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Workplace listening is a type of active listening that is generally employed in a professional environment. Listening skills are imperative for career success, organizational effectiveness, and worker satisfaction. Workplace listening includes understanding the listening process (i.e. perception, interpretation, evaluation, and action) and its barriers that hamper the flow of that process. Like other skills, there are specific techniques for improving workplace listening effectiveness. Moreover, it is imperative to become aware of the role of nonverbal communication in communicating in the workplace, as understanding messages wholly entails more than simple verbal messages.

Types of Workplace Listening

The three types of workplace listening are listening to superiors, listening to colleagues & teammates, and listening to customers. Listening to superiors includes hearing instructions, assignments, tasks, and explanations of working procedures carefully, by taking concise notes, paraphrasing what you hear, and not interrupting. Listening to colleagues & teammates includes engaging in critical listening and discriminative listening. Listening to customers includes taking into consideration the customers’ needs & wants. Organizations that listen to customers and take action increasingly acquire loyal customers which, in turn, yields higher sales.

Approaches to listening

Listeners might have various reasons for listening.They might want to gain some information from the speaker; or they might just enjoy what they're listening to..Depending on the purpose, a listener adopts one of the following listening approaches:

Discriminative listening

Discriminative listening involves an attempt to distinguish one sound from all the others. Stopping work to determine whether the phone is ringing is an example. Individuals begin to discriminate between sounds right from an early age. Eventually, they recognise not only the sounds that make up a language, but also learn to identify vocal cues such as tone of voice, volume, pitch and rate, all of which contribute to conveying the total meaning of a message.

Comprehensive listening

Comprehensive listening involves understanding a speaker's message in totality.It involves precise interpretation of the message and its meaning. This kind of listening is generally practised in the classroom where students remember what they have heard in a lecture and rely upon it for future use.

Critical listening

In critical listening, listeners sift through what they have heard and come to a decision. This involves judging the clarity, accuracy and reliability of the evidence that is presented and being alert to the effects of emotional appeals.

Active listening

Active listening is also called emphathic listening. This kind of listening goes beyond just paying attention or listening critically. It involves an expression that tells the speaker that the listeners are being attentive and are following him/ her. It entails a supportive behaviour. This behaviour encourages the speaker to express himself or herself fully. Active listening involves responding to the emotional content as well, apart from the bare message.

The Listening Process and its Barriers

The Listening Process

Complete listening takes place in four steps. The four steps are perception, interpretation, evaluation, and action. Interpretation involves interpreting and decoding heard messages. Evaluation involves separating facts from opinions objectively. Action involves retaining, reacting, or providing feedback.

Barriers to Listening

There are two possible types of barriers that hamper the listening process: mental and/or physical. Mental barriers include inattention, prejudgment, frame of reference, closed-mindedness, and pseudolistening. Physical barriers include hearing impairments, noisy surroundings, speaker’s appearance, speaker’s mannerisms, and lag time.

Improving Workplace Listening

Improve listening in the workplace by Control external and internal distractions getting involved actively, filtering facts from opinions, identifying important facts, not interrupting, asking clarifying questions, paraphrasing to increase understanding, capitalizing on lag time, taking notes to ensure retention, and being aware of gender differences.

Communicating through Nonverbal Messages

When listening and understanding messages, it often involves more than simple verbal messages because nonverbal messages play a key role in communicating.

See also


  • Anderson. P.A. (2008). Nonverbal Communication Forms and Functions (2nd ed.). Long Grove: Waveland Press Inc.
  • Guffey, M.E., Rhodes, K., & Rogin, P. (2006). Business Communication: process and product (3rd ed.). Mason: Thomson South-Western.

External links


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