Why Managers Must Actively Listen To Their Workers

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The World Economic Forum has announced what it thinks is the most needed skill in today’s “ambivalent, cynical and disempowered” workforce—generous listening.

In a published article, the WEF wrote, “If there is one crucial thing that the ‘Great Resignation’ or the even more recent ‘Quiet Quitting’ trend has taught us, it is that we, as leaders, have failed to listen generously to our employees.” The organization recommends that leaders “listen generously,” be fully present, and not interrupt and set aside any prejudices and biases to ensure that employees are engaged, dedicated and committed, leading to meaningful interactions.

Empathetic leaders need to actively listen to their team, absorb their feedback and constructive criticism and take appropriate action. This can include offering an array of employee-friendly work choices. Forward-thinking, progressive leaders, hearing the needs of workers, may provide psychological safety, express gratitude and appreciation and ensure a balance of work and life. Based on micro-surveys and studies, leadership should provide employees with the flexibility and autonomy to decide where and when they can do their best work. Additionally, businesses have to pay their people what they deserve. By taking care of their staff, employees will feel engaged and happier.

Bad Things Happen When Bosses Don’t Hear What Their Team Is Saying

Open conversations with the boss could lead to new initiatives, such as allowing staff to choose their work preferences, including remote, hybrid or full-time in-office options. They could also permit employees to work as digital nomads, residing anywhere they so choose. If a person works in a high-cost city, such as San Francisco or New York, they could be allowed to relocate to lower-cost locations to save money while maintaining the same salary.

Without listening, a supervisor may assume a person wants to work remotely. Instead of being elated, the worker might be stressed out over having to navigate all the technology alone, feel left out and isolated from the office conversation and suffer from overworking to ensure their remote contributions are noticed.

This disconnect could be avoided by regularly sending out small surveys to learn what will make people feel happier and engaged in their jobs. Based on the responses, leaders must encourage full transparency between managers and workers.

When bosses don’t clearly flesh out a person’s job requirements, overload them with too much work, are unclear about what success in the role looks like, show distrust, neglect to offer meaningful feedback and treat them as merely cogs in the machine, that all could lead to laying the groundwork for creating a malcontented, disgruntled employee.

Left unnoticed, the person could suffer from exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated. They’ll feel depleted. Then, you’ll start to see signs of cynicism. The staffer starts gossiping, talking about the boss behind their back, snaps at co-workers and is rude to customers. Their actions will become more toxic and contaminate everyone around them.

Some managers are great, while others don’t treat workers like human beings. Some workers are systemically harassed, micro-managed and subjected to abusive behavior. These employees become disengaged. When the boss doesn’t offer any path for growth and development and the employees’ ideas and input are ignored, they feel worthless. Despondently, they believe their job is going nowhere and either quit or actively seek another opportunity.

Maybe 2023 will be the year that employers will finally actively listen to their workers. A worker, Madi McKenzie, took to TikTok to blast her boss for making her pay $47,000 before she could leave the company. At first blush, the manager appears to be bullying her into this payment.

Upon further review of the story, McKenzie relocated after accepting the job, which was around five hours away from where she originally lived. The relocation costs incurred, along with a sign-on bonus, amounted to nearly $50,000.

It’s standard procedure for firms to offer various incentives to recruit employees, but there is a catch. Stock, 401(k) type investments that have met the vesting schedule, sign-on bonuses and relocation costs can be clawed back as the offer letter requires a person to remain for a certain length of time. Mckenzie’s financial nightmare could have been avoided if her company had clearly walked her through the relocation and sign-on bonus contracts.



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