What are interpersonal skills and why are they important for the workplace?

Success in the twenty-first century workplace requires a multitude of skills. While job-specific, technical knowledge may once have been the most important abilities for employees to possess, today the emphasis on abilities that are widely applicable to all jobs is growing. Of all these ‘soft’ skills, interpersonal skills are some of the most vital for being an effective member of an organisation, as well as getting ahead in your own career.

What are interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills are the competencies and abilities that help you interact and communicate with other people. There are very few jobs where someone works 100% on their own; even the roles you might think are mostly solo affairs still require some human interaction and teamwork. Simply put, interpersonal skills are the tools you use to get on with other people.

Some examples of interpersonal skills are:


Sharing ideas and information, building relationships with colleagues and understanding what a customer wants all rest on being able to communicate well.


To relate well to other people, you need to understand their thoughts, feelings and perspectives. Empathy is what allows you to put yourself in others’ shoes.


Almost all jobs have some elements of teamwork in them. To be valuable in those situations, you need to know how to work harmoniously with others and play your part in a greater whole.

Three friends talking around a lunch table at work.If you want to get ahead in your career, you need to have good interpersonal skills.

Why are interpersonal skills important?

Think back to your childhood on the playground: remember what happened to the kids that didn’t play nice, failed to share and acted like all-round gremlins? Other kids started not wanting to play with them. A similar dynamic can emerge in the workplace if you lack good interpersonal skills. An inability to work and interact positively with others can be ruinous for your career. No one will put your name forward for that promotion, or think of you when they stumble across an opportunity you would otherwise be perfect for. You could be an amazing software engineer, art director or marketing manager; but at the end of the day, if you’re unpleasant and taxing to work with, the value of those technical skills is limited.

The negative consequences of poor interpersonal skills can harm more than an individual’s career; organisations that employ people lacking these skills suffer too. A study commissioned by Siemens Communications and completed by SIS Research1 surveyed businesses around the world and found poor communications were costing them around $36,000 per worker per year. This cost came in the form of the time workers were having to spend fixing communication pain points. Of those points, the top five were:

Inefficient coordination – difficulties in coordinating communications between colleagues.

Waiting for information – time lost simply waiting for responses to queries.

Unwanted communications – things like low priority calls and emails.

Customer complaints – due specifically to the fact the business wasn’t able to contact them in a timely manner.

Barriers to collaboration –  factors that outright impeded communication between employees.

It’s not just financial harm that poor communication causes. A report from The Economist Intelligence Unit2 found it can create added stress (52% of respondents agree), unnecessary delay or project failure (44%), and low morale (31%). Many respondents (18%) also said poor communication led to missed sales opportunities, of which almost a third were valued in the hundreds of thousands of US dollars.

How can you prove your interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills are incredibly valuable to employers – they underpin people’s ability to work together and for the business to function well. This fact is what makes demonstrating you have the appropriate interpersonal skills so vital for landing a job. Having the skills to succeed is one thing, but proving them to a potential employer is another. Sure, a solid performance in an interview can go a long way to satisfying a recruiter that you’re able to communicate clearly. But an interview can’t tell them everything; it’s tough to get an accurate read of someone in such an irregular and intense situation.

Deakin’s professional practice credentials give you the opportunity to prove you have the skills you say you do. They provide an independent assessment of your interpersonal skills like communication, professional ethics and teamwork. Once you’ve successfully completed your credential, you receive a digital badge, which is the perfect way to advertise your newly accredited skills online.

To learn more about our professional practice credentials, get in touch with a member of our team today.

1SIS International Research for Siemens Communications. (2009). Uncovering the hidden cost of communications barriers and latency.

2The Economist Intelligence Unit. (2013). Communication barriers in the modern workplace.