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The importance of Interpersonal & Communication skills in organisationsThe importance of Interpersonal & Communication skills in organisation

A Vital Aspect of Work Culture Productivity

Second article in a series of 3

By Wilfried Rupieper, Lead Consultant at Consulting Synergies Africa CC.
[email protected]

Wilfried has worked as a consultant in the organisation development field for over 22 years. He worked as HR Director for Namibia Breweries Limited and HR Manager for SAB Miller. His formal background lies in Business Administration, Human Resources Management and Psychology.

Consulting Synergies Africa keeps offices at No 6 Ametis Street, Eros, Windhoek and can be called at 061 340 0582. His contact number in SA is +27 6134 00 582. In Namibia the CSA contact is 0811 299 710,

We spend at least 8 hours of each working day at work. It is an important arena in which we operate and in which we experience ourselves in the context of others. The workplace can contribute to our sense of self in both “positive” and “negative” ways. The quality and intensity of this interaction during our workday, has significant and lasting impact on our interpersonal relationship abilities, our mind and subsequently the way our brain will function. We thus need to be mindful about the interactive climate in our work environments, the work culture we create that will have lasting effects on us.
Often we are severely impeded by our ineffective interpersonal skills or lack thereof as well as those of the others we interact with. Most of us have at best learned inadequate skills of interpersonal interaction and communication. It is largely an area in which our emotions require management, an ability that most of us master rather moderately. In most challenging interpersonal encounters we are left somewhat bruised and in emotional turmoil, because we felt overwhelmed, overly timid, helpless or out of control. The bruising leads to greater cautiousness in communication and interpersonal encounters in future. At the extreme it leads to a degree of loneliness and detachment from others in the work place, which may carry through to social settings.
Since we are social beings we seek support and confirmation. If we do not get it from those we perceive to be able to change things, we will tend to find this affirmation in others who feel similar to us – and this is a large group in most companies. It is at this level that staff members confirm one another in their feelings of helplessness and frustrations and ultimately anger about the work place climate.
However, this is behaviour that reflects rather limited effectiveness. Yes, by seeing that others feel similar to me, I feel that I am not alone and that I have a right to feel the way I do; it constitutes a legitimisation of my feelings. On the other hand, I then tend to remain within my feelings of helplessness, which over time erodes my sense of self-esteem and confidence and I either gradually loose control of my own life or never gain a reasonable sense of ownership of and responsibility for my life.
Behaviourally, we need to build the interpersonal and communication skills beyond a theoretical level, in order to enable staff to cope more effectively with problems/challenges, personal development, conflict, and assertion & management of self within the work place. These skills become portable skills to the social setting, which can only be positive.
At this stage, the frustrations in the workplace are carried over into the social setting, leading to aggressive, defeatist or compensatory behaviour (excesses of materialism, overspending, excessive use of alcohol, etc.).
This can also be the other way round, in that defeatist attitudes and behaviour are carried into the workplace, and there is no sufficient capacity to deal with this constructively.
Over the last years we have seen quite a lot of formalised development initiatives undertaken by organisations at considerable financial cost. Many young people are out there that have studied or are studying in various fields, never to work in those areas, or worse, remaining unemployed.
Employees in various organisations are attending many training courses in Accounting, IT, IR, and other Technical Areas, as well as in areas such as assertiveness, conflict resolution, negotiation, etc.
However, the follow-through and with that the real benefit to the individual and the organisation is at this stage questionable, since it often remains unmeasured since organisations seem to be satisfied that having sent staff members on a training course makes them competent, which is somewhat of a fallacy.
We need to develop enabling work environments in which the learning is supported and nurtured, and this requires good interpersonal and communication skills at the various levels of the organisation, given of course that it is within a clear framework of values, work objectives/targets and requirements.
A problem solving oriented work environment in which managers and staff alike are attitudinally inclined and behaviourally empowered to spontaneously and constructively interact and relate, where communication is open, transparent, frequent and engrained in the way we do things, would energise an organisation and would free up energies towards productivity currently expended in frustration, feelings of helplessness and anger.
It would also enable organisations to more fruitfully utilise the formalised learning from universities, colleges and other formal learning institutions and make it count at both competence development and organisational productivity level.

Next week
A thorough, robust and consistent mid- to long-term development approach is required that includes comprehensive analysis, the identification of appropriate skills and competence development remedies/interventions, supported by meaningful coaching and mentoring.

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