Listening Burnout: Take Steps to Overcome Your Derailers - Innolect, Inc.

Listening Burnout: Take Steps to Overcome Your Derailers

“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.”

-Andy Stanley

According to APA’s 2021 Work and Well-being Survey, American workers across the board saw heightened rates of burnout. In the U.S., 79% of employees had experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey. It’s important to note that leaders are not immune to the burnout felt by the majority of employees. In fact, people managers, particularly middle managers, feel pressure from all directions to solve retention issues and create effective inclusive hybrid work environments while getting the work done. Many managers in these critical roles are questioning their own work practices and find it difficult to create meaningful employee experiences where employees feel listened to and heard.

Since the tool that most influences employee satisfaction is listening, managers need to learn how to conserve their listening energy. When there is little energy to give, managers listen in ways that require the least from them. And today more than ever, they have less listening energy to give. Think back and try to remember how difficult it is to listen when you feel tired, sick, rushed or hungry. In most of these instances, your energy reserves are called upon to keep your body functioning rather than to listen and pay attention to others.

After a good night’s rest, most people start the day with a greater ability to listen. Throughout the day, the stress of virtual or in-person meetings, emergency situations, interruptions and other demands deplete energy and lead to listening fatigue. Without intentional conservation, many of us have consumed 50% of our listening energy by mid-morning. By noon, our tank may be even lower. Without a way to recharge by the end of the day, most people are running on fumes.

Few leaders consider how to replenish their listening energy. The best listeners know how to take intentional mini breaks to refill their (or others’) listening energy. They know the best times to schedule meetings and when to take a walk, ask for a break or take a few deep breaths.

You, too, can learn to observe and self-monitor your listening energy reserves.

1. Make a commitment to notice the listening energy in yourself and others.

2. Develop an internal “lookout” to sound an alarm when your listening energy is low.

3. When listening energy is low, do something to change the situation or replenish your energy.

For ideas for how to replenish listening energy, download the Replenish Listening Energy Checklist.

Kittie W. Watson, Ph.D.

President & Founder

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