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Listening in Organizations: A Synthesis and Future Agenda

We conducted an integrative review of research on listening relevant to work and organizations, published from 2000 to 2021, and across three disciplines (management, psychology, and communication studies). We found that listening research is fragmented across three perspectives: (1) perceived listening, (2) listeners’ experience, and (3) listening structures. We discuss how integrating these perspectives highlights two major tensions in listening research. First, there is a tension between speakers’ perceptions and listeners’ experience, which reveals a listening paradox – while listening is perceived to be beneficial for speakers, it can be experienced as costly and depleting for listeners. This paradox reveals why people struggle with listening when it is needed the most. Second, listening structures in organizations can create tensions between organizational goals and listeners’ experiences. While organizations use listening structures to enable and signal listening, these efforts can impose greater costs on listeners, reinforce existing power structures, and create opportunities for unwanted surveillance. Managing these tensions provides fertile ground for future research, in part because recent advances in communication technologies are changing the dynamics and structure of listening in organizations.


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