People skills are patterns of behavior and behavioral interactions. Among people, it is an umbrella term for skills under three related set of abilities: personal effectiveness, interaction skills, and intercession skills.[1] This is an area of exploration about how a person behaves and how they are perceived irrespective of their thinking and feeling.[2] It is further elaborated as dynamics between personal ecology (cognitive, affective, physical and spiritual dimensions) and its function with other people's personality styles in numerous environments (life events, institutions, life challenges, etc.).[3] British dictionary definition is "the ability to communicate effectively with people in a friendly way, especially in business" or personal effectiveness skills.[4] In business it is a connection among people in a humane level to achieve productivity.[5]

Portland Business Journal describes people skills as:[6]


Human-relations studies emerged in the 1920s when companies became more interested in "soft skills" and interpersonal skills of employees.[7] In organizations, improving people skills became a specialized role of the corporate trainer. By the mid-1930s, Dale Carnegie popularized people skills in How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living worldwide.

In the 1960s, US schools introduced people-skills topics and methods—often as a way to promote better self-esteem, communication and social interaction. These encompassed psychologist Thomas Gordon's "Effectiveness Training" variations as well as many other training programs.[8] (By the 1980s, "traditional education" and a "back-to-basics" three-Rs emphasis largely pushed these programs aside,[9] with notable exceptions.[10])

The first documented use of the phrase "people skills" was around 1970.[11]

Business impact

The SCANS report states that business, labor and government authorities agree that having a wide range of people skills are necessary for 20th-century work success.[12] Skills like customer service, building effective relationships, and teamwork are among the abilities most requested by employers in job postings.[13] Lack of these skills is considered a serious psychological handicap. Constructive leadership based companies engage in helping individuals to grow, and through that growth employees take more responsibility and discharge it effectively. This in-turn will enhance the basic attitude of the individual; and that will reflect the general level of performance in workplace. Studies indicate that many people who have difficulty in obtaining or holding a job possess the needed technical competence but lack interpersonal competence.[14]

Lawrence A. Appley of American Management Association, reflected on these trainings as a responsibility to "increase the knowledge, sharpen and add to the skills, improve the habits, and change the attitudes of many of those for whose development we are responsible."[15] Lack of people skills among upper echelons[16] (top management) can result in bullying and/or harassment, which is not uncommon in the modern workplace due to changing values. The causes that are most identified with the situation are lack of necessary motivation, communication, influencing skills and empathy gap among upper echelons (Gilbert and Thompson, 2002). Training company staff in people skills and interpersonal skills increases the morale and dignity at work (Best, 2010). Employers that do not take steps to prevent harassment can face major costs in decreased productivity, low morale, increased absenteeism and health care costs, and potential legal expenses.

Educational importance

The Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has identified 22 programs in the US that are especially comprehensive in social-emotional learning coverage and effective in documented impacts.[17][18] UNESCO research found that young people who develop speaking/listening skills and who get to know others without WIIFM[19] attitude have improved self-awareness, social-emotional adjustment and classroom behavior; in addition, self-destructive and violent behavior also decreased.[20] People skills are also important for teachers in effective classroom management. Educators have found that more is needed than a degree in the field they are teaching. Knowing how to communicate and teach people instead of simply teaching their subject will help make a difference in the classroom.[21] It is identified that 50 percent of classroom success lies in effective interpersonal relationships while the other 50 percent lies within academic skills.[22] Requirement of people skills education is greatly emphasized within higher education and recruiters stress the required focus on this skills for securing entry-level jobs right off from campus placements.[23] Oral communication and teamwork were ranked number 1 and 2 respectively among 15 job skills that executives and hiring managers identified as very important for new employees in a large US 2018 survey.[24] But employers have trouble finding new employees with good oral communication because schools are not teaching the skills.[25]

See also


  1. ^ Neil Thompson (2009). People Skills, Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0230221122
  2. ^ Peter Honey (2001). Improve Your People Skills, CIPD Publishing. ISBN 085292903X
  3. ^ People Skills, Tony Burton
  4. ^ "Macmillan Dictionary" Retrieved on 2009-08-18
  5. ^ J Smith. "The 20 People Skills You Need To Succeed At Work", Forbes, 15 November 2013. Retrieved on 17 January 2014
  6. ^ Rifkin, H. "Invest in people skills to boost bottom line" Retrieved on 2009-10-14
  7. ^ Whiting, Richard (1964). "Historical Search in Human Relations". The Academy of Management Journal. 7 (1). Academy of Management: 45–53. JSTOR 255233.
  8. ^ Schaps, E.; Cohen, A.Y.; and Resnik, H.S.: "Balancing Head and Heart" PIRE. Retrieved on 2009-08-18 Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Doll, R.C. "Humanizing Education by Improving Communication" ERIC. Retrieved on 2009-08-19 Archived 2020-05-21 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Stop. Think. Act. Program" Learning Matters. Retrieved on 2009-08-18 Archived 2009-08-02 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Ngram for people skills
  12. ^ "Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS)" US Dept. of Labor. Retrieved on 2009-08-18
  13. ^ "The Human Factor: The Hard Time Employers Have Finding Soft Skills," Burning Glass Technologies, November 2015
  14. ^ "Human Relations facts, information, pictures | articles about Human Relations". Retrieved 2017-10-06.
  15. ^ Harwood F Merrill & Elizabeth Marting (1952). Developing Executive Skills, American Management Association, NY.
  16. ^ Hambrick, Donald C. (2015). "Upper echelons theory". The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Strategic Management. doi:10.1057/9781137294678.0713. ISBN 9781137294678.
  17. ^ "CASEL "Select" Programs" Retrieved on 2009-08-18 Archived 2009-05-01 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "Century of research confirms impact of psychosocial factors on health" APA. Retrieved on 2015-10-18
  19. ^ "WIIFM".
  20. ^ "UNESCO Research" Archived 2007-11-04 at the Wayback Machine British Telecommunications. Retrieved on 2009-08-18
  21. ^ Bolton, Robert (2009-11-24). People Skills. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781439188347.
  22. ^ Jerry Boyle, (2011). It's All about People Skills: Surviving Challenges in the Classroom. ISBN 1610486102
  23. ^ Fellers, J. W. (1996). People Skills: Using the Cooperative Learning Model to Teach Students "People Skills". Interfaces, 26(5), 42-49.
  24. ^ Hart Research Associates. "Key Findings From 2018 Employer Research" (PDF). AAC&U. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  25. ^ Gewertz, Catherine (2018-09-26). "Speaking Skills Top Employer Wish Lists. But Schools Don't Teach Them". Education Week. Retrieved 30 June 2019.

Further reading