Your idea (you know, the one that you were convinced was genius) was just shot down by your boss, and you feel like you could react in one of three ways:
Pretend you were only joking and then make a bunch of unconvincing, self-deprecating remarks about what a terrible suggestion that was.
Act as if you have a super urgent commitment you forgot about, high-tail it out of that meeting, and then make your best effort to avoid your manager for the duration of your career.
Immediately burst into tears.
Or, if you want to be a real over-achiever, you could do none of those things and instead use one of these career-boosting phrases to bounce back from that rejection even better than before.
1. “How Do You Think This Could Be Improved?”
Your boss gave you that dreaded, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Well, that’s the end of the road, right? It’s time to drop that idea entirely and slink away with whatever shred of dignity you have left.
True—you don’t want to get into a heated debate with your supervisor about why your suggestion does indeed have some merit. However, that doesn’t mean you need to just accept rejection at face value.
In fact, leaders appreciate when their direct reports are willing to ask the tough questions and get clarification on which aspects of their ideas (if any!) are worth exploring.
Not only does this encourage a productive conversation (which usually brings some other helpful insights to light!), but it also proves that you’re willing to utilize that feedback to make improvements moving forward.
Taking the extra step to get that added input means you’ll be able to pitch a more solid recommendation next time around—which, ultimately, is your boss’ goal. He or she wants you to be successful.
2. “I’ll See What Else I Can Come Up With”
What inspired you to brainstorm that new method anyway? Chances are, you came up with it in order to solve a problem—a problem that very well might still need to be addressed.
Responding to your manager with a statement like this one proves that you aren’t just going to roll over in the face of defeat. You don’t accept one rejection as your “get out of jail free” card to stop thinking and innovating altogether.
So, after you’ve asked your boss for some additional feedback about why your idea didn’t work as is (remember, that above question is great for that!), explicitly tell your supervisor that you’re going to take that information back to the drawing board and come up with something even better.
Resilience and persistence are really admirable (and career-boosting!) qualities in any employee.
3. “Thanks for the Consideration and Feedback”
There are those times when you just know your idea needs to be dropped—that you’ll never convince your boss that Fridays should be office-wide pajama days or that the break room vending machine should serve Gardetto’s exclusively. Not every suggestion deserves the same amount of pushback.
So, if your supervisor has shot down your recommendation and you just want to leave it at that, a short response like this one is a good one to lean on.
It’s polite, professional, and gracious. Even if you won’t be pursuing that plan any further, letting your manager know that you appreciate her even thinking it over is an effective way to move on from that failed suggestion with your reputation and relationship intact.
Not having your ideas met with resounding praise and applause can be a bit of a brutal slap in the face. But, as with so many things in your career, it’s not always about what happens—it’s about how you react to it.
So, the next time your boss shoots down your suggestion, resist the urge to suddenly fake a mysterious illness and instead implement one (or a combination of) these three phrases to bounce back—with no spontaneous crying required.