There’s no doubt that the coronavirus has turned our worlds upside down and that the definitions of being an employer or an employee have changed forever. Interpersonal skills have always been an important advantage for an employee to have and in a world where more people are opting to work from home or to work remotely, using these skills properly have become even more important.
Why are interpersonal skills important? How does using them effectively make you a better employee or employer?
Let’s start by taking a look at the most important interpersonal skills of 2021 that employers and employees should adopt to enhance organization culture:
Types Of Interpersonal Skills
1. Being a Good Listener– Employees and colleagues may not always be able to communicate what’s on their mind, effectively. Being a good listener is not only about showing respect and allowing the other person to talk without interruptions, but it is also about understanding the emotions behind the communication and responding accordingly.
2. Teamwork– Teamwork is about supporting fellow colleagues to accomplish a given task but the importance of being a good team player is even more crucial now. Given that working remotely is now the preferred mode of employment, ensuring that a task is completed on time and a goal is achieved, can happen only when communication between members is seamless.
3. Responsibility– Being responsible for a task, a project or even for one’s team means taking ownership when things go wrong. It is quite possible that things may not go fully as planned during the execution, but an employee who is certain to climb the corporate ladder is one who accepts responsibility and not one who blames others.
4. Dependability- Even if you are working from home, you can still prove to your team and managers that you are a person who can be counted on to get the job done on time. Being dependable is a crucial interpersonal skill and that plays an important part in determining one’s success as a team player and overall contribution to the organization.
5. Leadership- It’s a common misconception that only managers in higher positions can demonstrate leadership skills and lead a team. The truth is that leadership can be displayed in a situation by an employee at any time irrespective of whether they are a junior or a senior. Taking initiative, making the right suggestions, helping team members and working to solve a problem are all signs of good leadership.
6. Motivation- Research shows that employees work best in an environment where they are constantly motivated and encouraged. Working remotely is not an easy transition for many people, especially for those who have families. Motivating employees wherever they may be working from helps them feel like they matter to the organization.
7. Patience- Patience isn’t a virtue that grows overnight but as an interpersonal and managerial skill, it is priceless. Acceptance of delays and unforeseen circumstances especially when colleagues are working remotely is important. Likewise, keeping negative emotions such as irritation, anger and frustration in check is also a sign of patience.
8. Empathy- Being empathetic involves a two-fold process- one is where you understand a specific circumstance from the perspective of another person and the second is where you are able to effectively let them know that you have understood them. Empathy helps us to adjust better to unexpected challenges and find solutions quickly.
Why They Are Important?
Working remotely is changing the way organizations communicate with their employees. One to one in person meetings with the team are without doubt more effective in communicating ideas smoothly, but due to the pandemic, these meetings take place online and often the communication could get misunderstood.
An organization that places importance on inter personal skills will be able to navigate times such as these in a manner that benefits all employees.
Here are 6 other reasons why interpersonal skills are the need of the hour in organizations across the world-
1. Helps in Crisis Management- An organization where employees can speak up without fear of repercussions will be able to solve problems faster. In the current scenario, the possibility of facing issues that may not have been tackled before by the team is higher, especially if employees are working remotely. This is when skills such as being a good listener and teamwork become important.
2. Helps Build Trust- A team in which the members cannot depend on each other and that lacks trust is not a team at all. Good communication skills, empathy, patience and acting responsibly are those interpersonal skills which will help build trust and transparency in the organization.
3. Helps In Resolving Conflicts- Conflicts and misunderstandings are quite common in any organization but when they become too frequent, the very threads that bind a team together can slowly unravel. Interpersonal skills such as empathy, being a good listener, being patient and displaying the right leadership skills will help resolve conflicts faster.
4. Helps in Adapting To Change- The pandemic has forced organizations all over the world to change the way business is done and the ways in which employees contribute to the organization. When interpersonal skills within a team are given importance, adapting to changes overall becomes a team effort. It becomes easier to implement new strategies and change direction accordingly.
5. Helps In Strengthening Office Culture– It doesn’t matter if employees report to work physically or if they work remotely but prioritising interpersonal skills helps to improve and deepen employee bonding. That directly contributes to improving organization culture and increasing positivity. When interpersonal skills are low, conflicts and negativity become more common.
6. Helps In Better Management- Good Managers and respected business leaders are always striving to motivate employees and to let them know that their contributions matter. Letting employees know that they are valued and giving importance to their personal grievances matters even more in uncertain times. Effective communication takes place only when interpersonal skills are nurtured in the organization.
Examples of Interpersonal Skills At The Workplace
1. Scenario One– An employee (employee A) who is working from home is working on an important project with a few other team members. The deadline is just a week away but the employee’s child falls ill with covid and he is struggling to be a good father and devote enough time to seeing the important project through. What action should the organization take in this regard?
Different organizations have employed different operating protocol in place to address this kind of unforeseen circumstance. An organization that gives importance to interpersonal skills will naturally put the employee and his personal grievance first. The right action to take would be to-
– Allow employee A to take a few days off work with paid leave (without logging in at all from home).
– Hold an online team meeting, in which they are informed about the current developments.
– Assign the role of project manager to another employee who is aware of the project developments and who can confidently get the team to meet the deadline.
– The new project manager gets a full handing over from employee A.
– Inform the client of the said team changes in case the client has been communicating directly with employee A.
– Ask the HR manager to personally call employee A and to assure him that all help will be extended in case hospitalization is needed. Checking with employee A with regard to the health of his child should ideally be done every two days.
– The HR manager assures employee A that his job is safe and he is welcome to resume responsibilities when he is comfortable doing so.
2. Scenario Two- Two employees who are a part of the same team simply cannot work together at all and yet both are good employees who complete any individual task assigned to them, perfectly. Their constant conflicts is beginning to hamper the smooth functioning of the team itself. What is the right course of action that should be taken?
Employee conflicts do happen even in the best and biggest of organizations. They usually take place when employees believe that their way of thinking is correct and it is their suggested course of action that should be implemented for the betterment of the firm. However, the right way to handle a delicate situation like this would be:
– Both employees are called by their respective team leader or department manager for a one-on-one meeting. Their grievances are heard individually and noted. A further plan of action is put into effect keeping in mind the points raised by both employees.
– In case, the issue is not resolved, calling a joint meeting, hearing the complaints that both employees have about each other and then planning a course of action is advised.
– If the issue is still not resolved, then the HR manager would need to talk to each employee individually to understand their grievances and reasons for the conflict.
– As the last course of action, reassigning the employees to different roles or to different departments can be considered.