Using Interpersonal Skills to Manage More Effectively

Article excerpt

Supervisors are chosen on the basis of their knowledge and their ability to use their knowledge. They may be proficient in computer skills, or they may be good writers, or they may have strong analytical abilities. The one thing they don't have is prior supervisory experience.

Yet when an employee who has been with the company for some time is promoted into a managerial position, his or her patterns of interrelating have already been established, whether consciously or unconsciously. This could mean that they are not sensitive to individual differences and do not recognize the psychological needs and motivations of their staffers and may even have trouble relating to them.

Such supervisors need to develop their interpersonal skills. That requires an understanding of sharing experiences, listening, and empathizing. These skills, when implemented properly, are mutually beneficial for supervisors and their employees.

Sharing Experiences

The act of sharing experiences that arise out of work (and sometimes non-work-related events) can be essential in fostering good interpersonal relationships in the office. Power, authority, and status can impede the flow of information. Employees, for example, still tend to filter out bad news that should be communicated to supervisors and managers. The more tense the climate of the organization, the more bad news gets filtered.

To create an open, supportive climate, supervisors need to realize the importance of sharing experiences. This sort of sharing improves morale, encourages greater cooperation, and increases productivity.

Using the phrase "window of opportunity," we can illustrate our point. Opportunities for building relationships can be thought of as a window between two individuals--say, a supervisor and a staffer. This window has four "panes"--the Arena, the Blind Spot, the Facade, and the Unknown.

The Arena contains information shared by both individuals. This is the "public" pane. The Blind Spot is potentially destructive; it contains information known by others by not by oneself. Example: information about how we appear to others. Our lack of knowledge here can lead to frustration or embarrassment.

The Facade contains information the individual knows alone. This includes any secrets, true hopes and dreams, true fears, and dislikes. We aren't usually willing to share this information, so others can't respond adequately. The Unknown contains information that neither side knows at present, but that information will become evident as the two individuals interact and learn more about each other.

Supervisors who want to develop better interpersonal skills need to focus on the Arena so that "pane" can grow and strengthen at the expense of the other three. The best ways to do this are to encourage feedback (two-way) and to get to know employees as individuals. …