Employees spend an average of two and a half hours each day communicating, according to research. Yet, 86% of employees surveyed cite a lack of communication as the main cause of workplace problems. Effective communication impacts every area of our lives. It influences how we share and receive information, discuss ideas, and solve conflicts. This, in turn, fuels appropriate problem-solving, engagement, and forward momentum, which is critical for business success.
A 2021 Gallup study found that companies that promote accurate, consistent, and open communication in the workplace have higher levels of employee engagement. Yet, only 7% of employees surveyed said they strongly agreed that communication where they work embodied any of those traits.
Further studies by APA PsycNet show that organizational functioning is directly influenced by one’s experience with positive emotions, such as interest, joy, and contentment. In fact, 82% of those surveyed said they would leave their job to work for an employer they perceived as more empathetic.
It’s for these reasons that having strong interpersonal skills is one of the most critical assets needed for success. Active listening, nonverbal cues, body language, and speaking up all greatly impact a company’s engagement, retention, and bottom line.
- 50% of those surveyed said frequent communication fostered feelings of connectedness.
- 24% of employees admitted they’d leave their job due to a lack of perceived trust.
- 68% of employees cite a lack of clear expectations as a cause for disengagement.
- 68% of CEOs admit to avoiding empathy for fear of losing the respect of their team.
What Is Interpersonal Communication?
“Communication is an art form that is crafted throughout our lives.”Asa Don Brown
Interpersonal communication is the way in which two or more people share thoughts, ideas, and emotions using both verbal and nonverbal cues. Most often, interpersonal communication looks like two people having a face-to-face conversation, but it can also occur in larger groups, through facial expressions and gestures.
Four skills a person must have to exercise effective interpersonal communication:
- Verbal: This refers to what you say, as well as how you say it. How you use your words, tone, and any other audible sounds to communicate reflects your level of verbal skill.
- Listening: Hearing is an automatic response for many, but listening is a skill that requires careful intention. Those with good listening skills can draw more meaningful connections.
- Written: How well you communicate using emails, text messages, direct messages on digital platforms, and even emojis defines your written communication skill level.
- Nonverbal: Body language, posture, shoulder shrugs, and gestures are all forms of nonverbal communication. How these cues are used can either increase or decrease message clarity.
The 6 Elements of Interpersonal Communication
Communicating effectively requires the careful orchestration of six critical elements of interpersonal communication.
- The Communicators: These are the people involved in the exchange of information. Operating as a two-way process, how well the message is conveyed and received depends on the parties’ respective communication skill levels.
- The Message: What is verbally expressed represents a piece of the communication exchange, but elements like facial expressions, tone, body language, and gestures (or lack thereof) also impact the message’s meaning.
- The Noise: Anything that disrupts or impairs one’s ability to understand a message is considered noise. Noise can be language barriers, cultural differences, unclear references or jargon, and confusing body language.
- The Feedback: After an initial message is “sent,” the receiver responds with feedback. This feedback will either confirm that the message was received in the intended way or suggest that further communication is needed.
- The Context: Context describes all environmental and hierarchical aspects of how the communication is taking place. Is the conversation taking place outside? In an office? What are the roles and statuses of those communicating? All of these influence how information is exchanged.
- The Channel: Is the message being communicated face-to-face, on the phone, or digitally? How the communication is being sent and received describes the channel element. In a face-to-face scenario, verbal speech would be considered the channel.
5 Ways Interpersonal Communication Effects Businesses
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”Brené Brown
1. It Increases Employee Productivity
A 2020 study by RingCentral examined the impact that feelings of connectedness had on employee productivity. Researchers found that companies with a corporate culture that embraced interpersonal communication and connection experienced significant advantages in employee productivity. Of the 4,000 surveyed, 50% cited that frequent employee communication helped them feel more connected with their company and that, as a result, they were more productive. Another report by McKinsey Global Institute found that productivity could be raised by as much as 25%, simply by improving communication through social technologies.
For tips on improving employee productivity, read “Setting Employee Expectations: Improve Productivity and Engagement.”
2. It Builds Trust
According to a report by the Workforce Institute, 24% of employees said they didn’t trust their employer to pay them accurately. Even further, only 1 in 3 employees are trusted by their supervisor to submit PTO without approval. Practicing verbal and nonverbal interpersonal communication allows employees to feel safe being vulnerable. This is because when one’s guard is down and open for receiving, information and ideas can be both shared and understood more easily. Without this trust and ability to be vulnerable, employees are more likely to draw their own conclusions and avoid asking questions.
As Anne Bӧckler-Raettig, a cognitive psychologist, explains, “One cue we use to decide whether or not to trust somebody is their faces, their facial features.”
3. It Increases Retention and Attracts A-Player Candidates
According to the 2022 Work Trend Index Annual Report by Microsoft, 52% of Gen Z and millennial employees are considering changing employers in the coming year. In another report, a lack of perceived trust drove 24% of employees to leave their job. When employees are heard, trusted, and valued, personal investment in their role is higher, and they’re more likely to stay. For job-seekers, compassion and positive company culture are two of the factors they evaluate a company on before applying.
For more information on attracting A-player candidates, read “The Hiring Process: A 10-Step Guide for Finding A-Players.”
4. It Improves Employee Engagement and Investment
Communicating openly and honestly, inviting collaboration, and welcoming input are all elements of demonstrating care for an employee. When employees feel cared for by their employer, their overall well-being is higher, and they become more engaged and invested in their work.
According to a recent workplace report by Gallup, employee perception of employer care and concern has plummeted to pre-pandemic levels. Currently, only about 25% of employees feel cared for, and only 32% of employees are engaged at work. Lack of clear expectations, inadequate equipment, and an overall disconnection from a company’s mission are the most commonly cited reasons for the sharp decline in engagement.
5. It Saves the Company Money
An SHRM report found that companies with fewer than 100 employees lose about $420,000 yearly to miscommunication. For companies with more than 100,000 employees, that figure reached $62.4 million. Poor interpersonal communication can wreak havoc on a business—from reduced productivity and poor cultural atmosphere to disengagement. All of these can be costly for a company to battle, with employee turnover perhaps being the most expensive. According to Teambuilding.com, companies spend an average of one billion dollars yearly recovering from employee turnover.
Michael C. Bush, an equity visionary, shares some insights: “Organizations that have a lot of happy employees have three times the revenue growth, compared to organizations where that’s not true . . . it’s not about ping-pong tables and massages and pet walking. It’s not about the perks. It’s all about how they’re treated by their leaders and the people they work with.“
10 Attributes of Good Interpersonal Communication
Often, we may think we have good interpersonal communication skills when we may be missing the mark. In fact, nearly 93% of effective communication is nonverbal. For this reason, it can be difficult to know what having good interpersonal communication skills looks like. However, by learning the specific attributes that make up effective communication, one can better enact organizational leadership and lead others toward achieving long-term goals.
Here are a few ways to improve your interpersonal communication:
- Be adaptable: Having the ability to consider new ideas, methods, and tools is essential for keeping a business successful. Adaptive leaders inspire innovation while creating a culture of psychological safety for others.
- Collaborate: Research shows that more collaborative teams are 25% more productive. Collaboration not only helps mitigate failures but can boost turnover rates by 50%.
- Show initiative: Speaking up, asking questions, going the extra mile—all of these demonstrate assertive communication. This is effective for reducing misunderstandings, fostering openness, and even mitigating work burnout.
- Practice good listening: Active listening means being able to read between the lines, pick up on nonverbal cues, and position your response accordingly.
- Have empathy: 68% of CEOs admit they feel that showing empathy will reduce the respect that they receive. Yet, connecting with the feelings of others is critical for building positive interpersonal relationships.
- Remain open-minded: When people feel their input is valued, they’re more likely to share it, and there are more growth opportunities.
- Welcome feedback: Encouraging feedback is important for exercising conflict resolution skills and facilitating new ideas. Yet, only 28% of employees receive meaningful feedback each week.
- Model respect: One study found that employees who felt their employers respected them were 110% more likely to stay with the organization.
- Select the right channel: Knowing which channel to communicate something through is critical. A serious conversation, for example, would be best done in person, while a quick acknowledgment of a team’s success can be an email.
- Demonstrate positive nonverbal cues: Reading nonverbal cues is part of having good emotional intelligence in the workplace. A study found that 67% of hiring employers placed greater value on this than other competencies.
More Tips for Strengthening Your Interpersonal Communication Skills Today
“The stronger your self-understanding is, the greater your probability of adapting to the people around you.”Thomas Erikson
No one is born with perfect interpersonal communication skills. It takes effort and intention to master. Recognize the areas that could be improved and take small daily steps to work on them. Practicing new atomic habits takes about two months, according to author James Clear. After then, your new interpersonal behaviors will be automatic.
If there are multiple areas requiring improvement, pick one to start with and master that before moving on to the next. Continue through, one by one, until you’ve improved in each area.
Daily tips for improving interpersonal communication:
- Take an online course on developing empathy.
- Practice daily journaling to recognize and manage your emotions.
- Read An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication by Quentin J. Schultze.
- Read Emotional Intelligence: For a Better Life, Success at Work, and Happier Relationships by Brandon Goleman.
For more insight on improving workplace communication, read “How to Improve Lack of Communication in Your Business.”
Leaders Media has established sourcing guidelines and relies on relevant, and credible sources for the data, facts, and expert insights and analysis we reference. You can learn more about our mission, ethics, and how we cite sources in our editorial policy.
- “What Percent of the Time Is Spent on Communication in the Workplace?” https://www.zippia.com/answers/what-percent-of-the-time-is-spent-on-communication-in-the-workplace/.
- “Communication Statistics in the Workplace 2022 — Pumble.” Knowledge Hub, 26 July 2022, https://pumble.com/learn/communication/communication-statistics/.
- Robison, Jennifer. “Communicate Better With Employees, Regardless of Where They Work.” Gallup, 28 June 2021, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/351644/communicate-better-employees-regardless-work.aspx.
- APA PsycNet. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2001-17496-001. Accessed 15 Feb. 2023.
- Flynn, Jack. “20+ Vital Employee Loyalty Statistics : Engagement Trends + Data – Zippia.” Related Posts, https://www.zippia.com/advice/employee-loyalty-statistics/.
- Harter, Jim. “U.S. Employee Engagement Slump Continues.” Gallup, 25 Apr. 2022, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/391922/employee-engagement-slump-continues.aspx.
- Gallup. “State of the American Workplace Report.” Gallup, 6 Feb. 2020, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/285818/state-american-workplace-report.aspx.
- “New Study Reveals Boost in Employee Productivity and Well-Being Among Companies That Foster a ‘Connected Culture’ in Work from Anywhere Environment.” Business Wire, 11 Nov. 2020, https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201111005284/en/New-Study-Reveals-Boost-in-Employee-Productivity-and-Well-Being-Among-Companies-That-Foster-a-%E2%80%98Connected-Culture
- “The Psychology of Trust | Anne Böckler-Raettig | TEDxFrankfurt.” YouTube, 11 Jan. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wc3VhvgUtB8.
- Pellegrini, Illustration. “Great Expectations: Making Hybrid Work Work.” https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/great-expectations-making-hybrid-work-work.
- “Communication Statistics in the Workplace 2022 — Pumble.” Knowledge Hub, 26 July 2022, https://pumble.com/learn/communication/communication-statistics/.
- Fisichelli, Maria. “What Are Today’s Job Seekers Looking for in an Employer? – Commonwealth Payroll & HR.” Commonwealth Payroll & HR, 27 June 2022, https://www.commpayhr.com/what-are-todays-job-seekers-looking-for-in-an-employer/.
- Harter, Jim. “Percent Who Feel Employer Cares About Their Wellbeing Plummets.” Gallup, 18 Mar. 2022, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/390776/percent-feel-employer-cares-wellbeing-plummets.aspx.
- “The Cost of Poor Communications.” SHRM, 30 July 2020, https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/behavioral-competencies/communication/pages/the-cost-of-poor-communications.aspx.
- Robinson, Angela. “14 Causes & Reasons for Employee Turnover in 2023.” Teambuilding.Com, 31 Mar. 2021, https://teambuilding.com/blog/employee-turnover.
- “This Is What Makes Employees Happy at Work | The Way We Work, a TED Series.” YouTube, 9 Feb. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYJ22-YYNW8.
- “11 REMARKABLE WORKPLACE COMMUNICATION STATISTICS TO KNOW.” Apollo Technical, 22 Nov. 2022, https://www.apollotechnical.com/workplace-communication-statistics/.
- Boskamp, Elsie. “35+ Compelling Workplace Collaboration Statistics : The Importance Of Teamwork – Zippia.” Zippia, https://www.zippia.com/advice/workplace-collaboration-statistics/.
- “2021 Empathy Study Executive Summary.” Businessolver, https://resources.businessolver.com/c/2021-empathy-exec-summ?x=oe03jo.
- Mazur, Caitlin. “20 Essential Employee Feedback Statistics : Employees Want More Than Just Performance Reviews – Zippia.” Zippia, https://www.zippia.com/advice/employee-feedback-statistics/. Accessed 15 Feb. 2023.
- Team, Leadr. “93 Most Compelling Workplace Statistics.” Leadr Logo, 23 Dec. 2019, https://blog.leadr.com/most-compelling-workplace-statistics.
- Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Leadership. https://elearninginfographics.com/wp-content/uploads/Emotional-Intelligence-and-Leadership-Infographic.png.