Stuck in the Middle with You: Gender Issues, Cross Generations, and the Importance of Listening

Eleanor Barlow

The benefits of listening and being heard are tenfold.


  1. If people listen to one another, misunderstandings will be decreased. This will reduce confusion/frustration. Which, in turn, will lower stress levels. Reducing stress will make the working environment more relaxed. This will help create a friendly atmosphere. Most importantly, clients and customers who enter your work environment will notice this.
  1. When someone does not listen, often the activity requested will be completed inadequately or not completed at all, which wastes time and resources. If staff can listen to one another then work will be completed not only at a faster rate, as instructions are clear, but interoffice relationships will be stronger.
  1. By listening attentively, you also show that you care. This can provide a sense of value, boost self-esteem and build positive relationships between co-workers.

The Problem

There are, however, a multitude of factors that can affect listening skills for the worse. Workshops for staff are often patronising. Many of us shudder at the thought of attending such an event. Team-building exercises are often a better setting to practice listening skills. And, more often than not, employees will be unaware that listening skills are even a part of the training.

Office team working together

But, say your staff complete a set of workshops or team building exercises, and are still inattentive or dismissive of one another. What then? There are many issues that make listening skills in the workplace hard to control. But, rather than controlling how people talk and listen to one another, you can harness these differences to support and build your team.

Differing Forms of Listening Styles

The differentiation between male and female listening skills, for instance, is such an example. In the book ‘Listen Up’, Larry Barker and Kittie Watson show that women and men utilise very different listening styles. 

They argue that ‘men are more likely to be action-orientated listeners, which means they focus on listening to information pertinent to the task in hand. 

On the other hand, ‘women are more likely to be people-orientated listeners. They connect with the emotional message and undertones of a conversation and are more concerned with the occurrence of the conversation than with the pertinent information discussed’.

woman and man in relaxed meeting

It is important to note that neither form of listening has been proven to be better than the other. But both forms can aid one another, depending on the approach. If your employees are taught to identify and better understand each other’s’ communication styles, your workforce may get along more than expected.

Generational Differences

Another factor that may affect listening could be that, for the first time, four-five generations are simultaneously working alongside one another. Today, we employ 

– The babies of the bunch, the ‘Gen Z’, ‘IGen’ or ‘Centennials’. Who were born from 1996 upwards. 

– The ‘Millennials’ (1977 to 1995)

–  ‘Generation X’ (1965-1976)

– The ‘Baby Boomers’ (1946-1964) 

– And the ‘Silents’ or ‘Traditionalists’. Who cover those born before 1945. 


Five generations with differing life-skills/life-views/values/sayings/colloquialisms/fashions/tastes/abilities/sayings/political views.

All with altering attitudes towards work and life, based on their different experiences of the world….working alongside one another…. 

What could go wrong?

The first issue is finding a source of relatability. Generally, each generation has more in common with the generation either side of them. For instance, ‘Gen Z’ will relate more with the ‘Millennials’. Whereas the ‘Millennials’ will relate more with ‘Gen Z’ and ‘Generation X’. ‘Generation X’ will relate more with the ‘Millennials’ and the ‘Baby Boomers’ and so on. But Place ‘Gen Z’ with the ‘Silents’, or the ‘Baby Boomers’ with the ‘Millennials’, and you could have issues in communication.

Between us we hold a wealth of ever-expanding knowledge and, regardless of gender or age, the key to working together is through listening. Even if you don’t want to listen, just listen anyway. The act of listening can only benefit working relations and the working environment. Who knows, you may be surprised by what others have to say and you might even find a common interest.

light bulb idea

Although it may take time, once issues in communication are highlighted they can be resolved. What is hard is spotting where the issues within your business stem from and whether or not they are down to problems in communication or not.

At Pansensic, we are able to analyse vast quantities of qualitative data. This data shows exactly where the issues in your business arise from. From this we can propose the best methods to fix problems and create a happier, healthier organisation.

Contact the team, and see what Pansensic can do for you.

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