Range of Interpersonal and Group Situations
Employers need and want employees who have good communications skills in a range of in terpersonal and group situations.
A number of organizations conduct surveys of employers to determine which skills are imp ortant for employers and find that various forms of communication are consistently rated a s important. For example, each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (N ACE) asks employers to rate the importance of 10 skills and qualities on a scale of 1 throug h 5, with 1 representing “not important” and 5 representing “extremely important.” The top three skills are written communication skills, problem- solving skills, and teamwork, abilities that are directly related to interpersonal communicat ion (NACE, 2018). The skills of obtaining and processing information, writing reports, and s elling or influencing others are also an integral part of interpersonal communication in the
workplace. Time and again, employers also report that they value listening, leadership, ma nagement of others, and multicultural awareness and sensitivity (Hansen & Hansen, n.d.).
A similar employer survey asked business executives about the top 10 most important soft skills, or the intangible interpersonal qualities and personal attributes that job seekers nee d, in addition to the hard skills, or the technical knowledge and expertise required for a par ticular job (Robles, 2012). Three of the 10 most important soft skills directly involve interp ersonal communication skills: communication (ranked second), interpersonal skills (fifth), and teamwork skills (ninth; Robles, 2012). Indeed.com, a popular job website, also includes effective communication skills, teamwork, and conflict resolution in its list of most sought- after soft skills to list on a cover letter or resume (n.d.). Though employers consistently rate communication as an important skill, job seekers, espe cially millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996), may not be doing an effective job p resenting such skills to prospective employers. A survey conducted by an online career net work, Beyond.com (2013), polled 6,000 job seekers and veteran human resource (HR) prof essionals, finding a substantial difference between how millennials view themselves as emp loyee prospects and how HR professionals perceive such candidates. Though 66% of the mi llennials rated themselves as team players, only 22% of HR professionals agreed that the m illennials would work well in a team (Beyond.com, 2013). In addition, 65% of the millennial s felt that their interpersonal communication skills were strong, but only 14% of the HR pr ofessionals agreed with this assessment. On a positive note, 86% of HR professionals viewe d millennials as tech-savvy, while 39% viewed them as fun-loving. These perceptual differences may be discouraging for job seekers, but one way to overcom e such hurdles is to learn more about interpersonal communication, which can give job see kers an important advantage because they will know how to better communicate who they are and what skills they can offer employers. The simple fact is that employers need and wa nt people who have good communication skills and are competent communicators in a vari ety of ways.
Workplace Communication Behaviors
Research on BPC aims to identify and understand the types of communication that occur in the workplace. A study by Joann Keyton and her colleagues (2013) pinpointed four routine forms of workplace communication that can help evaluate employee effectiveness. The rese archers sought to determine which communication behaviors individuals use frequently in the workplace and how these messages are evaluated by coworkers (Keyton et al., 2013). T his study defined workplace communication behaviors as social behaviors that employees e ngage in with coworkers, which then create connections between individual employees an d the larger organization. Workplace communication behaviors
- serve important functions, • are undertaken to accomplish goals, • are interactive because they involve other individuals, • are learnable, and • are observable.
Keyton and colleagues (2013) argue that it is important to identify these behaviors because they are relevant to how organizations evaluate employee performance, competence, and s kill.
To identify these behaviors in the workplace, Keyton and colleagues (2013) conducted two studies. The first study helped researchers generate a list of workplace behaviors that were communicative in nature. The second study then allowed researchers to organize the list of behaviors into broader categories and examine each category in relation to effectiveness— an employee’s perceived ability in that particular area— and communication competence. Four broad workplace communication behavior categorie s emerged from Keyton and colleagues’ analysis (2013):
- information sharing: task- related behaviors such as explaining, solving problems, giving feedback and advice, and ask ing and answering questions
- relational maintenance: interpersonal relationship- focused actions such as creating relationships, engaging in small talk, and being humorous
- expressing negative emotion: complaints or frustrations about work or the workplace • organizing: administrative-
type behaviors such as scheduling and planning, personnel management, and problem solvi ng There are elements of each of these four categories in the scenario described at the beginni ng of the chapter. Patrick and Dominique share information about the policies of the firm w here they work, and each also expresses negative emotions about their boss, Suzanne. Suza nne is organizing as she attempts to understand the friendship between her two employees and its possible influence on their coworkers and the organization. Throughout the scenari o, Patrick, Dominique, and Suzanne are also independently attempting to maintain workpla ce relationships by trying to work through the situation (though it might be more construct ive if they communicated and worked through concerns as a team).
In Keyton and colleagues’ research, engaging in information sharing, maintaining relations hips, and organizing were perceived by participants as appropriate and effective workplace communication behaviors (2013). Further, although information sharing and maintaining relationships are often viewed by researchers as important factors in workplace communic ation processes, organization behaviors and the expression of negative emotion are import ant additional behaviors that help communication scholars understand how individuals in business and professional settings communicate.
6.2 How Interpersonal Communication Can Enhance Professional Succe
Though BPC tends to focus on how colleagues communicate with one another about busine ss and professional matters, interpersonal messages and relationships among colleagues ar
e also important aspects of BPC and are integral to workplace success. As we have seen, soc ial support from our colleagues helps buffer against negative health effects that stem from work (Birmingham & Holt- Lunstad, 2018) and contributes to productivity and other constructive workplace outcome s (Wagner et al., 2015); also, employers recognize and seek out the value of interpersonal c ommunication when hiring new employees. The next sections explore additional ways that interpersonal communication can enhance your success at work and your career advancem ent.