Listening and Productivity

Feeling remote and invisible

During the pandemic, I’ve had a lot of questions from people about feeling invisible.

Even though we are working remotely, people still care deeply about advancing their careers and being recognized for their hard work. They are stressed by this.

Managers ask me how to stay better connected, and keep their teams motivated when everyone is burned out from video calls. They are also stressed by this.

The answer. Be more deliberate about listening to people. 1-1. Real listening. “What do you think?” , “What do you care about?” — Real, human, unstructured conversation kind of listening.

A study on listening

I am reminded of an article I read a long time ago. I can’t find the specific source anymore, but there was a study which took two groups of people and asked them to present on a topic for 5 minutes.

For the first group of presenters, they advised the audience to listen: to be very engaged, attentive, responsive, and to smile and ask questions.

For the second group of presenters, they advised the audience not to listen: To act distracted, bored, to not engage at all, and to not pay attention or ask questions.

Then they asked both groups of presenters to share a word that described how they felt.

Listened to

The group who was listened to listed words like:


Not listened to

The group of people who were not listened to listed words like:

Shut down

For years, I have not been able to forget about this article.

Listening and Productivity

This is not a subtle difference.

Which group of employees would be more productive?

It can be easy not to treat listening as an action item. The danger of that is that you’ll have groups of people in your organization who might be feeling sad, depressed, stupid, worthless, angry or shut down.

Some interesting questions to ask yourself as a manager…

Am I listening to everyone equally?
Do I have a tendency to pre-judge who is worth listening to and who is not?
Do I feel like I already know the answer so there is no need to listen?
Do I listen more to the talkers, vs. seeking out ideas from the non-talkers?

Making everyone feel listened to

As managers it serves us well to make sure that every person on our team feels listened to.

If we make the goal “make everyone feel listened-to” instead of only listening to people who we’ve decided are worth listening to, we can create a lot of positive momentum in our organizations.

Some leaders choose not to listen because they think, “I know that what the person wants is not something we are going to do, so even if I listen, if I don’t do the thing, they will still accuse me of not listening”.

That’s not how it works. You are safe to break the code between listening and acting on it.

You don’t have to act on every piece of information you hear to make people feel listened to, you just need to listen!

If you simply say, “I hear you and I understand why you feel that way, but at this time we have made a different decision, so we won’t be doing it that way. But it’s important to me to hear your thoughts and I will consider them as we move forward.”

When you make the effort to make the people in your organization feel listened to, the will definitely be more engaged, they’ll feel more trusted and valued — and you might get some ideas that surprise you that you’d otherwise miss.

See also, The hidden (and most valuable) information in every organization.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my Facebook page Patty Azzarello Practical Business Advice for Humans.

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

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