You may not realize it but the good manners your mother tried to teach you when you were a child could help you in your career. Good manners and common sense are two of the building blocks for developing effective interpersonal skills in the office. In today’s competitive job market, having excellent interpersonal skills and communication are not only essential to advancing your career but is essential to just retaining the position that you have with the company. As an office manager, I found there are five basic interpersonal skills that every person should develop and maintain for success in the office.
1. Do not criticize – offer solutions to problems. I worked with a woman who loved to tell everyone that she worked with that “if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.” In her own way, she made an excellent point about effective interpersonal skills. The employee that is always complaining about a problem without offering any suggestion of how to improve or solve the problem exhibits characteristics that are undesirable to management. If you see something that can be improved, focus on the solution rather than complaining to others about the problem.
2. Do not use others as a stepping-stone or take all the credit for a group effort. – If you want to destroy any hope of developing good interpersonal communication with your co-workers, use them and take all the credit. Each person in an organization has talents and abilities that make them a unique part of the whole. By thanking individuals for their hard work, recognizing their accomplishments and contributions, you not only demonstrate that you have effective interpersonal skills you also inspire others to work even harder.
3. Develop good meeting techniques. – Part of having good interpersonal communication in the workplace is knowing how to conduct a meeting so that everyone is heard but the topic and agenda are maintained. According to “Tips on Meeting Facilitation” by Laurie Wilhelm the key factors in leading a successful meeting is to state goals clearly, stay on topic include everyone including quiet participants and listen well. Learning these skills will increase your one-on-one interpersonal communication skills.
4. Carry through with your commitments. – Part of communicating effectively is being truthful, honest and trustworthy. If you are consistently missing deadlines, giving excuses and handing off assignments to others, you are going to run into roadblocks when trying to communicate with co-workers. If they cannot trust you to keep your commitments, then they will be unlikely to listen to you on other matters. Trust must be earned and is a powerful tool of effective interpersonal skills.
5. Focus on the goal or problem – do not make her personal. – Often when managers or supervisors are offering opinions, instructions or evaluations they make it personal rather than focusing on the job. This is an obstacle to effective interpersonal skills. A good debater knows that you do not attack the person but you attack the argument – this is the same approach a good leader should take when offering constructive criticism or direction. If you must address something that brings personal issues into focus, state the problem clearly and then focus on ways to improve and correct rather than continue to focus on the problem.
Heathfield, Susan M. “Play Well With Others: Develop Effective Work Relationships” (About.com)
Wilhelm, Laurie. “Tips On Meeting Facilitation” (ExpressYourselfToSuccess.com)