When the world outside the office is filled with controversy, it is easy to let your interpersonal skills slide.  Employees who possess well-developed interpersonal skills are better able to relate to direct reports, team members, and customers.  Following are three ways to build interpersonal skills that will improve workplace relationships.

Build an Environment of Trust

Employees are more satisfied and productive when they work in an environment of trust. Trust building starts at the top with an organization’s leaders and permeates down through all levels of management.  In his book, “Trust Factor”, Paul Zak offers the following management behaviors that help to foster trust in the workplace:

·                     Recognizing excellence

            ·                     Enabling job-crafting

·                     Providing flexibility

·                     Building intentional relationships

·                     Sharing information broadly

·                     Showing vulnerability

These behaviors show that a manager cares about an employee as an individual and has a vested interest in building a relationship that helps the employee to succeed on-the-job.  By acknowledging individual employee efforts, providing developmental opportunities or mentorships for career advancement, and granting flexibility to accommodate an employee’s life changes, trust and loyalty grow, which enhance engagement and performance.

Trust is also built through empowerment.  It allows an employee to take ownership of their job, solve problems, and make mistakes without retribution.  As a result, an employee gains the confidence to grow personally and professionally.

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Defuse Customer Stress
Maintaining constructive relationships with customers is critical to business success.  When customers are stressed or disappointed, they should initially be met with a positive attitude.  Leonard Barry, Scott Davis, and Jody Wilmet identified three actions that help companies mitigate the inevitable conflicts that cause customers stress (HBR Oct 2015).  In their research, they observed best practices used to care for cancer patients:

·                 Identify emotional triggers

            

·                 Respond early to intense emotions

·                 Enhance customers’ control                     

As you would imagine, displaying empathy and empowering patients and their caregivers to participate in the decision-making process allows them to maintain a sense of dignity and control.  In business, you can defuse customer stress by applying the following questions:

1.                  What emotional triggers are present?

            

2.                  Who or whom is/are affected?

3.                 How can the “affected parties” regain control?

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Encourage Peer Collaboration

One of the most common team dynamics I witness in the workplace is competition over collaboration.  This is no surprise given the propensity to “be right” over finding the best solution.  Heidi Gardner, in “Smart Collaboration:  How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos,” encourages companies to address these challenges:

·         Selling the importance of collaboration.  Leaders need to demonstrate their preference for working together by publically recognizing teams that use collaboration to achieve results.

·         Adjusting systems and processes. Identify and minimize policies and procedures that reward and reinforce win/lose situations.

·         Developing facilitation skills.  Keep employees engaged and allow them to learn from their mistakes. Provide ample opportunities for feedback and reflection.

To achieve excellence in each of these three areas, it is essential that employees develop and demonstrate an understanding of interpersonal relationships, conflict management strategies, and team dynamics in order to improve workplace relationships.

tweet to employees

To achieve excellence in each of these three areas, it is essential that employees develop and demonstrate an understanding of interpersonal relationships, conflict management strategies, and team dynamics in order to improve workplace relationships.