Suggested Strategies When Dealing With Selective Hearing

As a team leader, you may have experienced the following scenario...

Your team member asks if he/she could have Friday and Monday off to go on a ski weekend. (With the many feet of snow that has blanketed the country this year, who wouldn't want to have a long ski weekend!) You, as the team leader, refuse to authorize this leave because of pressing work deadlines. Your team member takes those two days off to go skiing anyway.

When your team member returns to work on Tuesday, he/she says something like the following... "I distinctly heard you say that even though we had a pressing deadline, I could take the weekend off if I worked next weekend."

This is a case of "selective hearing" -- what a person hears can be influenced by what that individual wants to see or hear.

Some strategies to solve this situation:

  • Impress upon the team member the impact of the misunderstanding upon the work schedule and upon the work group.
  • If appropriate, issue an informal oral warning.
  • Ask the team member to suggest ways to avoid any similar occurrences.
  • In future communications, ask for feedback. For example, have the team member summarize the conversation.

More information about dealing with this communication issue can be found in Vital Learning's Essential Skills of Communicating course. A free preview of Essential Skills of Communicating is available on Vital Learning's website. Also, 

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