Soft Skills in the Workplace

Each company looks for a different mix of skills and experience depending on the business it's in. Yet it's no longer enough to be a functional expert. To complement these unique core competencies, there are certain "soft skills" every company looks for in a potential hire.

"Soft skills" refer to a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with. Companies value soft skills because research suggests and experience shows that they can be just as important an indicator of job performance as hard skills.[1]

[1] "Top 10 Soft Skills for Job Hunters - Careers Articles." Jobs, Careers, and Job Listings - AOL Jobs. < >.



Some of the most common soft skills employers are looking for and will be assessing you on include:


Are you optimistic and upbeat? Will you generate good energy and good will?

A positive attitude in the workplace can help you whether you own your own business, work as an employee, or manage others within a business environment. You’ll enjoy your work more and achieve your workplace or business related goals more easily and faster.[1]

Cynicism and sarcasm are widely prevalent in today’s workplace, and both can bring you and your coworkers down quickly.  While you may not be able to control the mood of the entire workplace, you are always in control of your own attitude each day. Use these ten tips for developing a positive attitude in the workplace:

  1. Gratitude – Be appreciative of everyone who does a good job and gets things done on time. Be especially appreciative of those who go above and beyond what they’re required to do. Appreciation feels good for both the giver and the receiver. See my page on gratitude for more information.
  2. Celebrate the Victories - For some reason, many people tend to focus on everything they don’t like and that’s going wrong. Try instead to focus your attention on things that are going well by taking time often to celebrate the victories at work. Reward yourself or praise another individual for a job well done. If you’re part of a team that does something successfully, arrange a get-together to celebrate it. If you’re a manager, send frequent notes out to your staff outlining things that are going well for the company.
  3. Turn Problems Into Opportunities – If problems are encountered, don’t just focus on them. Instead, change your focus by asking yourself or your team, “How can we solve this issue, and what can we learn from it?” Every problem, or challenge, is an opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t wallow in the issue; focus on the potential to become better instead.
  4. Keep Healthy and Well Rested – It’s tough to have a positive attitude when you’re feeling run down and tired. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking enough water, and getting regular exercise. This may all sound time-consuming, but you’ll end up having much more energy and focus and you’ll actually be able to get more done in less time. You’ll also feel much better mentally, which will help you maintain that positive attitude.
  5. Smile – Force yourself to smile, even if you don’t feel like it. A smile will actually shift how you feel internally. And when others see you smiling, they feel better as well.
  6. The “No Complaining” Policy – No one likes a complainer. If you’re a manager, tell your team that you would like them to not come to you with an issue unless they have a proposed solution to go with it. If you report to someone else, refrain from whining to them. Instead, go to your boss and explain that you have a challenge and would like to offer a way to solve it. This both minimizes complaining and turns the focus away from the issue and to possible solutions instead, thereby maintaining a constructive work environment.
  7. The Win–Win Policy – Make it your own personal philosophy or make it a requirement in your workplace that each agreement reached must be win–win. Agreements and negotiations must never favor one party. There is always a way to make agreements positive for both parties involved. Ask “What would be good for you?”Once they and you have answered that question, do your best to work out a solution that implements as any many of the good ideas for both sides as possible.
  8. Put People Into Positions that Use Their Strengths– What better way for people to enjoy their job than to have them doing things they’re good at and that they enjoy. People will be more motivated and get better results when they enjoy what they do. Some people like crunching numbers: get them to work on the spreadsheets that need to be done. Others like talking to people: maybe they would like working in customer service. Some people are natural problem solvers: put their skills to use. If you play on people’s strengths, you’ll see a dramatic shift toward a positive attitude in the workplace.
  9. Trust Others and Evaluate People Based on Their Results– If you are a manager, trust your people to do the jobs they were hired for. If you give people the authority to do their jobs, you will get amazing results, much better than if you hover over them. Tell your people what you want them to achieve, and then let them go do it. When you trust them to do it well, they will want to honor that trust. Most people will do the best they can to live up to the confidence you’re placing in them, and they will appreciate you for it. There might be the occasional person who takes advantage of this policy, but their attitude will show itself quite quickly.
  10. Focus on What You Enjoy. Improve the Things You Don’t Enjoy– Make a list of the things you enjoy about your job and your workplace. Make it a point to review this list often as a reminder that there are good things about your workplace. For the things you don’t enjoy, ask yourself how you could make them tolerable. Could you do them at a different time, in a different location, maybe with some music going? Can you speak to your manager about them, and offer a possible solution? Can you see anything good about them? If so, focus on that instead. Do whatever you can think of that might make those tedious tasks more enjoyable. Keep challenging yourself with the question of how you can make things better until you feel a noticeable difference in your attitude toward those tasks.[2]


Watch this video[3] about the benefits of a positive attitude in the workplace.

[1] "A Positive Attitude In The Workplace Can Do These 10Things." Positive Attitude Tips. < >.

[2] "10 Sure-Fire Tips For Creating a Positive Attitude in the Workplace." Positive Attitude Tips. < >.

[3] " Having a Positive Attitude in the Work Place - YouTube ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. . < >.


Are you both verbally articulate and a good listener? Can you make your case and express your needs in a way that builds bridges with colleagues, customers and vendors?

It is well-known that before you come to work, you have to leave your informal self back home. In the office, you're an employee, someone who's supposed to go about his work in a professional manner. There is a way to talk to your superiors, to your peers and your subordinates. This mode of communication is known as workplace communication and is typically formal and to the point. Important skills include:

  1. Courteousness: A person should always be courteous while speaking to anyone in the workplace, whether senior or junior. One should not speak disparagingly with juniors, while speaking in a laudatory way with seniors. Courteousness should be maintained in the workplace irrespective of rank.
  2. Precision: You're not supposed to sit and chat in the workplace. Workplace communication facilitates necessity and should be completed as quickly as possible. It mostly consists of delegating tasks and reporting results. So keep it short.
  3. Language: One should never use any slang terms while at work. Business communication should be crisp and clear so that everyone understands what you're saying. Slang terms bring in the eventuality of misunderstanding and also look unprofessional. So one should avoid using slang in office.
  4. Low Speaking Volume: One comes across so many loud-talkers. Perhaps they are naturally so or do so deliberately to drive some point across. But speaking loudly is disturbing to other people around you hence, a low speaking volume should be maintained.
  5. Clarity: It is also essential to ensure that the person you are speaking with has completely understood what you have to say. Hence, one should speak very slowly and clearly. If you have a strong ethnic accent, you should make sure that you talk slowly so that the other person gets what you have to say. It is always good to ask, "have you understood?" just in case someone doesn't get what you have to say.
  6. Listen to Others: Most people think of effective communication as a one-way thing. But it is very important to also be a good listener and not just a good talker. Others too often have something to say or to contribute to a discussion hence, listening too, is one of the effective communication skills at work.
  7. Posture and Body Language: They say actions speak louder than words and the same can be considered to be true at the workplace. The body has a language of its own too, and at the workplace, the body ought to be courteous. There are simple things to keep in mind, whether it is wishing everyone 'good morning' at work, or having a courteous smile on your face, being well-dressed in office or sitting erect when someone is talking to you.[1]

Effective business communication techniques are important for the simple fact that they establish trust and rapport amongst employees and team members. 

Writing Skills are also crucial to your future success.  Modern methods allow the least use of the written mode of communication (less than before). Today, we use emails, service forms, report sheets and the occasional sticky note. Your skills should extend to this area as well. Some tips to that effect:

  • Do not drone on about things in your emails. In fact, an email is the perfect excuse to make it short, simple, quick and effective.
  • Don’t be too brief or informal in your emails, either.  Leave text language, emoticons and internet abbreviations (LOL, TTYL, etc.) for personal communications.
  • While filling reports on any projects or for employee appraisals, keep the language clean and simple. It reflects on as you as someone who is hardworking and prompt.


It is important to be formal and cordial in the workplace for several reasons:

  1. You are viewed by everyone in the office as someone who has a positive influence in the workplace. Such people are always desired by companies.
  2. You learn to get your point across effectively and ensure that the work is done the way it should be.
  3. It makes you look like a team player and makes you more loved by the company overall![2]


Once you have developed basic communication skills, know that you must work on your effectiveness for a lifetime.  Learn a bit more about improving workplace communication skills by reading this article[3] on techniques important for the modern workplace.

It’s also important to recognize that men and women communicate differently in the workplace.  Ladies, read this article[4] to better understand how to talk to men so they will listen.

Similarly, cross-cultural communication can often be a challenge. It's no secret that today's workplace is rapidly becoming vast, as the business environment expands to include various geographic locations and span numerous cultures. What can be difficult, however, is understanding how to communicate effectively with individuals who speak another language or who rely on different means to reach a common goal.[5]

There are basic cultural differences which can cause for communication issues across multicultural teams whether they are all located in the one spot or working from different from old locations. Here are some tips for getting to grips with multicultural teams:

  1. Discuss with team members, or subgroups of teams, possible cultural differences.
  2. Establish how these cultural differences may affect interactions amongst the team and performance. Factor these into any team processes that may be affected (e.g. around time zones, holidays, availability of technology, decision-making process, work hours, etc.).
  3. Discuss how these differences may potentially affect team norms, the exchange of information, decision-making and communications.[6]


Lastly, to understand what gestures and body language in communication mean, watch this video[7] the breaks down every movement possible. 



[1] "Workplace Communication Skills." Buzzle. < >.

[2] Ibid.

[3] "What Communication Techniques are Important in Modern Business?." Product-ivity | Innovation Strategy Applied To Product Creativity. < >.

[4] "How Women Can Talk to Men at Work So They'll Listen - Careers Articles." Jobs, Careers, and Job Listings - AOL Jobs. < >.

[5] "Effective Cross Culture Communication - Communication Skills Training from" Mind Tools - Management Training, Leadership Training and Career Training. < >.

[6] "Building Better Communications in the Workplace." Product-ivity | Innovation Strategy Applied To Product Creativity. < >.

[7] " Gestures and Body Language 2 - YouTube ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. . < >.


Are you resourceful and able to creatively solve problems that will inevitably arise? Will you take ownership of problems or leave them for someone else?

People tend to do three things when faced with a problem: they get afraid or uncomfortable and wish it would go away; they feel that they have to come up with an answer and it has to be the right answer; and they look for someone to blame. Being faced with a problem becomes a problem. And that's a problem because, in fact, there are always going to be problems!

There are two important things to remember about problems and conflicts: they happen all the time and they are opportunities to improve the system and the relationships. They are actually providing us with information that we can use to fix what needs fixing and do a better job.

Here are seven-steps for an effective problem-solving process.

  1. Identify the issues.
    • Be clear about what the problem is.
    • Remember that different people might have different views of what the issues are.
  2. Understand everyone's interests.
    • This is a critical step that is usually missing.
    • Interests are the needs that you want satisfied by any given solution. We often ignore our true interests as we become attached to one particular solution.
    • The best solution is the one that satisfies everyone's interests.
    • This is the time for active listening. Put down your differences for awhile and listen to each other with the intention to understand.
  3. List the possible solutions (options)
    • This is the time to do some brainstorming. There may be lots of room for creativity.
    • Separate the listing of options from the evaluation of the options.
  4. Evaluate the options.
    • What are the pluses and minuses?
    • Separate the evaluation of options from the selection of options.
  5. Select an option or options.
    • What's the best option, in the balance?
    • Is there a way to "bundle" a number of options together for a more satisfactory solution?
  6. Document the agreement(s).
    • Don't rely on memory.
    • Writing it down will help you think through all the details and implications.
  7. Agree on contingencies, monitoring, and evaluation.
    • Conditions may change. Make contingency agreements about foreseeable future circumstances (If-then!).
    • How will you monitor compliance and follow-through?
    • Create opportunities to evaluate the agreements and their implementation. ("Let's try it this way for three months and then look at it.")[1]


Job Searching. One of the most challenging problems you may encounter in your career is getting a job to begin with.  While we have long been encouraged by the virtue of persistence, it is easy to become discouraged quickly when the job market is moving at a snail’s pace. 

Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of SixFigureStart, says persistence does pay off, so long as we remember one thing: There is a difference between smart persistence and blind persistence.

"Persistence to a goal pays off as long as you can be flexible on how you get there," she says. "If your job search isn't yielding offers, then whatever you are doing is not working. You may have the right role and companies in mind, but your marketing, your interview technique, your networking approach or something else about how you are presenting yourself to these prospects is off. Or the prospects themselves may be wrong for you."[2]

With that in mind, this article[3] provides are a few strategies for successful, smart persistence.

You may be familiar with Adam Savage, co-host of the show MythBusters.  Watch this video[4] about his perspective on problem solving and how he goes about doing it (the heart of the conversation starts at 7:30 minutes in).


[1] Hicks, Tim. "Seven Steps for Effective Problem Solving in the Workplace." - US and World Leading Mediation Web Site - Find Mediators. < http :// >.

[2] " MSN Careers - Does Persistence Really Pay? - Career Advice Article." Jobs & Careers Search Engine – MSN Careers. < http:// >.

[3] Ibid.

[4] " MythBusters' Adam Savage on Problem Solving: How I Do It - YouTube ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.. < http: // >.


Will you work well in groups and teams? Will you be cooperative and take a leadership role when appropriate?

If you were choosing team members for a business team in your organization, who would the best team players be? Assuming that people have the right technical skills for the work to be done, what other factors would you use to select your team members?

Teams need strong team players to perform well. But what defines such people? Here is a short list of qualities of an effective team player:

  1. Demonstrates reliability
  2. Communicates constructively
  3. Listens actively
  4. Functions as an active participant
  5. Shares openly and willingly
  6. Cooperates and pitches in to help
  7. Exhibits flexibility
  8. Shows commitment to the team
  9. Work as a problem solver
  10. Treats others in a respectful and supportive manner


Read more about each point in this article[1] by the authors of the Dummies Guide To… series.

Conversely, the pendulum can swing in the opposite direction of being too much of a team player.  Do you have trouble saying “No” or are you known as a “Yes Man”?  Consider this article[2], which discusses the benefits of yes versus no and how to better manage yourself using both. 

Learn how to be a successful team player at work by watching this brief video[3] on the topic.



[1] Brounstein, Marty. "Ten Qualities of an Effective Team Player - For Dummies ." How-To Help and Videos - For Dummies . < >.

[2] "The Magic Word at Work - Careers Articles." Jobs, Careers, and Job Listings - AOL Jobs. < >.

[3] " Office Etiquette & Advice : How to Be a Successful Team Player at Work - YouTube ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. . < >.



Do you truly believe you can do the job? Will you project a sense of calm and inspire confidence in others? Will you have the courage to ask questions that need to be asked and to freely contribute your ideas?

Confidence is a vital aspect of our day-to-day lives and is especially important in the workplace. Unfortunately, not everyone was born with "built-in" self confidence. In fact, many of us had to work hard to achieve some semblance of confidence. People with low confidence and self-esteem often feel unappreciated and find it hard to succeed. The good thing is that it can be achieved with time and effort.

Confidence is a mixture of courage, strength and the ability to pick yourself up when something fails.[1]  Five ways in which you can improve your self confidence are:

  1. Take pride in what you have achieved.  Keep a log book or a diary and jot down all the achievements you have made. Perhaps you have closed a successful sales deal or have been recently promoted. Take note of praises and words of encouragement from your superior. For days when you feel down and demoted, flip through the pages and re-read some of your successes. They are a constant reminder that you can do it and are able to achieve more if you set your heart to it.
  2. Be a go-getter.  Set realistic goals for yourself and stick to it. Say "I will complete this project in two weeks" and not "I think I can complete it in a two weeks." If you make a strong reinforcement to the statement, chances are your brain will register and you will be able to meet the deadline. Also, try to set goals that will highlight your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
  3. Receive a compliment graciously.  It is a natural instinct to be overly humble when someone compliments you. Don't be. Acknowledge that you deserve the compliment because you have worked hard for it. Smile and say "Thank you. It was really nice of you to notice my work. I'm very proud of it as well." and not "Oh, it was nothing. Anyone could have done it." The former shows that you are capable of handling tough projects while the latter says that you are a pessimist, plus it also gives the impression that your job is an easy-peasy one!
  4.  Positive self-talk.  At this point, you have to start managing what goes in and out of your brain. Yes, you might have had a terrible experience at your last job and it has sucked out all of your self esteem and confidence. It is now time to let go and move on. Eliminate all negative self-talk and replace them with positive ones. One good tip is to stick colorful pictures on your wall, in your car, or any other places that are convenient to you. Stick a smiley face to remind you to smile. Put phrases of encouragement and frame them up.
  5. Celebrate.  Last but not least, celebrate to rejoice in the fact you have worked diligently to bring your self- confidence to another level. Allow yourself some fun. After this, stretch yourself a little bit more. Make your goals bigger and challenge yourself more. Take it one step at a time at a pace that's comfortable to you. Some people take three months; others may take up to six months or more. You will slowly notice a difference in yourself.[2]


A lack of self confidence is especially limiting for women.  Dr. Lois Frankel, author of the best-selling business book for women, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, argues that women all too often tend to play it safe in the workplace.  In her book, she itemizes the top five mistakes women make:

1. Waiting to be given what you want
Ever heard the saying, The squeaky wheel gets the grease? If you don't ask, you won't risk hearing no, but you also won't get what you want.

2. Avoiding office politics
Like it or not, politics is how things get done -- in the workplace, in government, and in professional organizations.

3. Sharing too much personal information
Sharing personal information isn't in and of itself a mistake -- it's sharing too much of it that can come back to bite you.

4. Decorating your office like your living room
The decor of your office should be consistent with the kind of firm in which you work.

5. Over-apologizing
Apologizing for unintentional, low-profile, non-egregious errors erodes our self-confidence -- and, in turn, the confidence others have in us.


Learn more about Frankel’s perspective and book in this article[3] and discussion.


Here is a quick video[4] with tips for being more self confident in work and in general. And even shorter, learn confidence in just 60 seconds.[5]

[1] "Building Self-confidence In the Workplace." < >.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Johnson Mandell , Lisa . "Why Nice Girls Still Don't Get the Corner Office." AOL Jobs. < >.

[4] " How to be more confident at work - YouTube ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. < >.

[5] " Confidence in 60 Seconds - YouTube ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. < >.


Will you be able to handle criticism? Are you coachable and open to learning and growing as a person and as a professional?

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” — Winston Churchill

Handling criticism – and you will receive a lot in the early years of your career – can be difficult at best, crippling at worst.  Learning how to deal with it effectively and use it productively is essential for maintaining both professionalism and momentum in your career. 

Accepting criticism gracefully can be done in four steps:

  1. Listen openly
  2. Consider the source
  3. Discuss the feedback
  4. Measure the results

Learn more about this process here.[1]

Another similar perspective on the process can be summarized in this video[2] and these seven steps:

Step 1: Listen
Step 2: Ask questions
Step 3: Reflect on conversation
Step 4: Create goals
Step 5: Welcome failure
Step 6: Focus on strengths
Step 7: Laugh

[1] "How to Handle Criticism at Work." WorkAwesome | Be More Productive at Work. < >.

[2] " How to Take Criticism - YouTube ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.  < >.


Are you able to adapt to new situations and challenges? Will you embrace change and be open to new ideas?

The only constant you can be sure of at work is change.  Companies don't change, people do. When you develop the skills to change, you can not only move faster than ever before, but your ability to change can also turn into a competitive advantage.  Adaptability skills are the positive traits you bring to the job, such as flexibility, reliability or patience.[1]

Sandra Naiman, author of "The High Achiever's Secret Codebook,"  reveals unwritten rules for being successful at work. According to her, embracing and implementing change are keys to being a valuable and valued employee. To respond positively to change, despite being fearful of it or resistant to it, Naiman suggests the following strategies:

  1. Define and acknowledge what is over and what is not. Honor those feelings of loss. Face them and do not deny any emotions that might surface. At the same time, identify what is not changing.
  2. Look for the pony. Naiman recalls the joke about the quintessential optimist who jumps into a pile of manure, certain that there must be a pony in there somewhere. "No matter how tumultuous the change, there are opportunities available if people are open to looking for them," she says. "Identify the positives for yourself and the company, and then set your focus on them."
  3. Jump on the bandwagon early. Once change is inevitable, people can choose to accept it or actively resist. "Whatever they choose, the change will take place. Those who engage sooner, rather than later, will be noticed and remembered, and so will those who go kicking and screaming," Naiman cautions.
  4. Acquire new skills and knowledge that change necessitates. Be clear about what you need to learn in order to implement the change and take the initiative to do so. Read, take classes and seek opportunities to learn on the job.
  5. Share with colleagues why the sudden change presents opportunities. Support peers by exploring with them ways that they can benefit from the change and help them take advantage of potential opportunities. They will appreciate your efforts, as will management.


In fact, one of the best-selling business books of all time, Who Moved by Cheese by Spencer Johnson, is all about change.  It is a quick read – if you haven’t read it, you absolutely must to understand change in the work environment. View a preview of the story in this short video.[2]


[1] Bendell, Jakki. "How to Identify Transferable & Adaptable Skills |" eHow | How to Videos, Articles & More - Discover the expert in you. | < >.

[2] " Who Moved My Cheese? Preview Movie (Red Tree) - YouTube ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. . < >.


Can you handle the stress that accompanies deadlines and crises? Will you be able to do your best work and come through in a pinch?

We’ve all heard the term “going postal,” but in reality it is no joking matter.  Violence in the workplace is real and increasing, caused by an inability to effectively manage stress, pressure, deadlines and crises at work. 

Read this article[1] that shares some stories of workplace stress and how they were or weren’t handled well.  How would you have handled things differently?

Sure, we've all felt like tossing the computer out the window or smashing the copy machine or slapping the annoying co-worker. But how many people do you know who've actually gone there? Relieve some stress by watching a few classic office ragers taking their aggression out on their workplaces and coworkers in these videos[2].

Truly, the best way to work well under pressure is using many of the tips already shared on this web site: time management, effective communication, problem solving skills, staying positive, etc.  The top five steps to handling pressure without ever letting them see you sweat include:

  1. Organize.  Make a list of all the tasks you need to do to avoid forgetting anything. Determine the best way to accomplish each task and write this down. Making a guide will help you concentrate more on the things you have to finish. Rank each task according to importance. You can either do the least important tasks first or do them last.
  2. Set Goals.  With all your tasks listed, Have a main goal and create sub goals for each assignment. It’ll be easier for you to work if you’re just concentrating on small goals. This way, you don’t get overwhelmed with the big things. As you work on your mini goals, you eventually get to complete your main goals. Dividing your work load into small tasks will take the pressure off you by diverting your attention from big tasks to your sub goals.
  3. Manage Your Time.  Having a time schedule will ensure that you don’t waste time on unnecessary things. This will also help you meet your deadlines on time. Make sure to allot ample amount of time for each assignment. Determine how long you should complete each task. Try to work within the time limit you set. Don’t forget to give time for breaks and relaxation.
  4. Complete Tasks.  Don’t be overwhelmed by your work load. Try to finish one task first before starting on the next one. Starting on different tasks without getting anything done will only make you miss deadlines. This is why planning is very important. When you have a list of things to do, you’ll be able to focus more on important things.
  5. Relax.  Getting stressed out will only make you panic more. Don’t push yourself to finish your work if you’re too tired. Give yourself time to rest. Deep breathing exercises are effective in releasing tension in your body. This also clears your mind so you can think and concentrate better. When you’re on break, don’t eat fast. Meal times are good times to rest and relax your mind. When you get back to work, you’ll feel refreshed and be ready to continue your tasks.[3]

[1] "Desk Rage: Completely Losing It at Work - Careers Articles." Jobs, Careers, and Job Listings - AOL Jobs. < >.

[2] "Extreme Stress Caught on Video." AOL Jobs.  < >.

[3] "How to Work Well Under Pressure -" < >.




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