11 Essential People Skills for the Workplace


Jan 17, 2022 - Dom Barnard

Possessing good people skills is an invaluable asset in your career. It ensures you can interact and communicate effectively with other people in your workplace.

As a result, you're able to achieve your company's goals and succeed in your career. In this article, we'll look at 11 essential people skills for the workplace.

But, before we dive in, let's take an in-depth look at people skills.

What are people skills?

People skills refer to the various attributes and competencies that allow individuals to play and communicate well with others. For example, a person that's likeable or has a good personality can be said to have good people skills. However, it's more than that.

A person with good people skills maximizes effective and productive human interaction to everyone's benefit. In this case (a professional situation), the individual ensures their relationships with others, e.g., co-workers, employers and clients, is pleasant, productive and mutually rewarding.

This is why "office diplomats" with strong emotional intelligence advance more quickly in their careers and become strong, effective corporate leaders. They understand that trusting relationships in the workplace are built on effective communication and respect.

Normally, people skills fall into three categories:

  • Personal effectiveness: This is how you present yourself to others. For instance, are you confident, honest or assertive?
  • Interaction skills: This helps you know the boundaries and abilities of others when you're communicating. For example, if you're talking to a frustrated client, you need to listen, show respect and be empathetic.
  • Intercession skills: This helps you communicate pleasantly in situations where the people involved have different interests or perspectives. Hence, if a conflict arises, you're patient enough to find a solution that all parties involved can accept.

It's important to note that people skills fall into the category of "soft skills," which, unfortunately, can't be measured. This makes it difficult for many people to develop people skills or know if they possess good people skills.

Luckily, people skills can be honed and practised, ensuring you become an effective communicator with time.

Two people walking in an office

11 people skills for the workplace

To help you get started, here are 11 important people skills you'll need for the workplace.

1. Active listening

Actively listening to someone and hearing them are two different things. When you hear, you're already figuring out how to respond by thinking of what to say as the other person speaks. Unfortunately, with this, you're more likely to respond and interrupt the communicator before they finish speaking.

On the other hand, when you listen, you're making an effort to understand what's being said without interruption. This ensures you absorb more details and see where the other party is coming from.

Good active listeners spend more time asking questions to make sense of the topic instead of reacting to what's being said.

2. Negotiation skills

The workplace environment involves a lot of negotiation as people aren't always on the same page. Granted, everyone in your workplace shares the same company goal, but everyone can't think the same. That's why you might find yourself entering a negotiation with parties that have different ideas.

In this case, having great negotiation skills goes a long way in reaching a common agreement, whether that's swaying your co-worker's way of thinking or pitching new ideas.

A good negotiator can drive external or internal discussions without conflict while ensuring all the parties involved are heard.

3. Leadership skills

You don't have to be in a managerial or leadership position to possess leadership skills. Successful people in the workplace have the ability to help those around them do their best work and reach their full potential. They can motivate and guide a team while recognising the strengths and weaknesses of each individual.

This comes in handy when delegating tasks as you can easily assign jobs to the right people, increasing workplace efficiency and productivity. Having strong leadership skills also means you can anticipate challenges and plan ahead to prevent problems, eliminating downtimes.

4. Good manners

There's a reason why more likeable people succeed in their careers instead of unpleasant individuals. The former are more respectable and polite in their interactions and communications and care about the people around them. This fosters a positive and friendly work environment and creates a sense of community and belonging.

So, always remember to say "thank you" and "please" when speaking to others to show your appreciation and respect. Regardless of how stressed or busy you are, keep your interactions as pleasant as possible. Additionally, smile with everyone, even if you're having a bad day.

5. Strong communication skills

This is the most vital people skill to hone as it showcases your ability to get along with co-workers and persuade others to listen.

Good communication is clear, complete and proactive. It requires an individual to be articulate while considering other people's thoughts and needs. This way, you're not dismissing anyone or missing the point.

Great communication eliminates many misunderstandings and problems that come with miscommunication. This is why great communicators never assume that the other parties involved know a piece of information. Instead, they reach out to everyone who should know it and actively listen to understand the other person's perspective.

6. Ability to show empathy

Empathy requires you to place yourself in someone else's shoes and see and understand where they're coming from. It's a key people skill in the workplace, where employees meet numerous clients and interact with many colleagues regularly.

Knowing when and how to show empathy allows you to foster healthy relationships with others by forming emotional bonds. It requires you to offer support and compassion to others in difficult situations, which helps diffuse challenging situations. When you're empathetic, the other party can move forward from the problem, eliminating conflict.

7. Assertiveness

It's normal to feel pressured to say yes to every task assigned to you in the workplace to avoid disappointing anyone. Unfortunately, you suffer the most by stretching out your capabilities, resulting in burnout and poor productivity.

You're better off saying no right away, allowing your employer to assign the task to someone who can give it the attention it requires. Be assertive in your response and clearly explain why you can't take on the task. Your employer will understand and appreciate your honesty.

For many, being assertive can come off as aggressive and rude, but you can avoid this by maintaining mutual respect.

8. Open-mindedness

The workplace environment comprises different individuals with various opinions, ideas, methods and interests. Accepting all these without being offended, defensive or dismissive is vital in maintaining healthy relationships. That's where open-mindedness comes in.

Open-minded people understand that there's more than one way to do something, and instead of dismissing a person's approach to a problem, they consider it. You don't have to necessarily agree with the approach but be open and honest enough to admit its effectiveness and efficiency.

When you're open-minded, you work well with teams, allowing team members to perform tasks their way even if it doesn't make sense to you.

9. Conflict resolution

Conflict is a virtually inevitable part of any relationship, including professional. Although you cannot avoid it, you can resolve it to maintain peace in the workplace. Great conflict resolution skills require you to remain impartial when resolving a problem, even if you have personal opinions regarding the situation.

You need to actively listen to both parties, address their pain points, and develop a solution that everyone's comfortable with. When conflict arises between two workers, try neutralising the situation before it escalates. This requires empathy and patience.

10. Teamwork

When working in a professional setting, some level of collaboration is required, whether you work alone or with a team. You may need to collaborate with a colleague on a project or a client, and possessing teamwork skills ensures you can work well with the other party.

Generally, teamwork skills include a range of interrelated abilities that help you co-operate with others in different situations such as meetings or projects. Some of these abilities include strong communication, critical thinking, active listening, open-mindedness and flexibility.

11. Honesty

The saying "honesty is the best policy" is not only true but also vital in building trust in the workplace and fostering healthy relationships.

When you're honest with others, it lets them know they can believe your statements, commitments and promises. It also positions you as someone truthful and reliable. This way, people are more inclined to collaborate with you on projects or reach out to you when facing problems.

To hone your honesty skills, start by promptly acknowledging your mistakes and taking constructive criticism. As for your clients, only make promises that you can deliver and provide realistic expectations for projects.

For example, don't tell a client you can complete their project in two months when it requires more time. You'll lose their trust, and they may not work with you again in the future.


Bottom line

Practising and honing the people skills mentioned above is fundamental in advancing your career and maintaining your workplace relationships.