” It would be terribly stressful if she needed in-depth follow-up on every idea.

    Reply
    1. AKchic

      oooh!
      I have answers to that specific question!

      Got a local renaissance fair troupe or Society for Creative Anachronism or Historical Recrudescence Guild? They would be the first place to look. I’m serious. Everyone has a craft/skill and almost all are willing to show it off. Also, historians.
      Tutoring isn’t as much as you’d think, especially if you join up with the SCA (SCA is mostly volunteer, but yeah, you do end up shelling out for your garb and accessories, which gets expensive).
      And practice? Psh – make it interesting. They are writing ransom notes to the kings and queens of far-off lands. Get them into cosplay!

      No, seriously – you don’t have to take any of her advice. I know how hard it is. I *know* calligraphy and have tried teaching my ungrateful turds and they *are* ren fair actors too. One is a bailiff for our town, he *needs* to be able to write. We’re a family of merchants/politicians. All of them should write. Naw. They prefer to lounge at the gaming house. Layabouts.

      Reply
      1. Loose Seal

        I know I’m days late catching up reading here but I wanted to let you know that I love everything about this comment!

        Reply
  31. Guacamole Bob

    OP, I work on a team that does a lot of brainstorming, research, big-idea thinking, etc., and this kind of off-the-cuff email to the boss would be way too much. We are one of several team that our boss is managing, and he needs to allocate his time appropriately. That means bringing ideas to him at regular check-in meetings, if they aren’t time-sensitive, instead of scattershot by email. It also means having a sense of “whether there’s a there there” before presenting ideas to him – doing a bit more background thinking and even a bit of research first. In my role that time is expected and allowed, though it sounds like your boss doesn’t want you spending your time branching out that way.

    But the main thing I wanted to mention is that we’re expected to run ideas by each other before we take them to the boss. That weeds out a lot of stuff that seemed good but actually wasn’t, or that has been tried before, etc. By the time ideas get to the boss, they have the support of the group, at least to some degree, and that gives him a bit more confidence and a bit more willingness to listen. Do you have peers you could hash out ideas with?

    Reply
  32. Nonsensical

    The world is full of people that have ideas. My question to you is do you actually finish these products?

    Does she actually need to sign off on them?

    An idea needs to be more than just an idea. Is it feasible, are you taking responsibility for it? Is it more work for someone else?

    Reply
  33. Falling Diphthong

    OP, I also have ideas while walking my dogs. So I identify with that part.

    But they aren’t ideas I then ask anyone about–I go home, give everyone snacks (the cats insist on being included), pull up my current project, and use my idea right then. Or occasionally I might make a note for later. What goes out to my boss is only the final product, not the interim steps I used to get there. Something that comes up on here at frequent intervals is that it’s not that hard to have ideas–what matters far more to other people is figuring out if they make sense to implement, coming up with a plan to do that, and then carrying through with that plan. I think you’d be better served by noting down the ideas for yourself as they occur, and then figuring out which make sense to develop on your own, and then propose in a rare email.

    Another question to ask is timing–I can come up with tons of better ideas about how to set up this chapter, but at the point where I’m writing it it’s way too late to bring them up. No matter how great they are, all they are useful for is suggestions at an early stage of the next project. Blue skying has its place, early in the project, but not once the foundation is laid and load-bearing walls are in place.

    Reply
    1. Alice

      I note that the OP is getting pushback in the comments for having half-baked ideas… But the letter suggests to me that her new boss thinks she’s spending too much time on the ideas, not too little.
      Frankly I think that a new boss should expect to explain her preferred workflow
      (make fewer suggestions and use this other modality) to her new staff, if it differs from that of the previous boss.

      Reply
      1. Dust Bunny

        Spending too much time on ideas in no way guarantees that they aren’t half-baked. It’s entirely possible to invest far too much time and energy into a pointless idea because you’re convinced you’re a creative whiz kid and surely this is the idea that will show your boss how brilliant you are.

        Reply
  34. Artemesia

    I was one of the idea people in my former job and my boss relied on me to generate ideas as well as be the bs detector for him. AND if I had dumped a dozen emails a week on him with ‘ideas’ it would have driven him nuts. My best idea (with a colleague) literally saved the organization and eventually generated 40% of our revenue; if I had dumped a dozen emails a week on him with ‘ideas’ it still would have driven him nuts and I am sure reduced my access and credibility.

    Almost any manager would find this incredibly annoying; your manager apparently didn’t have enough to do and enjoyed this (they didn’t replace him after all) but that is not something to expect from a new manager. And it is always prudent to feel your way with a new manager. I once tried to clue in a new manager to the culture and ‘the way we did things’ with only the intention to be helpful and it backfired on me in a big way as he felt I was trying to boss him around. I was used to a collaborative environment and my previous bosses appreciated this (and my subsequent immediate boss made me his ‘right hand’ person for many functions). But it was a huge misstep with this particular manager. He was unrelentingly hostile to me after that and only the political capital I had built up in the wider organization saved me.

    I would cool your jets here, have the conversation Alison suggests and listen to what the manager wants. And be sensitive to the fact that most managers don’t want the behavior you are describing. So the task is to either figure out how to contribute ideas in a way that will be heard (clue not with a firehose) or to think about a different job.

    Reply
    1. The New Wanderer

      That’s a really good point about credibility. You will have a much greater rep as a good ideas person if you propose a couple of Really Awesome Ideas that are really thought out and can be implemented with huge benefits. Conversely, you will have almost no rep as a good ideas person if you propose hundreds of what-ifs per week, even if a couple of those would have been Really Awesome Ideas, because very few people are going to wade through all that to maybe hopefully find the few good ones.

      Reply
  35. Indie

    My experience is that you have to stick to what the norms for brainstorming are in your industry. When I was a daily reporter, we had to come up with multiple ideas for each morning meeting, the editor would pick the best ones and then the rest of the day we were too busy getting those ideas done. Now that I’m in education, I’d have to carefully choose my times for suggesting changes to courses or teaching methods at key meeting days in the term. And I’d be expected to have done some research or even have a bit of a mini trial done to showcase it as more solid than just ‘an idea you might like’. I’m totally an ideas person and I get the absolute joy and specialness of it, but you have to prioritise what works for the style of task in the industry, not make it about having ideas-fun for personal gratification.
    Luckily the OP says brain-storming is genuinely beneficial; so I would take that tack with the boss and not the ‘because I want to’ approach.

    Reply
  36. Butter Makes Things Better

    OP, taking a look at what’s driving your need to share these ideas with your new boss and your attendant frustration may help. Because if you’re really just seeking an outlet for your creativity, it’s important to remember that *no one* can stop you from being creative. You can keep coming up with ideas and lists, etc. What they *can* stop you from doing is enlisting them in your creative process. And if that’s what’s bothering you, then it does sound like a “coins in the validation machine” scenario as described above. Otherwise, go forth and create!

    Reply
  37. Villanelle

    I would really like an update on this because it’s not only a different sort of question but also the ideas from comments are really helpful, thoughtful and interesting. My own suggestion has already been noted by others – instead of emailing your boss with the ideas, email yourself so the thought/idea doesn’t go away and there’s a record of it but you can compile them and then go through them to review at the end of the month for example.

    Reply
  38. Anonymeece

    OP, it sounds like you are a lovely person with some creative ideas, but as a manager, I can see how this would be exhausting. Additionally, if this manager is new, she may have other things on her plate!

    Definitely make it clear that these are not interfering with your work, and I like the idea of monthly ideas.

    But also, have you considered throwing your creativity into not just coming up with the ideas, but planning them? Maybe take three of your best ideas and really develop them: how would they work? What would you need? What’s a realistic timeframe? Presenting not just ideas, but plans, may dispose your manager to consider them more charitably.

    Reply
  39. Argh!

    Sounds like NewBoss doesn’t have a grip yet on managing employee workflow.

    If you have the kind of projects where you can log hours, you could mention whether you have free time and how much. My boss will nix something because she thinks it’ll be a “time suck” but then she’s nixed so many things I have time on my hands. After I point out things like that (she nixes my ideas for my supervisees too!) she will grudgingly agree that an idea not her own might be worth implementing.

    Oh, did I mention ego could be involved?

    Another approach would be to keep a running list of your ideas, and then when it seems obvious that work has slowed down or a problem needs to be solved, discuss some of the ideas with the boss at that time. Make it look like a problem to be solved rather than a way to distract yourself from your normal duties.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  40. Cat Herder

    OP, I hope you don’t feel discouraged by all the comments about how this is exhausting for your boss etc. Main point: check in with your boss to see what works best. That doesn’t mean “stop having ideas,” but rather, how to handle the idea-flow with this particular person.

    I know just how you feel, I get ideas about new projects or how to expand old projects or new ways to make processes more efficient, etc etc etc. Including for work areas that have nothing to do with my assigned functions. All the time. It’s who I am, and I would be really really unhappy if I were asked to turn it off completely.

    I had a great boss who gave all of us small blank books to write our ideas in, and then came around periodically to check in on us — and that was the time to talk about what we’d jotted in the book. So helpful, and I appreciated the encouragement of creativity. That boss doesn’t work here any more, but I still use the book. You could get yourself a blank book and do that.

    Reply
  41. Kiwi

    OP, I manage an overloaded department and my main thoughts in response to ideas are “how much department time will this suck up?” and “who else’s buy-in do we need for this and will we be able to get it?”

    If the idea-bringer has already thought about those factors, I’m much more likely to take up their idea. So I’d suggest finding out what your boss’s equivalent questions are and making sure you develop your ideas to that stage.

    Actually, I’d suggest waiting till your boss has been there at least 6 months before suggesting any significant changes. Otherwise your boss has to try and assess your ideas with no idea of the team history or politics. For all she knows, you suggested the same idea to your previous boss, got shot down for very good reasons and now are trying again with a new boss. Wait till she’s not in that position and you’ll likely get a much better reaction.

    Reply
    1. Kiwi

      And I agree with the other managers here that I’d find multiple ideas emails a week exhausting and demoralising. I just don’t have the bandwidth to assess that many ideas, it’d take me more than 5 min to do each idea justice, and I’d feel like someone who was constantly suggesting change was unhappy with their job, which’d be another problem for me to deal with.

      Reply
  42. The Other Katie

    From a purely pragmatic point of view, if you’re composing and sending multiple five-minute emails, plus 5-10 minutes for your boss to process them and reply, that’s a lot of time spent back and forth on ideas that may not have a lot to do with your primary role, and for what it sounds like may not be the best quality ideas in the first place. That is fine when you’re in a project in a development phase, where there is a lot of need for creativity and ideas directed to the project, but randomly spraying creativity around like silly string may not be a good use of your time or your boss’s.

    Reply
  43. DKMA

    The key dynamic here that I haven’t seen discussed much is that OPs idea generation combined with her former boss’s screening used to be effective, but that boss is gone. Your current boss is used to seeing only what made it past your former boss’s filter.

    OP I think you can continue to be a font of ideas, but before sharing any of them ask yourself whether your former boss have told “let’s discuss” or “hold off”. Hopefully you have a decent sense of which ideas are which, and err on the side of assuming more are “hold off”. For the “let’s discuss” ideas you should also try to do whatever next steps former boss had you do before sharing with new boss.

    Your new boss is going to be looking for people to take on some of the responsibilities that former boss used to take on. This also replies to your “day job”, I’m concerned that your project work might not be meeting your new bosses standards because you are not stepping up and doing the [insert whatever input your boss used to have on your work] before looping in new boss.

    Reply
  44. Susan K

    It seems to me that you need to do more of the work of editing your ideas. Ideas, and lists of ideas, don’t accomplish anything in themselves. You like to come up with all these ideas, but you want someone else (your manager) to do all the work of sorting through your bombardment of ideas, evaluating them, and deciding which ones to pursue. You may not enjoy the sorting part of it as much as coming up with one idea after another, but your current manager doesn’t seem to enjoy it, either, so if you want her to use your ideas, you need to take on that part of the process.

    I love to find better and more efficient ways of doing things, and I often think of ideas, but I don’t just send them all to my manager. When I have an idea, I enter it in my to-to list app (I have a whole category for this type of thing called “someday”). When I get the time, I research the idea — Is it possible? Is it practical? Are there significant benefits? Are there drawbacks that would outweigh the benefits? Has this been tried before? How would I implement this? Sometimes, I come to realize that an idea won’t work, and I delete it from my list, and nobody else ever knows I thought of it. When I do bring an idea to my manager, it’s only after I’ve thought it through and have some kind of proposal. I suspect that if you go through a process like this, you will eliminate a lot of ideas on your own, and your manager will be more receptive to the smaller number of well-thought-out ideas you bring to her.

    Reply
  45. Manatees are cool

    OP I think a good thing to do would be to write down your ideas in a notebook and either once a week or month send a few of the best ones in an email. To decide which ones to pick, you could figure out how those ideas would be beneficial and how they might be implemented.

    Reply
  46. Cathy Gale

    I feel like someone should also step in here and note that we might be assuming too much about what the OP does for work, what the norms are in the industry (great point, Indie!), and whether or not the five minute emails are actually the time-wasters that some commenters assume them to be.

    I’ve had a day job in technology for many years, and in the majority of my career I have worked with or for people who are extremely threatened by new ideas because of their perceived difficulty or irrelevance. I have also had many people apologize to me after initially telling me six months earlier “we don’t have time for that,” “that’s not important,” “that’s too hard,” “no one will go for it,” and then ask me if I can implement the idea I gave them months ago in ten minutes. Self-editing is not going to improve the acceptance of every idea, if you have actually done a needs assessment, and your client says, in 2017, “No, I don’t want to use this method. I want to keep using the software I’ve been using since the mid-1990s” (needless to say, software that now only works on Windows XP).

    Part of why I weigh in like this is that my husband recently was laid off from a position where his ideas were treated poorly by the head of the company. This person was very invested in the status quo, and pushed back on every suggestion my husband made. My husband’s ideas involved a) creating a very basic website with SquareSpace.com, b) a very basic social media presence, c) adding various Marketing 101 tasks (such as writing a media release), to d) get more business leads. What a wild and crazy guy!

    Long story short, before the company ran out of money last year (it had been a company doing millions in business for almost two decades), the CEO approached my husband and admitted he’d been to a business conference, in which every one of my husband’s ideas over the past three years had been described as pivotal to keeping a business alive and driving new sales. The CEO was amazed that the advice of the “kid” working for him had been repeated, word for word, at a conference he had spent thousands on. (BTW – my husband’s not a millennial, either, but the CEO seemingly only valued the thoughts of people who were the same age as him).

    Similarly, until recently, I worked for a grandboss who also had a lot invested in maintaining an old-fashioned “status quo”. She wasted the last two years avoiding even very basic methods of getting her team’s feet wet, in preparation for a major change in compliance practices. I’m just relieved I won’t be working there when the lawsuits happen.

    I think there’s some really amazing advice on this thread. The flip side is that sometimes, managers can be a little too prosaic or exhibit tunnel-vision, even if creative innovators in the company are good at “self-editing”, make sure their proposals are relevant, and take their time introducing new concepts.

    Reply
    1. Lyman for President

      I’m sure SOME of the ideas are really valuable. But, that doesn’t negate two big issues: a) the boss may not be ready to make changes before getting a fully handle on how things are currently handled AND b) how fleshed out/valuable are ideas that come 5 in a day?

      Suggesting having a social media presence is (in most cases) a good idea – but, it’s nearly impossible to have five of those good ideas every day. I think a lot of the commenters aren’t pushing back against the idea of change or making suggestions – in fact, Alison even said it would be a sign of a crappy manager who wasn’t open to ideas/changes, and this seems pretty well-echoed in the comments. What most people are saying is that if you are firing off five e-mails a day of ideas, how well thought out are they? Is the OP considering the practicalities or feasibility of every idea he comes up with?

      This something my former supervisor would tell young researchers: having a good idea for a research project is easy, but having a good idea for a research project that can be implemented and done well is VASTLY harder. Maybe the data isn’t available, and we don’t have the resources/means to collect it. Maybe it’s already been done and published. Maybe it’s too broad, and needs to be done on a much smaller scale to be feasible. Replace “research project idea” with “marketing idea”, and it’s just as valid. I used to carry around a notebook to write down all of my research project ideas, and 99% were scrapped when I took the time to consider the practicalities of the project.

      So, ideas and change are good! But, not every idea and change is good.

      Reply
  47. Happy Pirate

    I remember the letter from the new graduate who wanted to be employed as an ideas person. The naivety of the concept that ideas alone are of much value is reflected a little in this letter.

    Reply
  48. Lyman for President

    It’s worth considering that your boss may not be able to properly evaluate an idea just yet, OP. Your previous boss knew the role, the team, and its goals/work quite well – but, the new boss is just starting out with the team, and therefore probably isn’t ready to make changes because they haven’t fully gotten up to speed on how things currently work.

    I’ve been on the flip side of this: a new boss comes in and decides to make all sorts of new changes without fully understanding what they are changing. We called it “Squirrel Syndrome” because he was so distracted by all the shiny new ideas he had. It was hell, and within a year, the entire team had transferred to a new team or left the organization.

    Your boss is probably trying to get a grasp on how things work before considering any changes/new ideas. Don’t encourage Squirrel Syndrome!

    Reply
  49. Thankful for AAM

    If the old boss did not say stop, then I think we should all assume that the ideas were as well developed as old boss needed them to be and that they were valuable ideas.

    How would the answers here be different if we assumed that the OP had great ideas that were or could be completed by the OP with the resources on hand?

    The advice about the volume of the emails being overwhelming for the new manager is, I think, helpful.

    But I am amazed that generating ideas seems so outside the norm for so many people and that supervisors dont often think to say here is how to share ideas with me. I too find my brain comes up with lots of new ideas when I am doing routine things. I do send them to myself and triage them. But why do supervisors leave so much talent on the floor by not having part of work life be about brainstorming ideas? Maybe I just dont have enough to do at work but I am more sympathetic to the OP than most here sound to me.

    Reply
  50. Safetykats

    Yeah, there are two big problems here. First of all, the multiple emails a day. As a manager, I easily get around 100 emails a day. Most of these are just things that someone thinks I need to be copied on, but still – any email not about current work just takes my time away from current work. I think most working level employees have no idea how many emails their manager is dealing with in a day.

    Second, this feels a lot like upwards delegation. I have an awesome idea – so I’m going to run it up the chain and expect someone else to do something about it – and at someone would be my manager. That’s not okay. The best employees are the ones that are always working on the principle that their job is to make less work for their manager, not more. It sounds like OP is working on exactly the opposite principle.

    I agree with the posters who have pointed out that it’s not possible that all these many, many ideas are value added AND actionable. I think OP needs to write this stuff down without sending it, and maybe collect it a month at a time, and then pick the two most actionable and value added ideas – ensuring that both ideas fit into the core mission of her group and can be accomplished with existing resources – and forward those only. If nothing else, this not only gets OP out of her boss’ hair on a daily basis, but also provides a valuable lesson in how to determine what ideas might really be practicable and of value.

    Reply
  51. Fieldpoppy

    I have empathy with the LW for wanting to feel like they’re in a mutually creative relationship — but I also feel so strongly the boss’ desire to stem the flow. I’m the director of an all volunteer charitable project and we have a committee that runs our major annual fundraiser. Every year there is at least one Idea! guy! Full of Creative ideas that would take hours and hours to do with little payoff. The most common one is “we should make a video”! Sure, it’s easy to shoot footage but who will spend hours and hours editing it, and what will we get out of it? We need people to get sponsorships and arrange for sandwiches and route maps and recruitment and find the best prices for bike jerseys, not produce a negligibly useful video.

    It’s really hard to keep quelling the enthusiasm of the volunteers and it feels awkward and crappy to keep saying “we have tried that before/ we thought of that before” — it makes people feel not useful. But they are never volunteering to MAKE the video, lol.

    We finally made a rule that the person who comes up with the idea has to implement it. No more video ideas but we also lost volunteers.

    My advice is always to look at the context and think about what’s actually useful to the group or team for its needs today. That’s where you demonstrate true value.

    Reply
  52. The Letter Writer

    Hi,
    I wrote the letter. I have been working in PR/comms for 40 years. When my group was folded into the second group, I was given additional responsibilities by VP of both groups, including for strategy and adding new services to my old group. My suggestions are for my own work; I write detailed plans for execution; I launch these projects. I have been acknowledged by the corporation for the development and launch of a major two-year project — and have been consulted by other departments on how I did it.
    You comments have been very helpful on communicating with someone of a different temperament and approach, and understanding the culture of our new merged group.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. The Letter Writer

      Also as to “How would the answers here be different if we assumed that the OP had great ideas that were or could be completed by the OP with the resources on hand?”

      The answer to this question is “Yes.”

      Reply
      1. Required Name

        LW — I’m confused a little by your letter and this response, so others may be, too.

        In your comment, you mention that you develop strategies for your ideas. If that’s the case, what purpose do the multiple daily emails serve for you? You likely can’t write a strategy in 5 minutes while walking your dog, so these ideas don’t sounds like end products for your boss. She may expect more autonomy from someone tasked with strategy dev.

        Secondly, I feel like I’m hearing two messages — you think it’s your job to think of these ideas (strategy and new service development), but your boss is told you to hold off. Why do you think there is a gap?

        Your boss was in the dark on assigned tasks (or else she wouldn’t have asked about something finished) while you’re shooting her multiple emails about unsolicited ideas unrelated to your active projects. That’s a problem that has nothing to do with big-picture thinking vs. process-oriented thinking, or temperament.

        Reply
    2. run with it

      It sounds like you’re having brainstorms about how to approach your own work, and that moving forward doesn’t require much buy-in or resources outside your team. What purpose is served by running these ideas by your boss? Do you need her sign-off, or guidance on priorities? Do you want her judgment about whether A or B is the way to go? Could you just move forward and update her on milestones/results? Since you do good work, maybe you should try operating more autonomously for a bit and see how it goes. (Do loop her in, so she doesn’t worry about the sudden switch.)

      If you’re looking for that extra spark that puts some ideas over the line from good to great, maybe hashing things out with a teammate would serve.

      Reply
  53. A reader writers

    Hi,
    I wrote the letter. I have been working in PR/comms for 40 years. When my group was folded into the second group, I was given additional responsibilities by VP of both groups, including for strategy and adding new services to my old group. My suggestions are for my own work; I write detailed plans for execution; I launch these projects. I have been acknowledged by the corporation for the development and launch of a major two-year project — and have been consulted by other departments on how I did it.
    You comments have been very helpful on communicating with someone of a different temperament and approach, and understanding the culture of our new merged group.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  54. The Letter Writer

    Also, I have asked new boss multiple times how she would prefer that I communicate with her. She says my reports, emails, etc are fine. It’s confusing.

    Reply
    1. DKMA

      Hi OP, I’m glad you replied. One thing that I mentioned up-thread is that your new boss is used to seeing your work after you collaborate and filter through your old boss. With that layer gone, there will be a bit of a dance where everyone figures out what pieces of that job get done by whom.

      I can’t say exactly what sort of role your old boss played for you, but if you take on more of it yourself it will probably help in working with your new boss. I’d also consider asking him about your core projects – it may be that new boss is used to getting things with more polish, or more clear summary of what input he needs to provide, or clearer highlights of results, etc. and that’s why he’s concerned about you spending time on side ideas.

      It could also just be that he’s busy and wants less frequent updates. It may be more effective to send only the ideas you are ready to execute on now with a “Hey, I’m going to do X, that OK?” rather than prepping him with the ideas ahead of time.

      Reply
  55. Rachel

    I agree with the comment she how exhausting this is. I also wonder if OP is stepping on the bosses’s toes. Being new to the role, the boss may want to implement their own ideas in their new role. That’s how I felt when I finally got my manager role and it’s my time to show why I was a perfect fit for the role without upstarts under my feet.

    Reply
  56. Allonge

    Hi OP,
    this may be a bit too late for you to see it; that said, I am in a way in the reverse situation from you, so it might be helpful.
    For me, it is my new boss who is the idea person. She is new to our company, and was expressly hired so we can revamp our activities in X field. So ideas are good!
    That said, lots of ideas come with some negatives. The “ideas are cheap” aspect has been covered already above, so I will mention others.
    Lots of ideas from our boss mean that nobody is listening to ideas from the team, including her. This is pretty demoralising, whether or not you are a creative person. Could it be that your boss thinks you take too much time to shine and others in your team don’t get a chance?
    I have an excellent memory and good organisation systems, so I remember every idea I hear from her. She is not clear on which ones we will be implementing, also has no recall. She has praised me for coming up with an excellent idea, when I was implementing hers! Is it possible you repeat things? “I have heard this already” gets old very fast.
    If all ideas are about your own work, does she really need to know about them, on hte spot, immediately? I am plenty creative, but my boss is in the dark about 70% of what I do on any particular day; she would not have the time, nor the energy to pat me on the back for every good solution of whatever comes my way. I go to her with ideas that need her authorisation or impact others in the company. But that is possible because we share an understanding of what is my job and she trusts me to do it. I can tout my own horn after something is done, if I want to. Can you come up with a different way of showing off your work? Creativity shines in the finished product, it is not just an in-the-moment thing.
    Also, a comment on black-and-white / linear thinking. As my boss is the creative person, I was forced into the role of “boring”, we cannot do this as there is no budget, what about the other 20 things we said we would do, etc. It is not fun! It’s ike being boring old mum, instead of fun aunt.
    Last, as you mention being in PR / comms. My sample size is tiny, but I have worked with several communications people now. For every one of them, “plan” meant something completely different from our general understanding of it in the company. From where the rest of us are sitting, there is no such thing as a plan that you can write in 5 minutes (ok, a plan on what I will have for dinner, yes). So this may or may not be a general communications (ha!) barrier, but is certainly a major misunderstanding at our place.

    Reply

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