Listening IS A Great Skill

Listening is a great skill!
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At lunchtime in the virtual cafeteria over the video call, four colleagues were discussing some significant challenges they were facing in their life at present. They needed to choose between their professional life or personal life.

The Conversation:

“I have been getting so overwhelmed these days.” – Sucheta announced.

Sucheta was the Senior Manager Marketing of ABC Private Limited company. A strong, independent, ambitious woman in her late 20’s. She had always believed family life should never interfere with professional life.

“What happened?” – Koel expressed her concern.

Being the youngest of the pack, she was the most curious. With four years of corporate experience, she was still learning the deeper ropes of the corporate world.  

“One side I need to give more attention to work, especially now that things are more demanding due to COVID, other side parents are insisting on getting married as soon as possible. Even my boyfriend wants to get married. I don’t know what I should do?” – Sucheta explained.

“So, what’s the problem? I thought for you both personal and professional life was separate, what is bothering you now?” – Varun reminded her.

Varun was Sucheta’s most trusted friend in the office. He was also the Senior Sales Manager, both Sucheta and Varun worked closely with each other. They knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses very well.

Before Sucheta could say something, Aruna chimed in, “You are not alone Sucheta, even I am going through a dilemma. Life has become very demanding since the lockdown, as I have a big family with just a few hands to contribute to the chores. The pressure is so much that sometimes I wonder if quitting would be a better option.”

Aruna was the most senior among them all, being there in the industry for more than 18 years now.

Sucheta continued. “Ask me about it Aruna. I understand what you mean. And Varun, yes, I know I always believed in keeping personal and professional life separate, but now it’s the matter of dividing and balancing time between family and work. Plus, if I get married, I will have to take a few weeks of leave. I don’t think my boss will appreciate that.”

“Hmm. Understood.” – Varun nodded thoughtfully.

He looked at Aruna, “But you just said you have a big family. Would you be able to manage running your household expenses with only your husband’s income?” 

Aruna responded helplessly, “I don’t know; that’s why I am confused.”

In the meantime, Koel broke the news to them all, “Even I have something to share with you all.” 

Koel had just got a promotion; she also got married a year back.

Everyone looked at her in anticipation. 

“I am pregnant.” – Koel softly said.

Aruna, Sucheta, and Varun were so happy for Koel. “WOW! That’s such great news!” They exclaimed in unison. 

Looking at the worried face of Koel, they enquired. “With COVID and our company asking us to return to the office, I am not sure if it would be safe for my baby and me.”

She had a point for sure. Either she had to risk her baby’s and her safety, or she had to choose one between the two. 

Varun slowly confessed. “After listening to you all, I realize what my wife must be going through for the last nine months.”

Varun was married for five years now, they have a toddler at home and his wife is in a senior position in an IT company that has a demanding work culture.

“I promise to participate in household chores and parenting more enthusiastically. Let me change my ways to make life slightly easier for my wifey.” – Varun was enthusiastic about his new resolution.

“But will my boss understand? He expects me to be available for work 24/7. If I tell him, I will keep aside a few hours for household chores, wouldn’t he laugh at me?” He had doubts in his mind. 

The Problem and the Decision:

Come to think of it, all four of them were dealing with different kinds of challenges. They were all going through a dilemma of balancing work and life on a thin rope! 

And their company policies were not helping them either. The organization remained ignorant about the well-being of the employees. Plus, the work culture of “24/7 available” hadn’t been updated since the pandemic hit us for the first time. All this was taking a toll on the employees already. Now COVID had brought many unique and unseen challenges out of the closet.

They decided to write to their HR explaining their situation and seek help. 

Unfortunately, many organizations do not appreciate employees reaching out to the management seeking help with their personal problems. They feel the company has nothing to do with employees’ personal issues.

ABC Private Limited was like that. All the emails that Sucheta, Koel, Varun and Aruna sent fell to deaf ears repeatedly. Eventually, Aruna and Sucheta left the organization. And Koel and Varun became aloof in the office, deteriorating their performance, passion, and zeal for work.

Lesson From This:

“LISTEN TO EMPLOYEE PROBLEMS CAREFULLY. IT MIGHT SEEM UNRELATED TO WORK, BUT IT AFFECTS THEIR PERFORMANCE AT WORK”

 

I know it would mean a lot of time and resources involvement, but the point is never to treat your leaders as Human’ Resource’. Treat them as Human ‘Beings’ who need to be nurtured and cared for, differently. 

Make a genuine effort to help them integrate their life with work instead of balancing work-life, in a way that would be beneficial for them, not just for the company’s profits.

What would YOU have done if you were the HR of this company? If your employees reached out to you with unique problems? 

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This is the fourth story in the 100 ways to empower women leaders series. You can read the other stories here.

Do join the Setback Leaders’ Worldwide Tribe should you wish to stay in close touch with other Setback Leaders from across the world.

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Author | Professional Speaker