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The Importance of Interpersonal Skills in the Workplace

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Effective interpersonal skills ensure your success as a team player at work and promote a positive work environment. Communication, cooperation and empathy are keys to developing strong relationships with clients and co-workers. Poor interpersonal skills can lead to lawsuits, disgruntled customers and strife in the office. Some interpersonal skills might be part of your natural personality or disposition, but others can be learned over time.

Build Relationships and Keep Your Job

Strong interpersonal skills help you build connections with your co-workers. Co-workers need affirmation, assuring them that you value their skills, insight and abilities. Without kindness, mutual respect and appropriate emotional responses, co-workers and supervisors might view you as aloof, self-focused and unapproachable. Effective interpersonal skills help you keep your job and advance in your career path, without risk of getting fired for your inability to work well with others.

Ward Off Lawsuits

Poor interpersonal skills can lead to lawsuits, not because workers aren't qualified, but because they lack empathy, compassion and genuine concern for the well being of others. A high percentage of litigation cases in the medical field are a result of poor communication skills and relationship failures, such as doctors who ignore patients' feelings or only spend a few minutes with them during visits, reports Kristin E. Schleiter, a senior research associate for the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, according to the American Medical Association. Lawsuits rarely involve a medical professional's lack of clinical expertise. Clients don't want to deal with professionals who are rude, apathetic or condescending.

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Reduce Customer Service Problems

Customers want assurance that you care about their needs and are willing to patiently listen to their requests. Without effective interpersonal skills, you'll likely encounter customer service problems and small issues can escalate. Strong interpersonal skills, such as patience, the ability to express gratitude and an effort to diffuse angry or temperamental customers can make your work day run much smoother. Without these interpersonal skills, you might not be able to properly handle conflicts or manage high-stress situations, leading to frustration for both you and your customers.

Produce Strong Leaders

Effective interpersonal skills, such as healthy communication strategies and conflict management strengths, produce strong team leaders, supervisors and managers. According to a 2007 interpersonal-skills study conducted by Tracom Group, 84.8 percent of business professionals witnessed an executive-level leader fail due to a lack of interpersonal skills, and 90.2 percent of executives said effective communication was a key ingredient for entry-level managers to move into executive-level positions. Without robust interpersonal skills, managers fall short in their ability to lead, direct and supervise employees, often resulting in lost productivity and goals that are not attained.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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