How Active Listening Creates Inclusive Workplace Cultures

In many ways, the advent of telecommuting in 2020 has complicated our collective capacity to listen to one another.

With the ability to mute yourself, turn off your camera, leave meetings at any point, and discreetly multitask from behind the screen, technology has perhaps hindered our interpersonal skills as much as it’s enabled us to connect.

But the emergence of remote work shouldn’t lead to the decline of active listening.

Active listening means committing all of your attention and concentration to the speaker and using mindfulness and empathy to fully understand what’s being said. Often active listeners will employ non-verbal cues and body language to establish an environment of trust and judgment-free engagement.

The small gestures of active listening go a long way to foster inclusive
workplace cultures.

Delving deeper with your conversational partner will allow you to connect with them on a more meaningful emotional level, and you may find yourself learning valuable lessons from their unique lived experiences.

Passive listening (or distracted listening) can critically diminish workplace morale, and make employees feel personally excluded from an otherwise cohesive culture. When employees feel truly heard by the leaders they look up to, they feel more welcome, valued, and excited to show up for their team.

On a productivity level, active listening drastically improves communication and reduces instances of misunderstanding that can slow progress.

These quick tips can help you reap the rewards of active listening:

  • On virtual meetings, avoid using your computer for anything other than the project/task at hand
  • Dedicate your full attention to conversations, and show that commitment (nodding, eye contact, agreeing, etc.)
  • Be cautious of frequent interruptions and notice who is interrupted most often
  • Read between the lines to engage with the speaker’s emotions and thoughts
    rather than just their words (be aware of tone, body language, facial expressions, etc.)
  • Periodically reiterate key points in the conversation to ensure you’re fully understanding what’s being discussed

Active listening is a practice and a daily skill—not a one-time exercise—and as such requires continual effort to generate long-term benefits.

It ultimately falls to caring leaders to establish inclusive workplaces where everyone feels heard and prioritized, and active listening should be seen as one tool in the caring leader’s diverse arsenal of strategies.

The most effective leaders realize they can better inspire their teams by sharing the floor rather than dominating it.

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Heather Younger
Heather Youngerhttps://employeefanatix.com/
Heather Younger gets it. As a best-selling author, international TEDx speaker, podcast host, facilitator, and Forbes Coaches Council coach, she has earned her reputation as “The Employee Whisperer”. Her experiences as a CEO, entrepreneur, manager, attorney, writer, coach, listener, speaker, collaborator and mother all lend themselves to a laser-focused clarity into what makes employees of organizations and companies – large and small - tick. Heather has facilitated more than 150 workshops, reaching +100 employers and their employees. Her motivation and philosophy have reached more than 20,000 attendees at her speaking engagements on large and small stages. Companies have charted their future course based on her leading more than 100 focus groups. In addition, she has helped companies see double-digit employee engagement score increases through the implementation of her laws and philosophies. She has driven results in a multitude of industries, including banking, oil & gas, construction, energy, and federal and local government. Heather brings a tenacious and inspirational outlook to issues plaguing the workforces of today. Her book “The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty” hit the Forbes Must-Read list and is a go-to source for HR professionals seeking insight into their organization's dynamics. Heather’s writing can also be found on her blog at EmployeFanatix, as well as articles in Forbes, Huffington Post, Thrive Global, American Express Open Forum, and more. Coupled with her Leadership with Heart podcast, weekly videos, and employer newsletters, Heather stays connected to organizations long after she leaves the stage or conference roomWhen all the emails are returned and the mic is turned off, and Heather acts as co-manager of her busy household in Aurora, Colorado with her husband, where they oversee their four children.


  1. Such an important reminder, Heather! A number of my larger corporate clients don’t allow people to use video as policy, because they don’t have the bandwidth, and I think it’s really eroded engagement and trust and added to the loneliness and detachment people are already feeling during the pandemic. I think so many people are experiencing Zoom fatigue (even with their cameras on) that listening has been a casualty. I know I personally appreciate the reminder and suspect many others will as well!