How to convince coworkers to support your ideas at work
When you have an idea that may help your company grow or solve a problem, one of the biggest challenges stopping you from doing it is getting other people on board. Coworkers may be hesitant to support a new idea, but getting people on your side is necessary to get a great idea off the ground. Even if it’s something you could do alone, you’ll need support and buy-in from your manager to spend time on your idea. How to convince them, though, is another question.
Companies operate with a lot of different moving parts and people. That means that you need to convince people to support your ideas before you can get things done. If that’s new or scary to you, don’t worry – we’ve compiled the best ways to convince someone to support an idea you have at work.
5 – Use facts and figures
One of the easiest ways to convince someone that your idea will work is to use facts and figures. This is especially true in the business world, where metrics usually rule above all else. If you’re wondering how to convince someone to realize your idea has potential, try to put numbers behind it. That way, you change the conversation from being about you to being about your idea, giving it a better chance of success.
Whenever you use facts and figures, they should be connected to cost-benefit analysis.
For example, let’s say you have an idea that you think will make salespeople more productive. You believe that they need a new process for reaching out to potential clients that will lead to more closed deals. Instead of just describing it generally, put numbers behind it. You have an idea that, if done well, should increase sales by X percent.
Once you’ve explained the benefit – an increase in sales – put numbers behind the costs. In the sales example, that might be time to train the salespeople on the new process. So you could say that the training would take X amount of time to train people but it will help salespeople increase sales by X percent, leading to more revenue.
New ideas often fail because they are not seen as realistic. By explaining the numbers for both the benefit you will get and how easy you can make implementation, you’re more likely to get support for your idea.
4 – Make it personal
A lot of the time, people are hesitant to support new ideas, but facts and figures aren’t enough. Some people don’t support new ideas because they aren’t sure how it helps them personally. If they don’t see some personal gain from the idea, they may be reluctant to support it – even if it’s a good idea.
If you’ve got a coworker who sees that you have a good idea but still won’t support it after seeing facts and figures, try making it personal. Show the person what’s in it for them. Demonstrate how the idea will actually make their lives better as well.
Depending on the person, there could be a lot of possible outcomes that offer benefit. A few are:
- They look good by supporting you
- Their department or job gets better because of your idea
- They personally profit or gain something
- They save time or money if the idea works
For example, say you have an idea for a new meeting style. The main benefit you see is that meetings will be shorter and more efficient. If you’re talking to someone who wants to see what’s in it for them, “meetings will be more efficient” doesn’t sound personal enough. Instead, reframe it to make it about them. It’s not that meetings are more efficient, it’s that they don’t have to waste their time in useless meetings. If you can link this to a specific example, such as showing them how they would never have a 4:30 pm meeting run late again, that makes it even more powerful.
When you show someone what they stand to gain personally by supporting you, it’s easier to bring them over to your side. Just make sure you aren’t lying or stretching the truth to win their support. While you may get it in the short-term if you lie, you will lose their trust in the long-run and potentially become known as a liar in the workplace.
Always be honest and reframe the benefits to show how they help on a personal level. And if you need them to do something in order to get that benefit, say so. People are often more willing to help out if they get personal benefit in return.
3 – Leverage positive emotions
When you see a new idea at work, it’s human nature to wonder what other people think about it. This social effect is so strong that some people won’t support an idea unless they see other people supporting it. Often called the “bandwagon effect,” people want to feel like they are part of a group.
Bandwagon effects happen in nearly any group setting, and workplaces are no different. So if you want people to support your idea, you have to develop momentum of other people already supporting your idea.
One way to do this is to leverage positive emotions to create excitement in people so they are more willing to step up and say they support the idea. The first step to creating excitement for your idea is that you show excitement yourself. If the idea will help people be more efficient, show how great it is that people save time, money, or whatever other benefits may come from your idea. If the idea helps the company do more, talk about the amazing sense of accomplishment everyone will feel (not to mention getting the credit for a job well done).
You want to be careful to not get too excited – it’s just an idea, after all. But if you want people to support you, positive emotions will help get people to your side. A study by Michigan State University even found that emotions can be contagious, so your positivity may influence other people to be more positive about your ideas.
2 – Use negative emotions
Some people don’t respond to excitement. This can be especially true in a business setting, where ideas about efficiency or profit margins don’t necessarily drum up exciting thoughts. When you have a new idea, it can be difficult to talk about all the positives. Bluntly, many ideas to improve the workplace sound very boring when initially described. If you’re in a position where your idea is “boring” but still really good for your company, try describing it using negative emotions instead of positive ones.
Since all ideas are created to solve a problem, focus on how bad the problem is and how people have to solve it (or else).
For example, if you have an idea that will make cross-department communication more efficient, don’t talk about the wonders of collaboration. Instead, talk about how annoying it is when you have to get information from a different department at work. Talk about how people can’t get their work done properly – but they still have pressure from managers to do it. Explain the wasted time. Or the boring meetings that go on forever but accomplish nothing. You can even talk about all the back-and-forth on email that’s completely unnecessary.
When you make people really feel the pain of the problem, they are more likely to want to solve it. At that time, you can pitch your solution. If you can make the problem feel painful enough, people will be more likely to support you and your ideas.
If you go down this path, be sure to keep it professional. Talking about challenges is one thing, but you don’t want to be perceived as whiny. Always make sure you’re up front that you have a solution in place. If you’re going to give a presentation of this style, it may be good to get feedback from a coworker or your manager ahead of time. That way they can help you identify if you’re coming off as whiny instead of solution-oriented. Don’t be afraid to talk about the problem, but always make sure you’re focusing on how you can solve the problem.
1 – Create a win-win situation
If you’re looking for a specific person’s support – for example, your manager or the CEO – making it personal may not be appropriate. If you get too personal, they may back off and think that you’re playing office politics and just trying to get ahead. Or maybe you’re trying to convince a coworker to champion your idea but you genuinely can’t make it personal with them because your idea doesn’t connect to their work.
In cases where making it personal isn’t an option, look to make a win-win.
For example, you may have an idea for a new process that helps the HR team to recruit more effectively. That’s a great benefit by itself, but it may not be enough for the executive team to support it. In that case, look at what other problems your idea may solve. Perhaps the process you want to develop for recruiting may also help the HR team train hiring managers, which could be a valuable thing for every manager in the company. Or the process could be tested in HR but expanded to every department. That way you have more potential champions for your idea – and you still get the benefit you were looking for.
If you can show how your idea solves other problems too (or can be expanded to solve other problems), you create a multi-faceted solution. This can be especially impactful in larger organizations that need many people operating on the same systems. Or it can help in small startups where no processes exist.
Making a win-win is about more than solving a specific person’s problems or showing them how they benefit. It’s about showing your solution is not just a symptom fix, but a broader solution. It doesn’t need to start this way, but by describing the future potential for expansion you show that you are thinking company-wide, a great way to get more support for your ideas.