Multitasking Versus Effective Listening

from the Turning Good People Into Top Talent blog series

Recent Accenture research, based on surveys of 3,600 professionals, showed that while nearly all (96 percent) global professionals consider themselves to be good listeners; an even larger majority (98 percent) spend part of their workday multitasking.  The research showed almost two-thirds (64 percent) say that listening has become significantly more difficult in today’s digital workplace.  This seems incongruent with other research regarding multitasking.

While 66 percent of respondents say multitasking enables them to accomplish more at work, more than a third (36 percent) say the many distractions prevent them from doing their best, resulting in a loss of focus, lower-quality work, and diminished team relationships. Clearly another contradiction.

The following are some of the primary reasons respondents gave as causes for the interruptions during their workday:

  • Telephone calls (79 percent),
  • Unscheduled meetings/visitors (72 percent),
  • Instant messaging (30 percent), and
  • Texting (28 percent).

This survey adds to the growing body of evidence that multitasking, particularly with digital devices, has reached epidemic proportions and is adversely affecting both personal productivity and quality results.  Clearly, multitasking and the use of digital devices reduces communication effectiveness and in many cases is a source of conflict among co-workers and team members.

Could it be time for your organization to institute a code of conduct, particularly in team meetings, to eliminate this unproductive behavior? Just because we have practically unlimited access to each other is no reason to allow it to interfere with good manners and high performance.


Bob Moore, CMC®
CEO of Effectiveness, Inc and
The Talent Management Institute

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