Assessing Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are arguably one of the most important factors in the success—or failure—of any career or company.

By Patrick Alain

Interpersonal skills are arguably one of the most important factors in the success—or failure—of any career or company. A lack of them can impede or even derail the career of even the most talented employee, so always make sure you cover this in your reviews.

“Interpersonal skills” is a large umbrella, but this is by design. This is because there is no real way to measure these skills using metrics; therefore, evaluating them is a subjective process. For example, how do you measure just how friendly someone is? This is an area where you’ll need to be careful to avoid letting your personal prejudices and past history unduly affect your opinions and how you couch things.

Sometimes it’s also a good idea to have the consensus of other managers in the department or company. If an employee is unfriendly with everyone, not just you or your customers, you’ll have a more solid case to build when it comes time for performance reviews and evaluations.

How to Appraise an Employee’s Effect on Morale (from praising to critical)

  • You have singlehandedly summoned the troops and encouraged everyone in the process.
  • Because of you, this department is humming along more productively and happily than ever before.
  • When you’re around, everything just seems more “up” and productive.
  • You have this amazing way of bringing out the best in others while keeping them happy.
  • Morale has never been higher since you came aboard. Just keep up whatever it is you’re doing.
  • Your good influence is one of the reasons your department is such a happy place to work.
  • I appreciate your recent efforts to perk things up; it’s been a refreshing change.
  • I know you’ve been swimming against the current of the naysayers, but don’t give up just yet.
  • Good morale is an integral component of productivity. I know you want to be on the positive side of that equation.
  • While most of the time your presence is appreciated, sometimes people feel as though you are bringing them down.
  • Complaints are an opportunity to make things better, but how you voice them is very important.
  • I know you think you’re just being a realist, but the negativity is handicapping your team.
  • It only takes one bad apple to spoil the lot—do you really want to be that bad apple?
  • Based on the current state of morale, you may need an attitude adjustment.
  • What is it about this place or these people that you hate so much?
  • I take no pleasure in saying this, but your attitude is ruining everything that was once good here.
  • Your negativity and woe-is-me approach flies in the face of all the good energy I’ve put into this company.
  • It is as if you mean to take everyone down a notch just for fun. Why is that?
  • Do you take pleasure in making people miserable?
  • A cancer that has started to invade the surrounding tissues needs to be excised. Do you understand what I’m saying?

When an Employee Oversteps Boundaries (from subtle to harsh)

  • The concept of boundaries means that certain things are yours, and certain things belong to others.
  • I believe that every employee has a place, and that there is a place for every employee.
  • Everything here works better when everyone is taking care of his or her own stuff.
  • Chaos results when everyone is running around and doing things they shouldn’t be.
  • It’s important that everyone here be responsible for their own duties alone.
  • While I appreciate your go-getter attitude, let’s try not to step on any toes, okay?
  • I can see that you want to help. Just be careful not to trespass into anyone else’s territory.
  • I know you’re only trying to help, but you are alienating people by trying to do their jobs.
  • You’re not going to make any friends by nosing your way into others’ responsibilities.
  • Once you’ve handled your own duties, you still need clearance before tackling someone else’s.
  • The next time I catch you doing someone’s work, I’ll need to write you up.
  • How can I run a department when I’m not sure who is doing what?
  • There are times to butt into someone else’s business, but this really isn’t one of them.
  • If you continue to overstep your responsibilities, we’ll need to rethink your job description.
  • Careful: You invade the territories of others at your own peril.
  • People now are perceiving you as a suck-up and brown-noser; is that what you want?
  • If you have designs on others’ jobs, it would better if you just came out and said so.
  • I have a feeling that if we went into a revolving door together, you’d come out ahead.

When an Employee Complains Excessively (from subtle to punitive)

  • While I appreciate the fact that you care, it’s important not to be a constant downer.
  • Complaints are necessary, but you need to be really careful how you voice them.
  • For each complaint you bring to my door, I’d like you to come up with three possible solutions.
  • A complaint is an opportunity to make things better, but in your case, that’s all we ever hear.
  • You are becoming a source of discontent and low morale—is that what you want?
  • Employees who whine all the time usually don’t climb very high in the organization.
  • I can understand a little whining every now and then, but you never, ever stop.
  • You’re far too talented at what you do to be labeled a complainer.
  • Don’t bother me with these trifles; you need to grow up and figure stuff out yourself.
  • Nobody wants to hang around or work with a noisy negativist.
  • We’ve had complainers around here before. They usually just give up and go away.
  • Just think how much more productive you could be if you didn’t complain so much.
  • You’re introducing a lot of negative energy into the department, and I don’t like it.
  • You’re a fine case of whine, all right.
  • How do I know you’re complaining? Your mouth is moving.
  • You’re like the boy who cried wolf: Eventually people will just start to ignore you.

Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from section 3 of “The Quick & Easy
Performance Appraisal Book” (c) 2013 Patrick Alain. Published by Career
Press, Pompton Plains, NJ. All rights reserved.

Patrick Alain is an internationally known developer of video games, including blockbusters Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption. Alain’s first publishing venture, “The Leader Phrase Book,” was immediately successful. He was born in Paris, France, and has lived in a number of countries. Fluent in five languages, he attributes much of his success to his ability to be a vital participant in large, multilingual teams. Alain holds a Master’s degree from the University of Paris.

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.