Have you ever worked with someone who was technically proficient but difficult to work with? Or maybe you've had a boss who lacked the ability to communicate effectively with their team. Even if they were great performers, they might have created frustrating or awkward situations.
That could have been due to a lack of finely developed interpersonal skills on their part. As an HR leader, you know that having employees with strong interpersonal skills is essential for creating a positive and productive workplace culture.
Afterall, interpersonal skills are essential for successful professionals and teams. How employees present themselves to each other directly impacts the quality of their relationships with colleagues—and ultimately affects their job performance. But do you know which specific interpersonal skills are most important in the workplace? From active listening to negotiation, here are traits to have on your radar.
What are Interpersonal Skills?
Interpersonal skills refer to the ability to interact with others effectively and build positive relationships. These skills are essential for creating and maintaining a productive and cohesive workplace environment. Interpersonal or people skills include a wide range of capabilities, such as:
- Verbal and nonverbal communication
- Active listening
- Conflict resolution
Known as a type of soft skill, interpersonal skills differ from the technical skills or hard skills that employees need to perform their job duties. But this doesn't mean they’re any crucial to actively participating as members of the team. Employees who possess the ability to communicate well and empathize, for instance, can establish strong working relationships with their peers, supervisors, and reports. People skills often go hand in hand with strong leadership, too, since great leaders leverage abilities like conflict management, transparency in communication, and empathy.
The Importance of Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal communication skills equip employees to handle conflicts constructively and work well in teams, which is an invaluable asset in today's fast-paced and collaborative work environments. By prioritizing the development of these skills in your employees, you can help to create a more engaged, collaborative, and productive workforce.
That will be paramount for achieving organizational success — and preparing your team for the future of work. By 2030, two-thirds of all jobs are expected to be soft-skill intensive, Deloitte estimates. Your employees need to know how to communicate, listen, and problem-solve effectively.
Here are some specific benefits of having good interpersonal skills in the workplace:
- Improved communication: When employees possess strong social skills, they can communicate effectively with colleagues and clients about tasks, directions, requirements, and more. This can lead to fewer misunderstandings, smoother collaboration, and ultimately, better outcomes.
- Increased productivity: Strong interpersonal skills can help employees work together more efficiently and effectively. They help everyone on the team easily align and move forward to achieve goals, which can lead to increased productivity for the team and organization as a whole.
- Better conflict resolution: With interpersonal skills like active listening and neutral body language, employees are better equipped to resolve conflicts in a constructive and positive manner. This can help to minimize disruption and tensions in the workplace, leading to a more harmonious and productive working environment.
- Enhanced leadership: Interpersonal skills are essential for effective leadership and mentoring. Leaders who possess strong communication skills are better equipped to inspire and motivate their teams, provide clear direction and feedback, and build trust and respect with their colleagues.
- Improved customer service: For employees dealing with customers, they need to know how to interact positively with people to provide top-notch service. Good communication, empathy, and problem-solving abilities can help to ensure that customers feel satisfied and stay loyal to the organization.
Nine Examples of Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills enable employees to collaborate effectively with their peers and supervisors, helping create a more efficient and productive working environment. Here are some of the most important interpersonal skills and how they might look in practice:
Empathy is the ability to not only sympathize, but comprehend the emotions and experiences of other people. This involves active listening skills and communication, as well as a deep sense of caring and compassion.
An empathetic employee might notice when a colleague is feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Instead of ignoring these cues, they may offer assistance, ask if the colleague wants to talk about what’s bothering them, or simply express their understanding. Empathy can transform working relationships by building trust, fostering open dialogue, and encouraging a supportive team environment.
- Conflict Resolution
Conflict resolution refers to the ability to address disagreements and discord in a positive and constructive manner. Employees with this skill can de-escalate tense situations, mediate between differing perspectives, and negotiate solutions that satisfy everyone.
For example, consider a project where two team members have contrasting ideas about how to move forward. An employee proficient in conflict resolution might step in, help each person voice their opinion, lead a discussion to understand each perspective, and guide the group toward the best compromise. This helps to create a peaceful and productive work environment.
Effective communication involves not only articulating one's thoughts and ideas clearly, but also actively listening to others through verbal and non-verbal communication, like maintaining eye contact. It's about being clear, concise, and considerate in written and spoken communication.
A great example of communication skills at work is during team meetings. An effective communicator can explain their ideas coherently, listen attentively when others speak, ask insightful questions for clarity, and provide thoughtful feedback. They might also summarize meeting points towards the end to ensure everyone has the same understanding and agrees on the next steps. This skill is pivotal in minimizing misunderstandings and fostering unity among team members.
Motivation is the ability to inspire others to work towards common goals. It’s about encouraging colleagues, recognizing their efforts, and building enthusiasm for tasks or projects.
In a team working on a long-term project, motivation might take the form of a team member consistently recognizing and appreciating the efforts of others, reinforcing the importance of the project's end goal, and keeping spirits high even during challenging times. This might involve offering encouraging words, organizing fun team-building activities, or highlighting the positive impact of the team's work.
Negotiation is the art of reaching a mutual agreement through dialogue and compromise. It involves persuasiveness, problem-solving, and the ability to understand and cater to different interests. An employee might employ negotiation skills when discussing project roles within a team, ensuring that tasks are divided fairly, and each team member's strengths and interests are taken into account.
- Cultural Competency
In our increasingly globalized world, cultural competency — the ability to understand and interact with people, while respecting cultural differences — is a crucial interpersonal skill. Employees can demonstrate this by respecting diverse perspectives and customs, adapting their communication style to be inclusive, or facilitating a team discussion about a culturally sensitive topic. By doing so, they promote a diverse, inclusive, equitable, and respectful workplace.
- Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence involves recognizing, understanding, and managing our own emotions and the emotions of those around us. In the workplace, an employee might demonstrate emotional intelligence by staying calm under pressure, expressing their feelings in a constructive manner, or noticing when a colleague is feeling stressed and offering support.
Patience is the capacity to tolerate delay, inconvenience, or difficulty without feeling agitated or upset. It’s especially important in a dynamic workplace environment where changes, setbacks, and delays can be common. Employees might demonstrate patience by maintaining a calm demeanor when they’re faced with a difficult task, a challenging colleague, or while they’re up against a tight deadline to complete a project.
Persuasion is the ability to influence others or convince them to take a specific course of action. In the workplace, an employee might exhibit persuasion skills by effectively communicating the benefits of their proposed project, convincing team members to adopt a new process, or influencing a decision that's beneficial to the team. The key here is to persuade ethically, respecting others' autonomy and decision-making ability.
Interpersonal Skills Have a Crucial Impact on Wellbeing
Your team’s ability to communicate effectively doesn’t just impact productivity or build a positive team culture. It’s also shown to have an impact on employees’ health and wellness. Conflict resolution, for example, is essential to reducing stress and increasing positive emotions. Research shows that when people resolve conflicts within the same day, they experience fewer negative emotions.
Strong interpersonal skills can help with a quick resolution, and that’s one reason why you should value and develop them among your workforce. And it’s not the only way to build connections and inspire healthy behaviors. There are plenty of initiatives you can try that help team members collaborate, while delivering wellness outcomes.
For example, you can invite employees to participate in a corporate volunteering or fitness challenge to get them involved in some friendly competition with their teammates. Or you can host a workshop or staff retreat that’s focused on an aspect of wellness, like mindfulness or financial wellbeing.
No matter how you decide to incorporate it, Gympass can help you craft the perfect addition to your wellness program that builds camaraderie and collaboration between your employees. Just speak to one of our wellbeing specialists today to learn more!
- Davis, Shushana. (March 4, 2017.) Interpersonal Skills & Effective Leadership. LinkedIn. Retrieved June 22, 2023 from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/interpersonal-skills-effective-leadership-shushana-davis
- Kuligowski, Kiely. (March 28, 2023.) Workplace Conflicts? 5 Tips to Improve Communication. Business News Daily. Retrieved June 22, 2023 from https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8766-resolving-workplace-conflicts.html
- Rowello, Lauren. (May 3, 2021.) Resolve Conflict by Day's End For Long-Lasting Benefits, Study Says. Verywell Mind. Retrieved June 22, 2023 from https://www.verywellmind.com/resolve-conflict-by-days-end-for-conflict-resolution-5180204
- Soft skills for business success: Building Australia's future workforce. Deloitte. Retrieved June 22, 2023 from https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/economics/articles/soft-skills-business-success.html
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.