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

1120 of 5849
Released: 17-Jun-2021 1:30 PM EDT
Hackensack Meridian Doctors, Student Help Establish Way to Prioritize Surgeries During COVID-19 lockdown
Hackensack Meridian Health

The MeNTS method of prioritizing surgeries during the height of pandemic, developed by University of Chicago, helped procedures continue during time of need

Released: 17-Jun-2021 12:55 PM EDT
‘Nanodecoy’ Therapy Binds and Neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 Virus
North Carolina State University

Nanodecoys made from human lung spheroid cells (LSCs) can bind to and neutralize SARS-CoV-2, promoting viral clearance and reducing lung injury in a macaque model of COVID-19.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 21-Jun-2021 11:00 AM EDT Released to reporters: 17-Jun-2021 12:10 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 21-Jun-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: Blood Cancer Patients with COVID-19 Fare Better with Convalescent Plasma
Released: 17-Jun-2021 11:55 AM EDT
Blood Cancer Patients with COVID-19 Fare Better with Convalescent Plasma
Washington University in St. Louis

A large, retrospective, multicenter study involving Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicates that convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients can dramatically improve likelihood of survival among blood cancer patients hospitalized with the virus. The therapy involves transfusing plasma — the pale yellow liquid in blood that is rich in antibodies — from people who have recovered from COVID-19 into patients who have leukemia, lymphoma or other blood cancers and are hospitalized with the viral infection.

Released: 17-Jun-2021 11:05 AM EDT
Stress during pandemic linked to poor sleep
Washington State University

Many people likely lost sleep over COVID-19. A study of twins led by Washington State University researchers found that stress, anxiety and depression during the first few weeks of the pandemic were associated with less and lower quality sleep.

Newswise:Video Embedded university-of-miami-miller-school-study-shows-covid-19-mrna-vaccines-do-not-impact-male-fertility
VIDEO
Released: 17-Jun-2021 11:00 AM EDT
University of Miami Miller School Study Shows COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines Do Not Impact Male Fertility
University of Miami Health System, Miller School of Medicine

The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines is safe for male reproduction, according to a new study by University of Miami Miller School of Medicine researchers published in JAMA , the most widely circulated general medical journal in the world.

15-Jun-2021 1:20 PM EDT
Higher COVID-19 Mortality Among Black Patients Linked to Unequal Hospital Quality
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

If Black patients were admitted to the same hospitals that serve a majority of White patients, researchers showed their risk of death would drop by 10 percent

Released: 17-Jun-2021 9:35 AM EDT
Hackensack Meridian CDI Scientists Develop ‘CATCHER’ for Crucial Biomarkers
Hackensack Meridian Health

The EV-CATCHER methodology identifies and captures tiny pieces of genetic material – and shows value in COVID-19 plasma

Newswise: “ChulaCov19” Thailand’s First COVID-19 Vaccine Has Been Tested on Humans
Released: 17-Jun-2021 8:55 AM EDT
“ChulaCov19” Thailand’s First COVID-19 Vaccine Has Been Tested on Humans
Chulalongkorn University

On June 14, 2021 at Bhumisirimangalanusorn Building, Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, the Thai Red Cross Society, the Faculty of Medicine and the Chula Vaccine Research Center (CVRC), Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University conducted its first phase of clinical trial on volunteers who have passed the screening process and deemed to be in good health. The process is continuing on to phase 2 to monitor immunity reactions to the ChulaCov19 vaccine under the supervision of medical experts, doctors, nurses and the research team.

16-Jun-2021 5:00 AM EDT
Disadvantaged Neighborhoods See More COVID-19 Infections and Deaths, Mount Sinai Scientists Report
Mount Sinai Health System

New York City neighborhoods that had higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage experienced more COVID-19 infections and deaths, according to Mount Sinai scientists who created a neighborhood-level COVID-19 inequity index.


Showing results

1120 of 5849

close
1.9813