When Leaders Don’t Listen: Listening Skills Become Employers’ Top Priority

Most of us are familiar with the phrase, “people leave bosses, not companies.” And that’s not an overstatement. Leadership by fear has become all too common in our workforce – a stereotype that’s almost too normalized that we think it’s acceptable for leaders to practice fear-based motivational tactics (we have an entirely separate blog about that here). Yet, sometimes, the worst bosses to have aren’t even the ones that are mean and yell at you – it’s those who don’t listen.

It Affects Employee Loyalty

Imagine plucking up the courage to tell your manager that you’re feeling burned out, only to be told “you’ll get over it.” Pep talks are nice to have for a quick boost of morale. However, no business goes far when it’s all talk and no action. Unfortunate but not uncommon, leaders would preach about emotional intelligence and two-way transparency, then choose to dismiss their employees’ concerns, ideas, and opinions. While it’s true that the vast majority of people work to earn a living, at the same time, loyalty isn’t free either – it needs to be earned.

A New Focus on Listening Skills

Everyone was born with the ability to listen but not all of us practice it. As natural of a human behavior as it seems, survey finds that only 23% of employees received constructive response from leaders when they shared their work problems with them; 17% said their leaders never responded.

These are just horrible numbers. Though advances in technology and automation may mean certain human hard skills are getting replaced, we must not underestimate the power of the people factor in the workforce. As a matter of fact, 74% of employers consider listening skills the most in-demand soft skill they now look for in a candidate, followed by attention to detail and effective communication.

How HR Can Help

Listening well is important, not just because it is key to keeping employees happy and engaged, but also to spot issues and gather insights that you may not have been able to notice alone. Here are some effective ways to kickstart a conversation with your employees:

  • 360 Degree Feedback: People who are placed in leadership roles are usually well acquainted with the ins and outs of the company. However, experience alone doesn’t always make a good leader. The 360-degree approach of performance appraisal gathers feedback and evaluation for any member of an organization from their subordinates, colleagues, supervisors, and even customers if necessary. This helps not only with personal leadership development, but also the strengthening of teamwork and accountability.
  • Exit Interviews: Before sending your employee off, consider conducting an exit interview. With less pressure on a departing employee to “look good” in front of their manager, you may gain new insights on management and specific work funnels that would have otherwise been difficult to gather through current working members.

People are hired to do the job, of course. But when an employee is sharing a problem with you, they need to be heard and not ignored. Because at the end of the day, they’re the ones providing their skills and experience to keep your business afloat.