Monday, August 26, 2013

Listening in the Workplace

I am the owner of a small business that has successfully grown despite my and my husband’s lack of formal training in how to run a business. One of the most challenging aspects of owning a business for us is “Human Resources” – a.k.a. hiring & firing, and helping people communicate effectively with one another in a work environment. We also live in a very small community, so maintaining good relationships with folks (both in and outside of work) is very important.
We have recently had a few challenging Human Resources issues arise. In one instance we felt that we needed to let one of our employees go, and in another, we had two employees who work closely together that just could not get along. I am not a person that likes conflict or drama, so the way that we were successfully able to resolve these issues was through listening. In both cases we had “clearness” meetings with the involved employees where we just listened to what they had to say and how they felt. In turn, we expressed our needs and expectations as well. These meetings went on for as long as they needed to in order for everyone to be able to fully express their feelings and experiences, and feel that they were truly “heard”.

The results of this “deep listening” have been amazing. I feel like it has greatly improved my understanding of peoples’ needs in a work environment, and it has deepened my respect and understanding of these individuals personally. In the case of the person that we ultimately had to fire, he was able to air his grievances with us (as well as us with him) in a safe manner. We were able to assist him in getting another job where he can feel more comfortable and let his skills shine. And it gave us the opportunity to recognize mistakes we had made so that we can become better employers. Now whenever I see him in the community, I feel love and appreciation for him, and I think it is reciprocated. 

As for the two co-workers who just weren’t getting along, they were able to come to an understanding that they have different communication styles which were resulting in both of them getting upset. After each sharing their versions of recent events that had caused conflict, and listening to the other’s feelings and reactions, they were able to better understand and appreciate each other. And although it is an ongoing process, they are learning how to communicate effectively with one another so that neither of them gets annoyed or gets their feelings hurt. This simple process of listening to one another has proven itself to be an effective way to create and maintain a pleasant working atmosphere and minimize conflict in the workplace.

- Story from a Listening Project Board Member