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Workers perform better and are more resilient when employers are good listeners

A new study uncovered qualities in bosses that can lead to better workplace outcomes

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A new study conducted by researchers from Rice University explored how bosses can foster more resiliency among their employees. 

According to their findings, bosses that actively listen to their employees and encourage on-the-job training are the most likely to create a culture of resiliency among their workers. 

“Understanding what organizations can do to help employees become more resilient is the focus of our work in my Working Resilience Research Laboratory,” said researcher Danielle King. “This research project offered an opportunity to uncover the important role of leadership and employee voice in the resilience process.” 

Cultivating strong workplace relationships

For the study, the researchers analyzed boss-employee interactions from nearly 50 different teams from five Canadian start-ups. The team paid close attention to what kind of environment leaders fostered among their employees and how different workplace cultures handled things like making mistakes, learning new things, and communicating. 

While everyone makes mistakes at work, how bosses handled their employees’ mistakes said a lot about the team’s overall resiliency. The researchers learned that employees felt the best in their roles and were more likely to put in the most effort when their bosses were encouraging and attentive listeners. When employees felt that they had a voice in conversations with their bosses, it was associated with the best workplace outcomes. 

Additionally, leaders that made it a point to prioritize learning on the job cultivated better teams. It was important for employees to feel that it was okay to try new things and mess up along the way, so long as the opportunity was used for growth and future development. 

The researchers hope that organizations can learn from these results. The way that bosses interact with their employees can greatly impact everyone’s success, and having workers that feel appreciated and encouraged is an important part of that puzzle. 

“Knowing that you have a leader who is focused on learning and not just on performance outcomes is critical,” King said. “It’s also important for them to be intentional about communicating this regularly to employees, as it can make all the difference in building more resilient teams. 

“Leaders need to verbally reward a learning mindset. For example, when a boss responds to an employee who makes an on-the-job error by saying, ‘Great, now you can learn from this experience,’ rather than berating them for making a mistake, it makes a big difference.” 

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