When your boss stops listening

At some point, most executives experience hearing loss. When they stop hearing unfiltered news from the front line and news all the way back and up the organization, the problems often start. You don’t even hear the loud signals and never hear the quiet voices.

Some executives aren’t interested in listening unless it’s the sound of their own voice, or the sound being echoed by handpicked toadies to make them feel good. In very simple organizations, operating in a straightforward and unchanging environment, offering straightforward products or services, this can work for a while. Although pity the poor employees who suffer in such conditions.

Illustration by Dionne Gain

Illustration by Dionne Gain

Executives who own their own companies (or are allowed to do so) are particularly susceptible to this type of problem. A top-down approach that knows the best might have worked in the early days (when the organization was small, simple and straightforward), but with growth, competition and new technologies, and changing employee expectations, this is top-down -Approach Approach is likely to fail, and possibly catastrophically.

Some leaders pretend to listen and use tools like town hall meetings or employee surveys to gauge feedback. All too often this is just lip service. Polls focus on mild generalizations like “I’m excited about the future direction of Titanic Pty” and ask the questions that leadership wants answered, not employees.

Typically, the results of these surveys are conveyed by market research types that present aggregated data in pretty graphs. The raw, non-intermediate data is presented less frequently. Town meetings are often staged affairs that the quiet voices in the room don’t hear.

Managers can also play a filtering role. Feedback is selectively amplified or attenuated according to your own ideas. Employees are labeled as “one of us” or “troublemakers” and “oppositional”. Very tempting for an ambitious manager to only pass on the tasty feedback to the executives.


Getting feedback mechanisms to work is a crucial task for managers. Too often executives think that their role is primarily to focus primarily on the external competitive or regulatory environment and implement strategies that they believe will address any opportunities or threats they see. This can lead to an institutional arrogance that the view, and therefore the views, of those higher up the ladder are the only ones that matter.

Belief in the priority of the promoted is, in most cases, a foolish, insecure attitude towards leadership and leads to poor decision-making and poor performance. There seems to be a correlation between the amount of polish and varnish in the leader’s office and the amount of varnish applied to the feedback they hear.

Soft voices often convey messages that are incomplete, fragmented, raw, unvarnished, and blunt. They should be given even more attention.

dr Jim Bright, FAPS owns Bright and Associates, a career management consultancy, and is director of Ed Tech startup Become Education www.become.education. Email Opinion@jimbright.com. Follow him on Twitter @DrJimBright

https://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace/how-to-work-out-if-your-boss-has-stopped-listening-20230314-p5cs0h.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_business When your boss stops listening

Brian Lowry

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