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Fourth-quarter has always been a huge push for sales teams to finish strong while helping clients spend the year end budget. This 4th quarter is more critical to the success of so many businesses than we’ve ever seen. It could make or break them. Focusing your team on doing what they do best will make a difference.   

Selling isn’t easy in the best of times. So, what do you do when you are selling in more challenging times? Most of us remember, not without a certain amount of cringing; the impact 2008 had on sales. It was an economic disaster that required even more, fortitude and grit than usual. Those who succeeded did so because they powered through the tough times using their natural sales strengths, traits like competitive drive, ambition, and resilience. And now, we find ourselves in 2020: new challenges, new economic stressors, both big understatements. We’ve had to adjust, quickly and often, over the last several months. We’ve found new ways of doing business and felt lucky if we could even keep doing business.  

While some companies only felt a blip and a few have even done better than before this global health crisis, the truth is that most of us have experienced some serious problems. The economic downturn has severely impacted sales. For a time, finding new business was next to impossible, and holding on to existing business was a significant concern. To borrow from Dickens (sort of), it was the spring of despair, and now we are looking for an autumn of hope.   

Salespeople have never had to rely on their sales strengths more than they do right now. And that means you need people with natural behaviors to do well in our new reality. Sales is a constant endeavor of finding opportunities, building a pipeline, and converting leads to sales. It takes a lot of energy. The better suited your salespeople are to the job demands, the less resistance they’ll face internally. As it is, they’ll be facing a lot of resistance externally.  

Let’s talk about just what those natural sales traits are. 

Assertiveness 

A high level of assertiveness is critical. On an Omnia, that’s shown as a tall column 1. It’s the single most important trait in most successful salespeople. Naturally, assertive people are win driven and me-oriented; they push for what they want, especially if doing so increases their stake. That’s why salespeople are motivated by commission. They are natural risk-takers who can drive for results that earn them the rewards of a sale.  

People with a low level of assertiveness have a high degree of caution, so they are always fighting past their inhibitions when nudging people, including themselves, towards a decision.  

It’s harder than ever right now to get a hold of people, and the impact of COVID provides an ideal excuse for prospects not to take or return sales calls, and of course, the face-to-face meeting has been paused for a lot of us. Nonassertive personalities might dial back their efforts to avoid upsetting people, while those with natural ambition and drive are committed to getting up and doing what they’ve always done... find new business. And if that means finding new ways to get or keep business, they are prepared to do that.  

Resilience 

Resilience plays a close second to assertiveness. Resilience is the ability to brush off rejection and keep moving forward. Sure, no one likes rejection, that’s a given, but you want salespeople who don’t take it personally. Resilient salespeople understand that rejection is an unavoidable part of sales and that for every “no” they hear, it gets them that much closer to the next “yes.” They learn from every situation, and they don’t let obstacles, objections, or rejections keep them from performing the sales tasks needed to secure a commitment. Coupled with assertiveness, resilient people take rejection as a challenge.  

Individuals who lack resilience often struggle to perform the proactive tasks needed because they want to avoid rejection. This is the salesperson who hides behind pre-call planning, documentation and account research rather than putting themselves out there. They also need a lot of time to regain their confidence after they lose a sale. Natural resilience provides the backbone to assertiveness.  

Sociability 

Sociability opens doors but isn’t necessarily a critical trait. Social sellers are great at building personal connections with prospects and creating rapport. Analytical sellers, who are socially reserved, are great at providing consultation and solving problems. Both styles are effective, and both appeal to different types of prospects. The problem arises when you have salespeople whose sociability is stronger than their assertiveness. This creates the infamous close reluctance. We call that the networker tendency when the need to be liked is stronger than their need to win. These individuals put the relationship ahead of the sale. They build an impressive list of contacts and collect friends. When they sense hesitation, they tend to back down rather than risk losing their new buddy. People whose assertiveness is stronger than their sociability put the emphasis on the sale. They value the relationship, but they don’t let it get in the way of the deal. 

Now that we know what works, what do you do with the information?  

Sales Actions in the Age of COVID 

As a sales leader, it’s important to tap into that natural drive of your salespeople, especially since it can be hard to feel driven right now. Let’s face it; they are getting shot down more than usual. And while that can’t be an excuse, it does require some new tactics. 

Weekly Sales Huddles 

Begin each week with a sales huddle to connect your team and start the week with focused goals. These are an effective tool for keeping people stoked and motivated. Sharing wins creates positive energy and a little competitive spirit. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to share ideas and tactics that are working or figure out how to improve on anything that isn’t yielding results. Set weekly goals and post progress against these goals – there’s nothing like a published dashboard to drive energy, build momentum, and fuel the competitive spirit we all have in sales.  

Redefine What Winning Looks Like 

Assertive salespeople crave challenges; they need ways to win and keep score. If sales are in a slump, look for other ways for them to win. Set weekly challenges and celebrate the wins at the end of each week. It’s getting the most prospects to call you back. It’s securing a demo, making the most calls, filling the pipeline with qualified leads, contacting existing accounts, or other activities relevant to your business. Speaking of existing accounts... 

Take Care of Your Clients 

Nurturing existing business is always important, but it might look a little different for a while. Encourage your sales team to show their clients that they care about what they are going through. Look for ways your team can support their clients and help solve problems, even if it doesn’t result in a sale at that moment. Now’s a great time to also have those year-end budget discussions with your clients as they develop their strategies for 2021. Look for ways to help them streamline, simplify, and save if you can.  Many of your clients may be struggling in their businesses. Doing everything you can to support them and bring forward value could help keep your company off the chopping block when costs get cut, and competitors come calling.     

Decide if Your People are Still Your People 

Take a hard look at your team. If someone on your team wasn’t cut out for sales before, this environment might be close to impossible for them now. Are you going to invest your time and energy into coaching them, or is it better to release them and look for replacements who are naturally aligned to selling both in good times and bad?  

As you head into 2021, it’s important to be sure you have the right people in the right roles to thrive in these challenging times. Natural assertiveness drives salespeople toward new opportunities, while resilience keeps their confidence intact. It’s a winning combination, and leaders need to be confident that their team has these traits. An Omnia assessment is a quick, effective method that quantifies these inherent traits, giving sales leaders knowledge about their salespeople and powerful insight that can drive solid decisions on how you organize your team, possibly change out some of the team, and how to can motivate your sales reps to be their very best.  

As an eternal optimist, I’m grateful I’ve managed to keep my optimism through these past few months. And my optimism is always fueled by hope. So here’s to an autumn of hope. Hope for a surge in sales, a return to thriving businesses, a strong economy, a healthy global population... and new sales!  

I stole the following from a meme or maybe a T-shirt: Introverts. We’re here, we’re uncomfortable, and we want to go home.

That about sums it up. I’m often uncomfortable around people, and even when I’m enjoying myself, I’m looking forward to being home. I like socializing, but it’s also exhausting. That’s really the crux of being an introvert. I get tired just thinking about interacting with people.

It can be hard to be an introvert at work because communication is vital in business; heck, it’s vital in life. Our work and personal relationships depend upon it. And the fact is, introverts have a lot to say, but if you aren’t asking in the right ways, it could create unnecessary problems.

There’s a big difference between managing a team of hard-charging, fast-talking extroverts and cautious, patient, meticulous introverts. If you’re managing both groups the same way, half your people are miserable. And let’s face it, it’s probably your introverts. They aren’t telling you otherwise or fighting for what they need. You’ll know someone was unhappy when they send you a resignation email. By then, it’s too late, and you didn’t even know there was an issue.

So, I’m here to speak (or rather write) on their behalf. First, we’ve established that I’m an introvert. I also manage a team of introverts, and I’m in the personality assessment business. It’s up close and personal experience at your disposal. But just so you know you are getting your money’s worth out of this blog, I also polled some introverts and asked them what they need from their managers. And while nothing came as a complete surprise, it was helpful to get their point of view. They were also kind enough to share their rationale, which I didn’t even ask for. A bonus of working with detailed, introspective thinkers, you get a lot more than you pay for, like this blog. So here we go:

  1. After their initial training, build their confidence in their own abilities and knowledge. Rather than providing the answers when they come to you, encourage them to think through the matter and resolve it independently. This motivates with a sense of accomplishment and inspires self-sufficiency. Create an environment where reasonable mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities rather than disasters; a tall column 8 isn’t going to let themselves go overboard and misuse this leeway.
  2. Cautious introverts hate having to ask questions. They’ll do it because they want to do things right, but they’ll be worried about bothering someone or that they should already know the answer. They appreciate being independent in their fact-finding, so having places they can access answers (procedure manual, shared knowledge center) is really appealing. Still, always encourage questions and be a mentor.
  3. Check-in on them to see how things are going. Cautious introverts aren’t necessarily great at proactively bringing up problems. One-on-one conversations or private emails are where they may feel most comfortable discussing issues, but only if they feel you are genuinely interested, not just going through the managerial motions. Focus conversations on tangible ways they can resolve problems; don’t simply give platitudes. 
  4. Eliminate "brainstorming" from your vocabulary. It can feel more like blindsiding. Instead, ask them to think about a question or problem and get back to you with their thoughts at an agreed-upon time. They will have more and better ideas if they think it over. This turning it over in their mind might even happen outside of their normal work hours, for instance, when they are on their evening walk. Why? Because often they are too busy putting out fires at work to do deep thinking. Introverts do not do their best thinking in spontaneous groups or amid distractions. Plus, they won’t fight to be heard over the assertive extroverts. This is not to say that you shouldn’t invite introverts to brainstorming meetings. Send an email a few days before the meeting to allow those introverts to prepare. They’ll be more likely to speak up when they have had a chance to gather their thoughts.  
  5. Many introverts like to get and give difficult news via email first to promise a follow-up call or meeting. It gives them time to process and tame any emotions. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all situations, but when possible, it’s a great way to pave the way for a productive conversation.  On the flip side, when I ask an introvert to call me or have a meeting, I am sure to include something like: “It’s nothing bad!” Column 2 and 8 introverts go straight to catastrophic thinking.  How do I know? I have an employee, who is amazing, and she once told me that every time I ask her to give me a call, she thinks she is getting fired. 
  6. As a leader, proactively manage your own stress. Be careful not to transfer it to others. If you are on edge or feeling overwhelmed, your introverted employees will absorb that energy the most, and they already tend to take things seriously, so the tension can amplify painfully. Introverts internalize stress, even if it isn’t theirs. 
  7. Let them focus. You may want to do it all right now, but resist introducing more than one new challenge at a time. Introverts tend to prefer concentration and mastery over ASAP and "good enough." 
  8. Don’t assume cautious introverts do not want to grow or move up, or that they will be fulfilled working the same support job for the next 5 years. They often want to master their work first before they feel confident taking on more or something different. The key is to find professional development goals that stretch and challenge them without overwhelming them. Sometimes they need a little push to step outside of their comfort zone and risk making the mistakes that come from learning. 
  9. Cautious, detailed introverts want to feel that what they do makes a valuable contribution.  Get good at verbalizing to your team that what they do matters. Show them how it ties into a goal or project, talk about the outcome, give status updates, and be specific.
  10. Introverts like praise, especially if they have a tall column 8. But they don’t like to be put on the spot. If they’ve worked hard on something, acknowledge their work. A group email or an email where their manager is cc’d is cool. Just don’t make them get up and take a bow. 

So, there you have it, ten ways to lead a team of supportive introverts. Here’s to making them more comfortable!

When you think about conflict, you probably picture two (or more) employees disagreeing face-to-face in a meeting or common space at the office. It’s out in the open and usually very apparent. When you think of conflict resolution, you probably picture those involved sitting with a mediator to discuss challenges, miscommunications, and work toward solutions.

This format is tried-and-true, in a traditional setting. But what about the current workplace, where employees are remote and navigating new technologies in addition to outside stressors that may be less apparent?

The current world events, the pandemic, and civil unrest are not the only catalysts to more workers going remote, either full-time or on a hybrid schedule. According to a study from October 2019, the number of people who work from home had increased by 140% since 2005.

Additionally, it can be difficult getting everyone involved in a conflict on the same phone call and emails rarely help clarify once an issue has escalated.

Is there Really More Conflict in Remote Teams?

Not necessarily. Most conflicts arise due to communication issues. This is true in the workplace and personal relationships, so it shouldn’t be a surprise. What’s important is that you understand how dynamics, and even behaviors, can shift in a remote versus physical space and how each team member communicates. Armed with this knowledge, which behavioral and personality assessments can assist with, you can head off miscommunication before it becomes a real problem.

There are three truths to virtual environments and human behavior that can help you prepare:

  1. Virtual environments empower people to be harsh.
  2. Remote employees have a higher level of insecurity.
  3. Remote communication is healthier for some employees.

We’ll explore each of these then discuss steps to manage conflict among a remote team.

Virtual Environments Empower People to Be Harsh

If you’ve spent any time on social media or message boards, you know the internet is a hotbed for trolls. Even in professional communication, employees can feel empowered to be more brazen, or short, in responses and quick to share opinions without thinking that they may have held their tongue on if they were looking the person in the eyes. If you are a woman and/or BIPOC on LinkedIn, you know what we mean.

In fact, this behavior is so common it has a name: online disinhibition effect. “Online disinhibition is the lack of restraint one feels when communicating online in comparison to communicating in-person.” (Wikipedia). This effect ranges from sharing personal thoughts and fears that would otherwise remain hidden to using rude language and making threats. The distance, coupled with a lack of immediate response, can make employees more cavalier and confident in what they’re saying.

Tone is another consideration. Even if a colleague isn’t experiencing the online disinhibition or trying to be rude, wording or tone can sometimes be misconstrued by the recipients. Ever bristle at a curt email response? If you’re in the habit of sending quick emails, which we’ve all done, know that it can cause co-workers to worry about or misconstrue responses.

Remote Employees Have Higher Levels of Insecurity

This may impact 100% of remote workers more than those sent home for health and safety reasons; however, it’s a good factor to consider when working with a team. The lack of physical presence can warp an employee’s perception of their status, affecting how they interpret the tone of digital communication.

Another study polled more than 1,100 employees to learn whether they feel connected while working remotely. This was again before the current events, but remote employees felt they couldn’t fight for their priorities, that on-site colleagues gossiped about them, and that project changes were not communicated to them properly.

Obviously, these worries will impact how an individual reads a written communication and can affect how they perform and how they feel connected to the company culture.

Remote Communication Is Healthier for Some Employees

All that said, some employees will actually thrive in remote environments. It’s not only your less vocal colleagues, either. While remote teams seem like they could promote miscommunication or arguments, they can actually help the focus stay on the work.

When you’re on the phone or communicating through the email, you’re less likely to detect annoyances, including eye-rolling and other cues, which allow you to focus on the work and the work's content.

Remote employees can express their frustration without others noticing and move along in the work process without creating internal issues or causing a negative reaction.

Half the battle of reducing and resolving conflicts within remote teams is quite simply enhancing communication and employee confidence within the organization. Remote work isn’t why conflicts occur, though it can lead to increased confusion when not managed correctly.

7 Steps to Manage Conflict in Remote Teams

Conflicts and conflict resolution are part of every company. It’s very human, and companies are made up of humans, so there’s no avoiding it completely. If you react quickly and take concrete steps to find solutions, you, your team, and your company will be in a better position than hoping interpersonal or interdepartmental conflicts will resolve themselves.

Identify Gaps in Communication or Sources of Uncertainty

Start by identifying where remote communication is failing and what sources of conflict are common in your organization. These four common factors tend to lead to conflict in the remote workplace:

You may notice many of these sources of conflict intertwine. For example, a remote employee who does not receive the communication they need for a project leaves them uncertain about their role and overall goals.

Once you have the conflict source, you can take steps to solve it and ideally prevent it in the future.

Train Managers to Look for Behavioral Changes

Managers play a key role in conflict escalation and resolution. Unsurprisingly, those trained to identify and solve conflicts will be better off than those who cannot identify the symptoms. Not only will management fair better with some instruction, training, and insight into their teams, so will the team dynamic, the company, and the bottom line.

It can be helpful to watch for behavioral changes, as these may indicate a miscommunication is occurring, and conflict management may be necessary. A few examples of behavior changes include:

Much like you’d lean on physical cues to signal crucial changes in behavior while in-person, while these cues can’t replace casual, in-person contact, they are important to recognize.

We know you’re very busy and don’t always have time to notice small behavioral changes. However, noticing and addressing these changes can prevent major problems (like project delays and employee turnover) from surfacing in the future.

Encourage Employees to Assume Positive Intent

Most miscommunication is caused by employee perception. Understanding this and developing trust within your team can enable them to assume positive intent. This is helpful when you’re busy on another project resulting in a lack of communication or a curt response. Rather than viewing this as a personal slight, your employees will view it with positive intent and know it’s not personal.

As the manager, it can encourage and remind your remote teams to assume the sender's intent is positive and innocent.

However, if it becomes clear that there is a problem or conflict, temporarily stop communicating. Take a step back to gain perspective. Breathe. Then consider whether involving management or another mediator is necessary to reach a solution.

Professional disagreements happen. That’s not the problem here. We want to prevent conflict if possible, then keep it from escalating to a personal fight if a disagreement does occur.

Don’t Downplay Minor Problems.

It can be tempting to avoid conflict by downplaying an issue. What you’re actually doing is setting the stage for more problems and challenges with mediation.

Consider a scenario in which an employee decides their overreacting to a perceived problem or slight, and stays silent to keep the peace. Rather than addressing the issue, they’re actually normalizing the other person’s actions while delegitimizing their own feelings. Now consider what would happen should this dynamic continue. The peace-keeping employee most likely becomes increasingly disturbed and frustrated by the non-normalized behavior.

While it can be uncomfortable to address problems, you must model for and encourage your employees to address issues. Employees should have access to communication and problem-solving training, while managers must learn how to mediate and thoroughly address issues.

Develop a Clear Process for Handling Conflict

You have processes for everything else. Well, you need one for problem-solving and conflict resolution. Like every other scenario, this sets the stage, so you’re ready when conflict arises, and no one needs to panic. A sample process for remote teams dealing with conflict includes:

  1. Identify the problem: one or more remote team members explain that they’re having a disagreement and ask to schedule time with a mediator to discuss the problem(s).
  2. Hold a small summit: the disagreeing team members work with one or more mediators to address the problems and voice their concerns. All sides listen and look for ways to clarify or compromise on the issues.
  3. Follow up in writing: once an agreement is made, team members send the terms of the compromise via email for everyone to reference in the future.

Instead of bottling up problems or escalating conflicts, this process helps the entire team learn to identify problems and cleanly handle them without turning professional disagreements personal.

When your team has a conflict resolution process to follow, employees and managers can solve issues without escalating them to the CEO.

Create Goal-Focused Conflict Plans

This one may be a surprise to you if you’re new to leading a team. Many employees believe their managers expect all workers to like each other and get along. While this utopian scenario sounds nice, it’s not likely, especially the larger your organization grows. Personality clashes occur. Therefore, creating conflict resolution strategies that are goal-oriented can go further and last longer than expecting employees to become friendly.

It helps if you clarify the end goal of conflict resolution to the business up front, rather than forcing employees to pretend they get along.

Set Up Team-Building and Engagement Opportunities

You probably know that team-building is a great way to build communication and foster a group mentality in your organization. If you’re new to managing a remote workforce, you may be at a loss how this translates into a virtual world. One way to encourage team-building is to ensure your remote employees are involved in weekly updates, cross-department meetings, regular check-ins, and maybe even a water-cooler talk time to let people meet and chat about things other than work if they have a moment in their day.

One easy way to encourage engagement is during your weekly updates. Even if it takes less than 15 minutes, open with an ice breaker question (“what are you reading/watching/listening to this week?”) and give your remote team space to ask questions and learn after the updates. It’s easy to overlook, but these calls are essential for making your remote employees feel like they’re part of the team.

How Omnia Can Help

Omnia offers an easy-to-implement behavioral assessment so you can get started right away. Results are instant, digestible, and actionable. If you want even more insight, our team can provide you with an in-depth analysis of your assessment data. Remember: we’re here to help you improve your hiring and interview process so that your company continues to thrive!

During times of crisis or uncertainty, your employees count on your empathy and ability to help them cope with current events and ultimately get through to a brighter tomorrow. Unsupported team members are at high-risk for being unmotivated, withdrawn, on edge, or even physically absent. On the flip side, a well-guided team will unify, adapt, rise to the occasion, and put the company in the best possible future position.

To effectively lead under these circumstances, you need a communication plan tailored to your team’s communication style and preferences.

Let’s dig into that.

Your Communication Plan

When the world has been upended, some of your employees may panic. Unfortunately, panic is contagious, and its spread can spark rumors, kill productivity, and lead to low team morale. Fortunately, you can keep everyone calm and the situation under control by implementing a communication plan that does these four things:

Let’s look at each in turn.

Keep Information Flowing Freely

To prevent rumors from flying, you need to provide timely and honest information to your employees. In the absence of information, people form their own conclusions, and stress multiplies. Sharing information continually helps build trust and diminishes their fear of the unknown. It’s okay to express the situation's seriousness and admit when you’re not sure about something. Even letting your team know you’re not sure of a decision yet is perfectly fine.  Your team will appreciate your transparency.

For best results, make sure that crisis-related messaging is consistent across the entire firm -- and not different from team to team. This is a great time to use collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, and video conferencing to vary how you distribute messages and encourage input. At Omnia, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in cross-company communication through the use of channels and polls on Teams. It’s also been a great way to keep a constant pulse on engagement across the teams while everyone is currently so distributed.

Foster Deep Levels of Trust

While open communication at a company-wide level goes a long way to build trust, you should also reach out to team members individually. Allow individuals to express their emotions, frustrations, and fears in a safe, judgment-free environment.

Don’t be afraid to share your emotions, too. Being warm, personable, and vulnerable shows the employee that you “get it” and builds a sense of camaraderie. While time constraints are understandable, try to reach out multiple times -- especially during prolonged periods of uncertainty.

Provide Clear and Continuous Guidance

A crisis often causes confusion, so your employees may not know what they should be doing. To guide them, give them clear instructions on how to support your customers -- and each other.

Remember, since the future is full of question marks, your guidance needs to be concrete and focused on the short-term. Finally, your team needs a continuous source of support to navigate these tough times. So, make sure you follow up often and are easily accessible to answer their questions.

Promote Unity and Uplift Team Spirit

During times of crisis, team unity is critical. A tight-knit group will be more committed to each other -- and the company. To promote unity, speak to the collective talent and strength of your organization. While you shouldn’t make any promises about how the firm will ultimately fare, tell stories about how it has adapted and overcome in the past.

To keep spirits high, remain ever hopeful, and assure your team that you’re in it with them for the long haul. You should also empower your group. Ask them to tap into their strengths. Encourage them to do their best work, given the circumstances. And remind them that they play an important role during these challenging times. Find ways to share what people are doing to learn and apply new skills, and spotlight the impact these are having on your customers and the business.

Tailor Your Communication Plan

Your employees have different communication styles and preferences. To ensure that they get the information and support they need, it’s important to be aware of them. Then, you can tailor your approach to each team member.

For example, some of your employees may be extremely analytical. They’re more focused on facts, processes, and numbers than interpersonal relationships. In these cases, you should paint the picture of the situation in a linear manner with supporting statistics, if possible. They will value timetables, and firm commitments of when actions will occur or additional communication will come. Conversely, your more relationship-oriented employees will care more about the impacts of those statistics on actual human lives and may appreciate a video conference over an email or phone call. This group will also value being able to verbally process the messages they are hearing with their colleagues.  In the end, you’re providing the same information, just presented differently.

Further, some of your employees thrive in a fast-paced, swiftly changing setting and can handle getting the whole story all at once. Yet, other team members process information more methodically and need to focus on each detail separately. What’s important is that you factor in these varieties of styles and adjust your delivery depending on who you’re speaking with to ensure they get the information they need.

How Omnia Can Help

If you’re not sure about your employees’ communication styles, an Omnia behavioral assessment can help! Assessments are short and simple to take yet can reveal behavioral insights you might not have known, even after working with someone for weeks and months. Assessment results will enable you to communicate with and manage each team member more effectively. You’ll unlock how they work best so you can fully utilize their strengths. It’s quick and easy to get started!

Final Thoughts

When circumstances are difficult or ambiguous, strong leadership and effective communication are even more critical. Your employees will rely on you to support, encourage, and guide them. If you provide consistent, tailored communication with empathy woven throughout, your team will come together, support each other more, and can bravely face what’s to come.

You may be a computer whiz, a scientific genius, or a master of mathematical theories.  However, to be successful, you need more than just expertise in your given specialty. In fact, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employees (NACE), when participating employers were asked to name the attributes they seek in candidates, they gave their highest scores to the following three traits:

Interestingly, technical skills (59.6%) and computer skills (55.1%), often considered among the most important skills an applicant can possess in today’s high-tech job market, ranked quite low by comparison. The results clarify that employers are paying much closer attention to soft skills in the workplace than they did in years past. In response to the demand for employees who also possess emotional intelligence, some postsecondary schools incorporate soft skills in scientific and technical specialties. For example, Penn State’s Engineering Department offers a career development class for junior and senior engineering students, including team-building skills, communication skills, and leadership strategies.

What are Soft Skills and Why are They Important?

Soft skills are broadly classified as a combination of personality traits, behaviors, and social attitudes that allow people to communicate effectively, collaborate, and successfully manage conflict. People with good soft skills tend to have strong situational awareness and emotional intelligence to navigate difficult working environments while still producing positive results. This is especially important for leadership positions because good leadership is more about managing people and directing their efforts toward the desired outcome rather than bringing any specific technical skills to bear.

Another benefit of soft skills in the workplace is that they help people to adapt to changing circumstances. Being able to communicate effectively during a time of uncertainty or collaborate with others when solutions aren’t immediately obvious is hugely important whether someone is in a leadership position or not. Given their many applications, it’s hardly surprising that organizations are doing more to assess a candidate’s soft skills during the interview process.

Also Popular: 10 Interview Questions to identify soft skills

The 7 Soft Skills You Need in Today’s Workforce

1. Leadership Skills

Companies want employees who can supervise and direct other workers. They want employees who can cultivate relationships up, down, and across the organizational chain. Leaders must assess, motivate, encourage, and discipline workers and build teams, resolve conflicts, and cultivate the organization’s desired culture. Understanding how to influence people and accommodate their needs is an essential element of leadership. All too many companies overlook when they place someone with the most technical expertise in a position of authority. Soft skills development is often a key component of leadership training.

2. Teamwork

Most employees are part of a team/department/division, and even those who are not on an official team need to collaborate with other employees. You may prefer to work alone, but it’s important to demonstrate that you understand and appreciate the value of joining forces and working in partnership with others to accomplish the company’s goals. This shows that you possess the soft skills necessary to engage in productive collaboration.

3. Communication Skills

Successful communication involves five components. Verbal communication refers to your ability to speak clearly and concisely. Nonverbal communication includes the capacity to project positive body language and facial expressions.  Written communication refers to your skillfulness in composing text messages, reports, and other types of documents. Visual communication involves your ability to relay information using pictures and other visual aids. Active listening should also be considered a key communication soft skill because it helps you listen to and actually hear what others say. You need to be able to listen to understand how to best communicate with someone. Without strong listening skills, any communication efforts will be one-way and probably ineffective.

4. Problem-Solving Skills 

Many applicants try to minimize problems because they don’t understand that companies hire employees to solve problems. Glitches, bumps in the road, and stumbling blocks are all part of the job and represent learning opportunities. The ability to use your knowledge to find answers to pressing problems and formulate workable solutions will demonstrate that you can handle – and excel in – your job. Discussing mistakes and what you learned from them is an important part of building a soft skills resume.

5. Work Ethic 

While you may have a manager, companies don’t like to spend time micromanaging employees. They expect you to be responsible and do the job you’re getting paid to do, which includes being punctual when you arrive at work, meeting deadlines, and making sure that your work is error-free. And going the extra mile shows that you’re committed to performing your work with excellence. 

6. Flexibility/Adaptability

In the 21st century, companies need to make rapid (and sometimes drastic) changes to remain competitive. So they want workers who can also shift gears or change direction as needed. As organizations have become less hierarchical and agile over the last decade, it’s more important than ever for employees to be able to handle many different tasks and demonstrate a willingness to take on responsibilities that might lay outside their area of expertise. 

7. Interpersonal Skills

This is a broad category of “people skills” and includes building and maintaining relationships, developing rapport, and using diplomacy. It also includes giving and receiving constructive criticism, being tolerant and respectful regarding others' opinions, empathizing with them. This is among the most important of all the soft skills examples because it is central to building teams with a strong foundation of trust and accountability.

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Successful Soft Skills Development

But suppose you don’t have these skills? It’s never too late to develop them. For example, you can learn a lot by observing other people within a company who excel in these seven areas. Also, offering to take on more responsibilities at work (serving on committees, planning events, etc.) can help you gain valuable experience. Also, consider taking online soft-skills courses. Developing emotional intelligence will make you a more valuable employee and increase your chances of career success.

Employee assessments can also reveal areas where improvements could be made, making it easier to put together a development plan to address those needs. People often focus specifically on technical skills or competencies when planning their development, but neglecting soft skills can make it difficult to succeed in future positions that require a high degree of emotional intelligence and social interaction (in other words, just about any leadership position).

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Regardless of what industry you’re looking at, there are plenty of people who have to deal with aggressive managers regularly. In most cases, they can’t simply avoid these difficult individuals, especially if they have to work for them!

If you work for this aggressive personality type, you probably need answers and solutions to help you get through the day. Why does your boss do what he does? Why is he so difficult? Is there an effective way to work with someone who can never be wrong, refuses all input from others, and is hypersensitive to even the hint of criticism (while dishing out plenty of criticism of others)?

Fortunately, there are many ways of handling an aggressive manager that allow you to be successful in your role without creating unnecessary conflict.

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People at War and the Aggressive Manager

Dr. George Simon, author of Character Disturbance, In Sheep’s Clothing, and The Judas Syndrome, is a nationally recognized expert on manipulative, cunning, aggressive people. He says that aggressive personalities are “fundamentally at war with anything that stands in the way of their unrestrained pursuit of their desires.” And unlike the rest of us, aggressive people don’t shy from conflict. More than anything, aggressive personalities want to win at whatever cost. It’s why they seek the dominant position in all interpersonal interactions, no matter how minor.

There’s a common but unfortunate perception that bosses should be aggressive. Apparently, the idea is that things just can’t get done unless someone is clobbering someone else to do it. Aggressive people aren’t easily discouraged, are tenacious, and are motivated to meet their goals—or so the thinking goes.

In reality, however, aggressive managers are usually pretty lousy bosses. They have little regard for others’ rights and boundaries, aren’t concerned about people’s needs, and make decisions based on their own agendas, not what’s best for employees, their teams, or the company.

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Characteristics of the Aggressive Manager

If you work for an aggressive boss, you may be confused, frustrated, angry, and anxious. Aggressive managers have that effect. Let’s take a closer look at some defining characteristics of these people.

They have ridiculously high regard for themselves.

According to Dr. Simon, narcissism is a common trait in developing individuals (particularly adolescents). He writes:

“But most of us eventually grow to develop a healthier balance of perspective with respect to our regard for ourselves versus our regard for and need of others. When a person enters adulthood, retaining the narcissistic tendencies they had as a child, there’s bound to be lots of trouble in their relationships.”

And if that’s not bad enough, destructive narcissists (that is, those whose narcissism is pathologic) don’t just view themselves as superior; they view everyone else as worthless, expendable, and justifiably exploitable. Such individuals have no qualms about using lies, manipulation, intimidation, flattery, or anything else to get what they want.

They have a disregard for authority.

Aggressive managers have a disdain for authority and rules, at least when it’s not coming from them. By contrast, they typically expect other people to respect their authority without question. The rules don’t apply to them, but woe to anyone else who dares to question their judgment or demands. This lack of respect for authority also manifests as a lack of accountability. They’re more likely to blame others when things go wrong and make excuses for their behavior.

They ruthlessly pursue their own interests and agendas.

An aggressive manager will always do what’s best for them. Always. Even when appearing to submit to someone else’s wishes or demands, the aggressive personality is employing a strategy to get what they want. Unfortunately, this means stepping over (or on) anyone who gets in their way.

They don’t care about the truth.

Truth and fact are “bendable” according to the aggressive personality’s desires. One day your boss gives X instruction for doing Y, but when you do X, and the result (through no fault of yours) is unsatisfactory, the boss denies giving that instruction. They may even feign outrage that you would “accuse” them of such a thing.

They don’t know when to back off.

Ironically, aggressive people will own this trait as a virtue and brag about their tenacity. However, this lack of “internal brakes,” as Dr. Simon puts it, is not a positive quality. In extreme cases, this trait can lead to ethical and legal breaches.

They can be very childish.

At times, dealing with an aggressive manager feels like dealing with a child, and that’s because aggressive personalities often exhibit childlike qualities. They’re immune to reason, logic, and common sense in the pursuit of their desires—just like a willful six-year-old.

8 Tips for Handling the Aggressive Manager

An aggressive boss can make coming to work unpleasant and even cause psychological and emotional harm over time. How can you protect yourself? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Do your research.

Read everything you can get your hands on about aggressive personalities. You can’t approach someone with a character disturbance or personality disorder as you would a normal person. It doesn’t work, and you’ll be forever perplexed and frustrated. So read, learn, and act accordingly.

2. Do your job well.

Doing your job well isn’t an absolute defense. Aggressive personalities make it hard for you to do a good job because they routinely ruin relationships, withhold information, micromanage, and provide conflicting instructions. That said, doing the best job possible will help insulate you from credible accusations of poor performance, provide a sense of self-worth (very important when working with someone who loves to tear others down), and give the aggressive manager a good reason to leave you be.

3. Set boundaries and don’t compromise your values. 

It’s important to establish firm boundaries based on your values and sense of self-worth. As long as those values are in line with the company’s mission, there shouldn’t be any conflict between your personal ethics and the expectations of your job. Draw those lines in the sand, and don’t let aggressive leaders compel you to cross them. If you do, you’ll hate yourself for it, and you won’t win any favors with the aggressive manager either, who’ll use you until they tire of you.

4. Take notes.

Taking notes is particularly important when your boss’ conduct crosses the line from merely unpleasant to unethical or potentially illegal. Keep a daily log if you must; a pad and pencil within arm’s reach at all times is a necessity.

5. File a formal complaint. 

If your aggressive manager has been around for a while, your company has most likely gotten complaints and ignored them. There are plenty of organizations willing to justify unacceptable behavior because they think the person in question is too valuable to lose (they’re almost always wrong about that, but that’s another story). Even so, your company can’t stop you from pursuing your rights. Go ahead and put your complaint on the record following whatever process is in place, and don’t hesitate to go outside the organization for help if needed.

6. Have a plan B (and a plan C).

Standing up to an aggressive manager has a cost, and you may find yourself marginalized or even out of a job. But understand that some things can’t be helped. If your organization tolerates abusers and your boss is one, you’re going to feel the effects no matter what. So decide what you’ll accept and won’t accept and don’t look back.

7. Know that your aggressive manager isn’t as smart as they think.

Aggressive personalities, especially narcissistic ones, think they’re smart, and everyone else is dumb. Take advantage of that fact. Eventually, your boss will make a mistake, and you’ll be there to document it.

8. Find a new job. Please.

If you’re an employer hoping to ban these unsavory characters from your workplace, that’s a good and healthy instinct. Unfortunately, however, we’ve all been trained to believe that confident, even brash, individuals who are loud and smooth-talking make for the best employees. So, if you don’t want your workplace ensnared by an aggressive employee, you’ll need to pay special attention during the interview phase and set your biases aside. Ask tough behavioral questions designed to elicit how the candidate handles conflict on the job, and listen carefully to the answers.

Also, don’t hesitate to administer a behavioral assessment to provide some information about character traits such as agreeableness, assertiveness, cooperativeness, and resilience. However, do NOT rely on a behavioral assessment to reveal whether an individual has a personality disorder; behavioral assessments are NOT medical exams.

If you have an aggressive manager (especially one with a character disturbance or a personality disorder), you already know the damage he or she can inflict on organizations and the people within them.

However, there are ways you can protect yourself, so do it. Today.

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