What separates managers and employees is more than just training, experience and responsibilities. The interpersonal skills workers use are critical to their effective performance, which often depends on how they interact with others. Managers must develop interpersonal skills that help them maximize the performance of subordinates, while employees must learn to interact well with peers and superiors.
Unlike technical skills, interpersonal skills are often subjective traits you use to interact with people. These include listening, communication, fairness, loyalty, leadership, confidence, understanding and sensitivity. Concepts such as sensitivity and understanding require you to listen to others, receive their messages correctly and evaluate what those messages mean. Concepts such as leadership and confidence require that you show belief in yourself and your plans based on your gathering of facts, information and knowledge as opposed to ego.
Managerial Interpersonal Skills
Managers must have the ability to communicate clearly and effectively, not only in writing, but also verbally. This means developing the ability to craft and deliver messages your subordinates understand and to generate feedback and responses that confirm their understanding. This two-way communication prevents assumptions that can doom a project when work is incomplete or is performed incorrectly. Fairness is another key interpersonal skill managers to use to maintain morale and reduce turnover. As long as employees understand what’s expected of them, they can perform their work confidently. If they meet their goals and managers fail to provide rewards or promote others who did not meet their goals, employees can feel helpless and look to work elsewhere. Leadership means more than giving orders. A strong leader walks the walk, behaving in the manner he expects of others. This includes on-time attendance, not gossiping, sharing credit and taking responsibility for errors rather than blaming.
Employee Interpersonal Skills
Employees need to follow orders and also give feedback when they see problems. This might include asking for further clarification on an instruction or inquiring about its purpose without seeming to question the validity of the instruction. Employees should offer suggestions without having to be asked asked if they see ways to improve processes. When an employee sees a personal problem, she should discreetly tell her peer or supervisor to prevent embarrassing that person in front of the group. Participating in gossip makes people question what you’re saying about them and reduces your trustworthiness. Complaining about the company can get back to management and portray you as disloyal or eroding morale.
Train your management and staff in interpersonal skills beyond including a section in your employee manual on acceptable behavior. Provide interpersonal skills training in the form of seminars or including tips in your company newsletter. Create an online test managers and employees can take online that presents a number of scenarios they might face at work and possible responses to those situations. Hold role-playing sessions that require managers to give bad news, praise or deliver instructions to a group or individual.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.