Workplace Communication Study During Pandemic Finds Managers Should Talk Less, Listen More

Empathy, feedback and shorter, focused meetings should be goals during crises — and ordinary times, national survey of professional communicators finds
Baylor University
12-Apr-2021 11:05 AM EDT, by Baylor University

Newswise — Managers should listen more, be empathetic and be sure they give feedback — even if they cannot solve a problem immediately, according to a Baylor University study that focused on workplace communication during the pandemic.

The crisis highlighted the need for better on-the-job communication with employees now and in the future, when the pandemic recedes, researchers said. 

Workplace communication often took a back seat this past year, as employees and employers rushed to work remotely, struggled with technology barriers, adjusted to physical distancing and, in some organizations, dealt with layoffs.

“There likely has never been a moment with such demand for ethical listening to employees,” said lead author Marlene S. Neill, Ph.D., associate professor of journalism, public relations and new media at Baylor.

For the study, published in the Journal of Communication Management, researchers interviewed 30 communication professionals in the District of Columbia and 13 states: Arkansas, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Interviewees represented technology, financial and legal services, food and beverage, hospitality, energy, health care, trade associations, transportation, higher education and consultants.

“We heard that the pandemic posed challenges in internal communication due to the alienation many employees experienced, and it prompted us to reevaluate the moral responsibility communications holds for keeping employees feeling connected to their teams,” said co-researcher Shannon A. Bowen, Ph.D., professor of journalism and mass communications at the University of South Carolina. 

For all the organizations studied, “the desire and follow-through to ethically listen to employees appeared to be a challenge,” Neill said. 

Ethical listening means “listening with an open mind and being able to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. Strategic listening is then taking the good and the bad and the ugly and knowing how to use the information,” said one communication manager interviewed in the survey. 

Researchers found that while senior managers valued communication, it became less of a priority as companies grappled with such quick changes as mandated quarantines. With workers often no longer sharing physical quarters, the use of Zoom soared, whether for large group meetings or one-on-one sessions, researchers noted. For communications professionals, remote work made it harder for them to build trusting new relationships. They, like others, felt isolated, missing critical conversations and small talk.

A trade association of the hospitality industry — whose members are primary stakeholders in their companies — needed “a different type of empathetic listening,” said an association communication manager.  

“There were stakeholders saying, ‘I’m going to have to close my doors. Please do something.’ And there’s only so much we can do,” the manager said. “This is these people’s livelihood . . . But it’s not just their baby. It’s a baby that generates income for the employees they deeply care about. It’s not just that it impacts them; it impacts their employees, which is a double cut to the heart.”

Most participants said the ratio of management messaging compared to employee feedback was lopsided, with far more talking than listening. And confidentiality is crucial, so employees feel comfortable giving feedback and do not fear retribution.

“We cannot promise we are going to fix everything,” said a communication manager in the financial services industry. “But we have the mantra if you are asking for feedback, it is critical that you close the loop and say that.”  

A communication manager in health care encouraged senior leaders to schedule 30-minute “walk-around” sessions — whether masked and in person or via technology.

“You cannot really listen effectively if someone does not know you very well, because trust has to be built up over time,” the manager said.

A professional in a law firm said she makes it a point to invite the less vocal members to share their thoughts; another uses on-on-one meetings with them. 

“In groups, large groups, they do not speak as freely, because there’s a hierarchy,” she said. “If the older, more senior people are not saying anything, then the younger, less seasoned attorneys more than likely will not say anything.”

Communications managers often have limited staff to analyze feedback, as well as a lack of communication between departments, especially in larger organizations. One suggestion was that a communication professional sit in on department meetings and be a liaison.

Some internal communicators said they saw a need for shorter, more focused meetings, in part to cut down on stress. One consultant said that more visual communications, such as videos and video conferencing, seem to help employees feel that they are cared for. 

“I’m making sure that I have my eyes trained on the screen on the facial expressions,” said another communication manager. “It’s interesting because in watching in a monitor, part of active listening is also looking for visual cues of the reactions of your colleagues. Sometimes those indicators are not just verbal. So I’m taking notes, trying to use my eyes.”

The researchers said they were encouraged by study participants’ heightened level of moral sensitivity and empathy about the impact of organizational decisions on employees’ lives.

“We recommend that senior leadership and communication professionals seek ways to continue to improve moral sensitivity well after the global pandemic has receded, which can lead to more ethical decision making,” Neill said.

*The study was supported by a Page Legacy Scholar Grant from The Arthur W. Page Center at The

Pennsylvania State University’s College of Communications.

SEE ORIGINAL STUDY



Filters close

Showing results

110 of 6054
access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 26-Jul-2021 11:00 AM EDT Released to reporters: 23-Jul-2021 5:05 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 26-Jul-2021 11:00 AM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Newswise: NIH Chooses University of Miami Miller School of Medicine to Head Project for Its Safe Return to In-Person School Initiative
Released: 23-Jul-2021 12:15 PM EDT
NIH Chooses University of Miami Miller School of Medicine to Head Project for Its Safe Return to In-Person School Initiative
University of Miami Health System, Miller School of Medicine

The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is helping to lead a National Institutes of Health (NIH) COVID-19 testing initiative to safely return children to in-person school.

Released: 23-Jul-2021 11:40 AM EDT
New 'Atlas' Charts How Antibodies Attack Spike Protein Variants
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

As the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 continues to evolve, immunologists and infectious diseases experts are eager to know whether new variants are resistant to the human antibodies that recognized initial versions of the virus.

Newswise:Video Embedded covid-variants-and-a-surge-among-the-unvaccinated-live-expert-panel-for-july-23rd
VIDEO
23-Jul-2021 8:55 AM EDT
VIDEO AND TRANSCRIPT AVAILABLE: COVID Variants and a Surge Among the Unvaccinated: Live Expert Panel for July 23rd, 2021
Newswise

Panelists will discuss the threat posed by new COVID variants and continued vaccine hesitancy.

Released: 22-Jul-2021 4:05 PM EDT
COVID-19: Patients with Malnutrition May Be More Likely to Have Severe Outcomes
Scientific Reports

Adults and children with COVID-19 who have a history of malnutrition may have an increased likelihood of death and the need for mechanical ventilation, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 27-Jul-2021 4:05 PM EDT Released to reporters: 22-Jul-2021 3:05 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 27-Jul-2021 4:05 PM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 26-Jul-2021 4:05 PM EDT Released to reporters: 22-Jul-2021 2:45 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 26-Jul-2021 4:05 PM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Released: 22-Jul-2021 2:35 PM EDT
New Insights Into Uncontrolled Inflammation in COVID-19 Patients
Queen Mary University of London

In a new study, published recently in the journal Circulation Research, scientists discover how the production of protective molecules known as specialised pro-resolving mediators (SPM) is altered in patients with COVID-19.

Released: 22-Jul-2021 2:30 PM EDT
度假旅行者需要了解的COVID-19相关信息
Mayo Clinic

许多人会利用国家法定假日出门旅行或举办聚会。由于仍有许多人需要接种COVID-19疫苗以及传染性更强的Delta变种疫苗,因此健康专家建议,如果您计划旅行或召集很多人聚会,请务必谨慎。


Showing results

110 of 6054

close
3.51083