It’s easy to spot a company that is suffering from low employee morale. In such workplaces, something always feels a little off.
Employees may openly complain about their managers, rush to get home halfway through the day, accumulate increased tardiness and absences, and even neglect the quality of their work. When we look around the workplace, everyone is tired, unsatisfied, and unhappy.
Employee morale touches upon several factors of work, such as employee productivity, happiness at work, and employee retention. When morale is low, everything else decreases. This leaves the company in a vulnerable state as they run the risk of losing employees.
How can an organization bring the morale back up? There are several ways to do so, but one particular method is as simple as listening.
Active listening is a communication tool where the listener uses all their senses to fully absorb what the speaker is saying. As opposed to just passively hearing the information, the listener pays close attention to details and reciprocates through verbal and non-verbal cues.
More than that, active listening is also an art that requires discipline and self-control. According to James Cull, you should encourage speakers to take up 70% of the conversation and limit yourself to 30%.
When done well, active listening can avoid misunderstandings, resolve conflicts, build trust, and inspire employees to speak up. Eventually all these lead to employee satisfaction, which in turn lowers employee turnover and boosts employee morale.
But more importantly, when a manager listens to their employees, their employees are also more likely to listen to them. It creates a stronger and more trusting relationship between both parties.
To become an effective listener, an employer must observe the key components of active listening. Below we share five ways for employers to do just that.
Establish an Open-Door Policy
Four in five employees have good ideas for improving the business. However, 34% feel that their employers don’t want to listen to them. A survey shows that 42% of junior-level workers are afraid to bring their ideas or concerns to management. Meanwhile, one poll says that 38% of employees feel demotivated when their employers shut down their ideas without entertaining them.
A lack of motivation or input alienates an employee. As such, they are likely to seek other organizations that can put their talents and skills to better use.
To avoid that, employers should establish from the get-go that they are open to receiving feedback or suggestions from employees. Establishing an open-door policy is a great way to reinforce this and encourage employees to speak up and share ideas.
Once an open-door policy is set, employers should also follow through with their promise and be ready to hear both good and bad responses. Allowing employees to express their ideas further encourages them to work harder.
In this age of technology, we often catch ourselves checking our phones or posting last-minute status updates. Despite this more connected world, the era of smartphones ironically creates a disconnect between speaker and listener.
This is most apparent when communication is personal or face-to-face. Nobody will open up to a boss who can’t be bothered to keep off their phones. This instead makes an employee feel alone and maybe even build resentment.
Active listening requires the listener’s full focus. When employees want to talk, managers should find a spot where they could discuss an issue with undivided attention. Knowing that an employer fully listens is another way to increase work motivation.
Let Them Speak
When engaging in active listening, an employer should focus on the speaker and their message. As such, they must also resist the natural urge to interrupt or have the last word.
Interrupting often translates to impatience. In most cases, interrupting the speaker limits the listener’s understanding of their perspective. Sometimes, it could even lead to arguments, which is what active listening is trying to avoid.
In this case, there must be a promise to keep an open mind. That means no rushing to any judgement while the employee is talking—and even after they have finished speaking.
This step may be difficult for some managers, but here’s one exercise to develop the habit: jot down some of the points that they want to raise and formulate a response halfway through the discussion.
The rule is to refrain from jumping in before the speaker has finished speaking. It’s important to bring up points only when it’s the employer’s time to talk. Allowing an employee to express themselves freely builds trust and improves satisfaction in the workplace.
Use Body Language
Our body language shows how much we pay attention to a discussion. The advice to follow is the most basic one: face the speaker and make eye contact. The listener should sit or stand in an open position with their body turned towards the speaker.
Nonverbal cues further show reciprocation. For one, nodding the head shows understanding. Interjections, like “Uh-huh”, or “I see”, are acknowledgements that don’t necessarily demonstrate assent or interrupt. These appropriate techniques demonstrate that the listener can still follow the speaker’s train of thought without cutting them off.
Another way to demonstrate active listening is through automatic reflection or mirroring facial expressions. When listeners reflect the speaker’s expressions, especially in emotional discussions, it shows sympathy and empathy.
When managers pay attention to these simple details, employees feel welcomed and understood.
In their own words, the listener should try to repeat what the speaker said, summarizing what they understood. This allows the speaker to hear how others perceive their words, eventually gaining a deeper understanding of themselves.
Showing an effort to understand employees empowers them to drive the discussion further.
Rephrasing and reflecting on what the speaker said also shows comprehension. It demonstrates that the listener has understood the information and that they are willing to clarify any vague points. In the future, such information could even find itself in good hands.
Creating a thoughtful response is also an important part of active listening. When doing so, the employer ideally provides candid feedback in the most respectful way possible. Ask questions and clarify where necessary.
Should there be any conflict, the response should focus solely on the points discussed and remain objective.
Now, if the discussion can potentially impact the company, the manager must take the necessary steps to put it to good use. When a company shows that it values an employee’s ideas to such extent, employees become more productive and inspired to exact positive change within the workplace.
Active Listening is a Leadership Skill
Some managers like to talk, while others take pride in providing feedback. However, the most effective managers listen. Surprisingly, not a lot of leaders have developed this ability.
Listening is a key leadership skill and responsibility that can be developed and improved. It allows people to change their perspectives about themselves and others. It also opens them up to other people’s values and philosophies, and even welcomes others to influence their own.
More than that, when employees know that their employers are willing to listen to them, they become more emotionally mature, less defensive, and more inclusive.