Employees quitting? Here's a way to prevent it from happening - opinion

Many workers felt their voices were not being respected by those in power at their jobs.

 Low wages, workplace disrespect, no career advancement and employee dissatisfaction have helped contribute quiet quitting, which has become popular on TikTok (Illustrative). (photo credit: PXHERE)
Low wages, workplace disrespect, no career advancement and employee dissatisfaction have helped contribute quiet quitting, which has become popular on TikTok (Illustrative).
(photo credit: PXHERE)

The great resignation, prompted in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, represents a significant shift in many workers’ relationships with their jobs. Countless people opted to quit in the hopes of building a more positive career and life for themselves. The appeal has been so widespread that some countries have faced a quarter of all full-time employees leaving their jobs within the past two years, which has contributed to supply chain problems, worsened inflation, and even food insecurity, which has the potential to drive conflict.

Why did so many people readily give up a steady paycheck? It wasn’t all about wages. Far too many workers were and are fundamentally unsatisfied with their jobs. Toxic cultures, unhealthy norms, over-aggressive managers and more lead to high rates of burnout. Workers often feel they spend too many early mornings catching up on emails and cast aside too many evening plans to meet last-minute deadlines. And, too often, they felt their voices were not being respected by those in power.

Workplaces need a change

Workplaces and leaders need to change to retain employees, build satisfying workforces and be productive. Encouraging a culture of listening is a practical, cost-effective solution, with real human impact. And it’s a skill that can be taught and scaled across an organization, and beyond to the communities that surround any workplace.

High-quality listening involves non-verbal cues like maintaining eye contact with the speaker, avoiding external distractions, and keeping an open and non-judgmental body posture. Verbal responses like paraphrasing to ensure key points are understood and asking follow-up questions show speakers that their time is valued and that the listener is present in the moment.

This seems simple, but high-quality listening is more than a feel-good team-building exercise. It helps lead to happier, more stable and more productive workplaces.

Implementing listening training as a part of human resource practices can promote a more positive working environment. Participants in listening training have reported feeling heard, with reduced levels of burnout and higher levels of job satisfaction, all of which make them less likely to summarily quit. The effect is cumulative: workers who felt listened to were more likely to reciprocate their good feelings across the organization, leading to a more effective workplace overall.

The benefits of listening training can extend beyond merely improving listening skills. Customer service employees who participated in listening training reported feeling more competent and less anxious when dealing with difficult conversations. In a different set of studies, employees who attended listening training reported less extreme attitudes toward various workplace topics.

Constructive conversations can lead to a sense of well-being, closeness, shared effort, and productivity. Listening can have a healing effect, changing perspectives on past incidents, reducing feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety, and encouraging intellectual humility and less-extreme thinking. Quality listeners create safe and accepting spaces for difficult discussions by allowing room for people to move beyond their biases, potentially even helping to reduce the extreme polarization that often colors modern interactions.

Taken together, high-quality listening is a fundamental building block of human flourishing, a dynamic field of study that brings together cross-disciplinary researchers to investigate how people thrive amid modern challenges like polarization and more. This little-known but important field of study will have a major coming-out moment later this month when the Templeton World Charity Foundation hosts the first Global Scientific Conference on Human Flourishing. The conference is free-to-register, will feature the latest scientific advances in understanding human flourishing across cultures and showcase innovative new tools and strategies to promote greater flourishing around the world, at home and at work.

But while we have much to learn about how people flourish, it’s clear that being heard personally and professionally is an important part of the puzzle. And until workplaces start preaching and practicing listening as a core value, they’ll continue to risk employee satisfaction, high turnover rates and productivity – and the “great resignation” will look less like a blip than the start of a new trend.

The writer, a Ph.D., is an associate professor at Haifa University. His research focuses on high-quality listening as an avenue for growth at individual and organizational levels.