My Two Cents: How to Make Suggestions at Work When You're a Peon

"State your solution in measurable terms," Walling said. Think percentage increase in sales, number of additional customers served or hours saved each week.

"Managers have to think in terms of defensible numbers," he explained. "If you help do their work, your ideas will be more readily received."

That's what Atlanta retail marketing professional Gary Unger did.

When he realized the spreadsheet his department was using to track product distribution was far more labor-intensive than it needed to be, he redesigned the template in his spare time.

"Everybody was afraid to change it because it's quote, unquote 'not the system,'" Unger said.

That is, until he showed his boss how his new and improved template could save each member of the team at least two hours a day in data-entry work -- time they could now use to chase down new customers.

"My boss immediately saw the benefit to it," Unger said. "He went ahead and showed it to all the supervisors in the southeast region and they all loved it because they saw it could free up some labor hours."

Spearheading the Initiative

Of course, not all workplace bottlenecks have such a pat solution. Chances are the change you want to implement will require the assistance of your coworkers and several weeks or months of development.

So what's your next step? Once you have the supporting evidence in hand, set up a meeting with your boss.

"Don't do it in passing or in the hallway," said Jon Gordon, business consultant and author of "The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work."

Instead, Gordon said, "Make it professional -- even if it takes you presenting a four- or five-slide PowerPoint." At the very least, he said, write a one-page overview of your suggestion and your plan for implementing it.

Before your meeting with the boss rolls around, ask any coworkers whose help you want on the project whether they'd be interested in participating should the boss give you the go-ahead. That way, you approach the boss with some of the necessary resources for your project already in place.

Finally, be prepared to lead the initiative from start to finish.

"If it's not something that you want to take on, then you are better off leaving it alone," Gordon said. "Because then if the boss says, 'I love the idea. Do you want to lead it up?' now it sounds silly if you don't want to."

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michelle Goodman is a freelance journalist, author and former cubicle dweller. Her books — "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube" -- offer an irreverent take on the traditional career guide. More tips on career change, flex work and the freelance life can be found on her blog, Anti9to5Guide.com.

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