Interpersonal Skills Needed by Business Managers

In modern corporations, business managers desire to develop positive and effective interaction with their employees. In order to build up successful relationship with subordinates, managers need to improve their interpersonal skills. This paper sets out to analyse three different interpersonal skills needed by business managers: understanding others, developing and maintaining rapport, listening and presenting feedback to others. And it seems that listening and presenting feedback is the most significant one.


In recent years, there has been a great deal of discussion about interpersonal skills of business managers. For business managers, they always work with people who have different backgrounds, and whether they can maintain successful interaction with their employees, to a certain degree, depends on their effective interpersonal skills. In modern society, it is significant difficult for business managers who cannot relate with others to achieve succeed. (Fandt 1994) In modern corporations, positive relationships are of great importance in earning high degrees of job satisfaction. If employees have a good feeling about their jobs, they will be more likely to do their job well; in addition, they are able to accomplish their tasks in high-quality environment. The research of service-profit chain(Heskett et al. 1994; Heskett, Sasser, and Schlesinger 1997 cited in Tews & Tracey 2009, p.245) which analyses how companies achieve and maintain outstanding performance mentions that ”internal service quality”, such as the way people work with each other, moves employees to feel more satisfied about their working environment. (Tews & Tracey 2009) On the contrary, if a business manager lacks interpersonal skills, they will limit the performance of employees. For example, employees who are likely to be passive, lack creativity, and depend too much on others ideas and instructions results in working with the managers who lacks interpersonal skills. (Fandt 1994) Therefore, it is one of the most basic priorities for business managers to improve their ability of interpersonal skills. The interpersonal skills needed by business managers can be seen as the capacity to be a ”facilitator-to foster a collective effect; get along with peers, subordinates, and superiors; and manage interactions with other.” (Fandt 1994)

This paper will analyse the following interpersonal skills: (1) understanding others, (2) developing and maintaining rapport, (3) listening and presenting feedback to others. Moreover, it will be argued that listening and presenting feedback to others is the most significant interpersonal skill among the three skills needed by business managers.

Understanding others

Some social psychologists have recognised that making efforts to understand the inner world of others is an extremely common feature of human interaction. This is because interpreting how to open up a conversation with others, how to respond to what others say are built up on the level of understanding of others. (Guirdham 1996)

For business managers, understanding others is also of great significance. The survey (Heller & Porter 1996 cited in Guirdham 1996, p. 147) of 150 US and UK executives found that the ”ability to understand people” was ranged as the top of a list of 16 skills of management. This is because other skills such as communication, persuading, and team work are based on a basic priority of understanding what others do and say. (Guirdham 1996)

In addition, business managers need to interpret others also because people are differing from each other and the managers should not treat everybody alike. Fiedler (1964) as cited in Guirdham (1996) suggests that a leader who can distinguish among their followers is more likely to be succeed than those who cannot. Taking the captains of basketball teams as an example, Fielder (1964) as cited in Guirdham (1996) found that the leader of the losing team seemed to find the differences among his players from a macro perspective, however, the captain of winning team knew ”who dribbled well, who shot well, who played well under pressure, and so on.” Willard E. and Robert W. (1951) also mentioned that ”the more you are able to recognize the differences among your men, the better you will be able to understand and help them.” For instance, there was a business manager who interpreted his subordinates by making notes in index cards. He picked up some information such as the birthday, education of his employees, names of the subordinate’s wife and children, the employees’ hobbies, ages, and even interests. By doing that, the manager could remember some individual characteristics of his employees which would play a key role in talking with each other much easier and distinguishing the employees better. In a word, successful business managers tend to have the capacity to perceive differences among their employees. (Guirdham 1996)

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Furthermore, no business manager can function without comprehending and understanding individuals who work with him. The performances of a leader will be affected by what he knows of his followers. A manager may always study the behaviours of his subordinates in order to avoid lacking confidence or discord. (Parker & Kleemeier 1951)

Finally, understanding the subordinates will help the business managers match their employees properly with the right work. If a person who lacks sufficient abilities probably will fail in finishing his job. And as a result, he will be more likely to become frustrated and disappointed. On the other hand, employees who are over-qualified tend to become bored with their simple work. Thus, it is essential for the managers to understanding their employees better in order to match them with the right work. (Parker & Kleemeier 1951)

Developing and maintaining rapport

Rapport can be seen as ”the quality of the relationship” in describing the interactions between psychotherapists and their clients (Gfeller, Lynn, and Pribble 1987 cited in Gremler & Gwinner 2000, p.83), as the ”quality of [a] relationship characterized by satisfactory communication and mutual understanding” in investigating college roommate relationships (Carey et al. 1988 cited in Gremler & Gwinner 2000, p.83) and as ”a quality in the relation or connection between interactants , especially relations marked by harmony, conformity , accord, and affinity” (Bernieri et al. 1996 cited in Gremler & Gwinner 2000, p.83).

In terms of the relationship between business managers and their subordinates, rapport means the enjoyable interactions which will be established when the business managers tend to open to others with a friendly manner, display the interests in their employees, use the sense of humour to reduce tensions, demonstrate that the managers have the sensitivity of the needs and feelings of their subordinates. (Fandt 1994) For business managers, developing and keeping rapport with their employees will help them build up confidence to deal with problems in an appropriate way, encourage them to share their helpful ideas with the employees, promote the cooperation between leaders and followers, and bring themselves and their subordinates into harmony by reducing the possibility of the grievances and ”disruptive conflicts” (Filley 1975).

Grievances and ”disruptive conflicts” (Filley 1975) seem to be the two main aspects which are result in failing in maintaining rapport in working environment. Firstly, a grievance can be described as the resentments of a person which is possible to contribute to adverse effects on subordinates’ attitude toward their job, their manager even the whole company. The quality of work will be suffered severely and the morale of the employees will be lowered when employees have a grievance. In addition, the relationship between managers and their employees is also likely to be tensional because of the existence of grievance.

Secondly, according to Filley (1975), conflict is divided into two different kinds: ”competitive conflicts” and ”disruptive conflicts”, and to a certain extent, ”disruptive conflicts” are likely to cause damage to keeping rapport. It will bring tension between business managers and their followers. Moreover, it seems to create negative feelings between leaders and subordinates which will contribute to a complaining atmosphere in work. (Quinn, Faerman, Thompson and McGrath 1996) According to the above-mentioned, it is clear that for business managers, developing and keeping rapport is of huge significance in order to create enjoyable interactions between leaders and their subordinates and avoid grievances and ”disruptive conflicts”(Filley 1975).

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Listening and presenting feedback to others

The meaning of listening is not the same as hearing. ”Listening is an intellectual and emotional process in which you use all resources at hand to understand the meaning of a message.” (Fandt 1994) Thus, to a certain extent, listening is a reflective activity. An effective listener should not only hear something form others, but also include keeping appropriate eye contact, observing the hidden stories, exploring the words that have been spoken, and understanding the body language of the speaker. (Fandt 1994)

For business managers, in order to be a good listener, they should attempt to use ”empathy” (Quinn, Faerman, Thompson and McGrath 1996) which means feeling others inner world and experiencing others thoughts instead of directly controlling others thoughts. For example, when the statement of a subordinate is not accurate, the manager should not interrupt him and keep listen to him to the end. And after that, the manager can ask some open-ended questions like ”How did you feel when that happened”. This kind of listening behaviour may help managers understand the inner thoughts and feelings of the subordinate.

In addition, it will also be beneficial to save time because of the less of interruption and repetition. However, if a manager experiences a subordinate’s inner world excessively, the subordinate may feel uncomfortable, and as a result, the manager cannot understand the speaker deeply. (Quinn, Faerman, Thompson and McGrath 1996)

It is also of great importance that while listening to the subordinates, the business managers should present some feedback to them. Fandt (1994) mentions that appropriate feedback given by managers will help the subordinates promote, correct, and obtain a greater achievement. For instance, some business managers present feedback as ” I think you handled the customer complaints very professionally” and ”I appreciate your error-free report” (Fandt 1994). This kind of feedback shows subordinates that the managers understand what they are doing, recognize and appreciate their performances, as a result, the subordinates tend to continue to perform well. (Fandt 1994)

In most cases, business managers attempt to give critical feedback to their employees. In another word, managers not only present some negative feedback but also give some negative feedback. However, according to Fandt (1994), it is more considerable to give positive feedback than negative feedback. That is because most employees feel difficult to hear and accept negative feedback. For example, punishment, blame, and wrongly criticism seem to be the most common kinds of negative feedback which will decrease the inspiration of employees because of the feeling of tension. Furthermore, punishment, blame, and wrongly criticism also tend to reduce the capacity of doing jobs of employees because they are likely to be defeated by them.

On the other hand, giving some positive feedback such as praise can inspire employees to a greater achievement. Parker and Kleemeier (1951) states ”all men will work hard to gain admiration and praise from others. It is for the reason that praise is one of the strongest motivating forces at the supervisor’s command.” If an employee gets positive feedback such as praise from the manager, he will desire to accomplish his work better and show great cooperation. (Parker and Kleemeier 1951) Moreover, although some employees may make some mistakes during their work, the manager also should point out what they have done is right, and as a result, employees will be more likely to have more confidence to correct their performances.

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Comparing to the three interpersonal skills needed by business managers, listening and presenting feedback seems to be the most significant one. That is because understanding others and keeping rapport in working atmosphere are based on listening and giving feedback to others.

Firstly, managers tend to show their understanding of the subordinates through listening and presenting some feedback. As Parker and Kleemeier (1951) point out ”nearly all supervisors who really understand their men eventually learn to be good listeners.” Successful managers attempt to study the attitudes of their employees, to observe what the employees really are thinking about through listening to them. After listening to them, managers can present some feedback to show the employees that the managers can understand what they are thinking about and what they really want.

Secondly, listening and showing feedback to others will also help business managers to select the right man to do appropriate work. If a manager desire to select employees the most common way to do that is interviewing. During the interviewing, the managers may always ask some open-ended questions and then they keep the interviewees talking about it. The only job of the interviewers is listening and giving feedback at the end of the interview. This kind of activity will be more likely to help managers make the accurate choice and understand the interviewees better.

Finally, the possibility of grievances and ”disruptive conflicts” (Filley 1975) seems to be reduced by listening and presenting feedback. For instance, some employees may complain that they are treated unfairly. For an experienced manager, the best way to deal with this kind of problem is to listen to their complaints to find some hidden problems of the employees even the company. In addition, they present some feedback to show that they have understood the problem and will take actions to cope with it. As a result, the managers can develop and maintain rapport in the working environment. (Parker & Kleemeier 1951)


In conclusion, a perfect business manager should maintain successful interaction with their employees. Furthermore, to become a successful manager, people should be skilled in outstanding interpersonal behaviours which will not only develop the level of self-awareness but also promote the level of prestige. This essay has analysed three different interpersonal skills needed by business managers including understanding others, developing and maintaining rapport, and listening and presenting feedback to others.

For business managers, firstly, understanding their employees can promote the capacity of distinguish people from different backgrounds, help them interpret what their employees’ feelings and match their employees appropriately with the right job. Secondly, it is also beneficial to develop and keep rapport. Most of people would like to work in a positive place where there are less grievances and ”disruptive conflicts” (Filley 1975). If a manager can keep rapport in a company, he will be more likely to build up cooperation relationship with his subordinates and become more successful. Finally, listening and presenting feedback to employees can make the employees feel that their managers concern about them, and understand them. So that managers may earn the respect of their employees which will develop the efficiency of their work.

In addition, listening and presenting feedback might be the most significant ability among the three interpersonal skills needed by business managers. Because it seems as the foundation of other interpersonal skills and business managers should concentrate on develop the capacity of listening and presenting feedback to their subordinates firstly.

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