The Importance of Interpersonal Skills in the Workplace
Updated 12 September 2023
Interpersonal skills help an individual communicate effectively, solve problems, work in a team and sustain relationships with others. These abilities also enable people to navigate workplace challenges effectively. Learning about these skills and building them can be vital for your career progression. In this article, we discuss the meaning and importance of interpersonal skills, list some interpersonal skills to develop for professional success and explain how to build these valuable skills.
What is the importance of interpersonal skills in the workplace?
Learning about the importance of interpersonal skills in the workplace can help you advance your career:
Communication and collaboration are two interpersonal skills that can help organisations improve efficiency. When people can express themselves and convey their ideas effectively, it helps improve transparency and prevents conflict. This clarity allows individuals to navigate their duties and deliver results as per the expectations of their supervisors and colleagues. Strong interpersonal skills can also help team members stay focused and motivated.
Creates a healthy work environment
A workplace where people have interpersonal abilities like problem-solving, expressing disagreement and exchanging feedback openly is more likely to have a healthy and inclusive work culture. When team members work with each other intending to achieve mutual goals, they tend to manage conflicts transparently, using feedback and discussions. Strong interpersonal skills can help people prevent misunderstandings and avoid unpleasant arguments that result in workplace negativity.
Organisations that help employees develop their interpersonal skills like team management, communication and networking can help them gain the skills to become future leaders. Besides creating a pool of high-performing talent, this can help people learn skills that can help improve their work performance. In addition, other interpersonal abilities, such as empathy, flexibility and patience, can enable people to grow personally and professionally.
Helps identify workplace issues preemptively
People with great interpersonal abilities can be more effective at identifying potential workplace and business challenges, proactively resolving issues and taking ownership of complex processes. When employers display trust in the ability of their employees to make the right decisions, they become more responsible for their work and actions and want to contribute to the betterment of the workplace. This attitude can help organisations avoid and overcome obstacles related to workplace conflict, personal disagreements and unhealthy competition.
Interpersonal skills to build for professional development
Here are some key interpersonal skills you can consider developing to progress your career:
Communication skills can help a person articulate their opinions and ideas coherently. This can allow you to convey information accurately and prevent miscommunication or confusion. Workplace communication can be verbal, written and non-verbal and being an adept communicator requires you to change your approach as per the situation and recipient. Communication skills include active listening, expression, telephone skills, written communication, tone, body language, responsiveness and confidence.
Empathy makes people more understanding and sensitive to the challenges that others are going through. Empathy between team members can develop trust and result in warm and professional relationships. It can make supervisors and managers more likely to identify a situation when a team member is experiencing distress or crisis. Empathy also contributes to a more positive workplace culture that instils a sense of compassion, gratitude and belongingness in the organisation.
Conflict resolution is the process of solving disputes arising out of differences of opinion. This can happen with colleagues, clients, managers or other individuals in the workplace. Being able to analyse the situation, particularly if you're one of those impacted, and finding a solution acceptable to everyone requires strong objectivity, problem-solving, negotiation, communication and emotional intelligence abilities. Amicable resolution of conflicts in a workplace can create a positive culture and ensure the organisation functions effectively to ensure the delivery of results.
Flexibility allows you to adapt to different circumstances and manage unforeseen problems easily. This is a helpful skill in today's volatile business paradigm, as processes, roles, customer preferences and expectations are continually evolving. Being flexible includes knowing how to analyse problems, solve challenges, listen and observe attentively, negotiate solutions, manage stress and try new ideas. Besides helping people respond to challenges, flexibility can help leaders enhance organisational relevance and identify new business opportunities.
The ability to work with others in a team to accomplish shared goals requires strong coordination and collaboration. People who can collaborate with colleagues and deliver results using teamwork often get preferred to lead team projects and become leaders. Effective collaboration includes several abilities, such as communication, responsibility, dependability, trust, feedback, flexibility and problem-solving. Strong collaboration skills can also help you cultivate valuable internal, external, departmental and strategic relationships with organisational partners and other supporters in the industry.
Leadership is the ability to manage others, delegate tasks, make decisions and ensure the delivery of results. Leaders help teams accomplish mutual goals by allocating tasks, mentoring members, giving feedback and managing resources. Leadership includes abilities like decision-making, motivation, integrity, communication, persuasion, mentoring, goal-setting, prioritising and facilitating collaboration.
How to develop interpersonal skills
You can follow these steps to build and improve your interpersonal skills:
1. Set an achievable goal
Conduct an honest assessment of your skills and identify the abilities you wish to develop. You can select one or two interpersonal skills to build depending on your career goals and free time. Then, set a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound or SMART goal to develop these skills.
Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples
2. Undertake short-term courses and certifications
Many institutes and training centres conduct courses and workshops to develop interpersonal skills. You can also register for free courses that are available on digital learning platforms. These courses often focus on building one or more skills, like communication or leadership, and can provide you with a structured learning experience. Acquiring these skills can improve your confidence to assume new duties in your workplace. Similarly, the completion of well-known certifications can create a positive impression on the hiring manager when you're applying for jobs as they help convey that you possess valuable interpersonal abilities.
3. Be mindful of your actions and words
Being aware of your actions, conversations and words can help you behave more consciously. This can make you more mindful of the impact that you have on others and help you identify how you can make your interactions more effective. Similarly, observe others when you're interacting with them and try to pay attention to non-verbal cues such as their tone and body language. If there's someone in your team that you respect and admire, you can start noticing how they conduct themselves and attempt to imbibe these qualities.
4. Identify opportunities to implement your skills
Once you start building basic skills, find opportunities to exercise them. For example, if you're trying to improve your communication or presentation skills, you can volunteer to host the next team meeting. Similarly, to build teamwork skills, you can ask your supervisor to assign tasks that require high levels of interaction, collaboration and knowledge exchange with your colleagues. By practising regularly, you can expedite skills development significantly.
5. Find a mentor
A mentor is someone who can guide you to improve your skills by sharing feedback, counselling and training. While finding a mentor within the workplace is ideal, you can also seek the mentorship of experts and leaders in the industry. Through individual sessions, practical exercises and constant support, a mentor can help improve your interpersonal skills by personalising your learning journey.
6. Seek feedback regularly
Ask for recommendations from friends and colleagues proficient in specific soft skills. This can give you an external perspective to identify your shortcomings and help you learn how to improve them. You can also ask your colleagues to critique your skills and offer constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement. This is also an excellent method to check your progress at regular intervals.
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