The world, as I see it, is divided into two types of people: talkers and listeners. Talkers are more common but listeners are tough to find.

Today, the world needs listeners more than ever before with the pandemic turning our lives upside down. It’s been more than four months since the coronavirus pandemic outbreak but we are still struggling to make sense of our lives. Fear and confusion reign as people worry about staying safe and their jobs.

For employees, particularly, the tough times are only getting tougher. Job insecurity looms large; WFH has started losing its sheen; Zoom fatigue has taken over; sales targets are being missed; work pressure keeps increasing; and above all, there’s the anxiety that the virus will get you as you rejoin work. 

Employers and senior management face a huge challenge. Under the circumstances, it’s important for them to lend an ear to their employees. They should listen deeply and understand their concerns. Empathy plays a significant role. Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft, said that empathy is a muscle that needs to be exercised. And what better time than now. 

Empathy, Authenticity, and Respect—the three qualities in the Harappa EAR of Listening framework in the Listening Actively course—are the cornerstones of active listening. Without them, you cannot become an active and engaged listener. 

Often, empathy is confused with sympathy. Unlike sympathy, which is a surface-level response, empathy requires you to put yourself in another’s shoes and show real concern. So, if a hard-working employee doesn’t complete a project on time or fails to meet a sales target, try to understand why this is happening. Losing your temper or making a snap judgment about the employee will not help. For all you know, the employee is overburdened with housework and taking care of elderly parents. 

It pays to invest time and effort to understand your employee’s concerns, to read the unsaid, and connect at a deeper level. Team leads can call up their team members and ask if all is well. Have a casual chat, not work-related, and find out if anything is bothering them. Ask questions, gently nudge a team member to open up, and show a genuine interest in what they say. Being authentic makes the listener more involved, and the speaker relaxed. 

Don’t curtly dismiss a suggestion or cut short a conversation. Or hijack the conversation. Being respectful towards your team members is important to instill confidence in them. This will make them comfortable enough to seek you out any time they face a problem. As an active listener, you will open up the channels of communication which will lead to deeper employee engagement and higher productivity. 

It may seem easier said than done, especially when businesses are bleeding and revenues are dwindling, but as a leader, it’s your responsibility to hold your employees close to you. To be their safety net. To make them feel wanted. To make them trust you. And for that, you have to listen with empathy, authenticity, and respect. 

Check out the online listening course, Listening Actively, from Harappa Education and upgrade your listening skills. Develop your skills with our Online Learning Courses today!

Meenakshi Kumar is a consultant at Harappa Education. A former journalist, she is now discovering an entire new world of good habits

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