MBA Research

Trend #10: Decline in Relationship Building Skills

Business Trend

In our ongoing conversations with the business community, we asked them to identify business trends impacting the workplace. One of the most frequently identified trends: decline in relationship building skills.

Workplace Implications

Business has become all about developing relationships. Employers, however, are increasingly finding that employees lack the skills needed to do that. The use of technology results in less face-to-face communication. Emails and text messages deliver communication that was once handled person-to-person or face-to-face. Employees find it easier to shoot off an email rather than having a conversation with someone. Faceless communication on social media has become the norm. This has the effect of reducing personal responsibility in communications. Research indicates that there is a need for deeper/honest thought vs. three-word twitter comments. The ability to deal with constructive criticism has dwindled as has knowledge of etiquette rules, both old and new.

As employees increasingly work from home, they have less exposure to different personality types, thereby becoming less able to deal with conflict in relationships. They miss out on the day-to-day interactions with others and on feeling “part of the team.”

Managers are training and coaching employees to help them identify when it’s more effective to call customers rather than email them. They’re encouraging staff to walk over to someone’s desk to talk through issues rather than relying on email, text messages, or social media conversations. Managers are finding ways to bring distance-based employees into the office on a regular basis. They are using cross-functional teams to tackle projects more innovatively and to break-down communication silos.

Classroom Implications

Teachers need to stress the use of interpersonal skills through their instruction as well as through their classroom activities/projects. They can use teams to complete assignments, having each team member discuss her/his contribution to the project. As a team, students can prepare simplified project plans, identifying each person’s role in the project. Teachers can also have students provide peer feedback to project members, instructing students as to how to provide effective feedback. To emphasize the importance of interpersonal relations, teachers can make that an integral aspect of rubrics and students’ grades.