Management Articles


Why Soft Skills Matter in Your Office

By: Susan Dunn

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at and for FREE ezine.

A major problem for employers today is getting the best employees and then keeping them. How do you do this? One way is by understanding what it is employees want. Being able to sense what others feel and want is empathy, an emotional intelligence competency, a crucial “soft” skill if you want to have productive employees and a solid bottom line.

Also, as you'll see in this survey which keeps coming up with the same results, it takes emotional intelligence on the part of managers to meet the needs employees want most.

This survey first came out in 1946 in Foreman Facts, from the Labor Relations Institute of NY and was produced again by Lawrence Lindahl in Personnel magazine, in 1949. This study has since been replicated with similar results by Ken Kovach (1980); Valerie Wilson, Achievers International (1988); Bob Nelson, Blanchard Training & Development (1991); and Sheryl & Don Grimme, GHR Training Solutions (1997-2001).

Print these surveys out and lay them side by side and you’ll see quite a discrepancy.

What employees say they want starting with the most important
  1. Full appreciation for work done
  2. Feeling “in” on things
  3. Sympathetic help on personal problems
  4. Job security
  5. Good wages
  6. Interesting work
  7. Promotion/growth opportunities
  8. Personal loyalty to workers
  9. Good working conditions
  10. Tactful discipline
What managers think employees want
  1. Good wages
  2. Job security
  3. Promotion/growth opportunities
  4. Good working conditions
  5. Interesting work
  6. Personal loyalty to workers
  7. Tactful discipline
  8. Full appreciation for work done
  9. Sympathetic help with personal problems
  10. Feeling “in” on things
You can see there's quite a discrepancy here. We don’t leave our emotions at home when we come to work. In fact we need them, to get along, to treat others with respect, and to guide us in making decisions.

Emotional intelligence means understanding your own emotions and those of others, and being able to use this information to make wise decisions, and to negotiate to win-win outcomes for all concerned.

“Soft” skills bring “hard” results in the workplace. Studies have shown that emotional intelligence can bring positive effects to your bottom line. It stands to reason that employees who feel good about themselves and – as they say – feel appreciated and "in" on things, will work better for you, stay longer, and pass the word on that yours is a good place to work.

One of the sad facts about a dysfunctional workplace is that like attracts like. What you have in place now, you’ll likely get more of, as people rise to hiring positions and choose people like themselves, and as the word gets out what it’s like to work for your organization.

Recruiters who go to the MBA schools say that the soft skills are what they are most eager to find, and least likely to find. This sort of training is slowly making its way into the schools, Here you can see the top ten business schools as rated for soft skills:

This data is take from The Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive Business School Year 2 Survey, based on the opinions of 2,221 MBA recruiters Interpersonal communication and other so-called soft skills are what the corporate recruiters crave the most but find the least in MBA graduates, they say.

"The major business schools produce graduates with analytical horsepower and solid command of the basics -- finance, marketing and strategy. But soft skills such as communication, leadership and a team mentality sometimes receive cursory treatment." (WSJ) Recruiters' comments included "cutthroat," "soften the edges of the students," "humility should be a core curriculum course," "arrogant," "tone down the egos," but also "creme de la creme," "salt-of-the-earth, but a little out of touch," "marketing gurus" and "quant wizards."

Have an emotionally intelligent workplace. It’s the smart thing to do. It means establishing a culture in your business respecting such EQ competencies as resilience (the stress buster for the decade), change-proficiency, flexibility, creativity, and Intentionality. Assessments are available to determine the current EQ (emotional quotient) of your staff, and then workshops, seminars, distance learning courses, the EQ Learning Lab™ and other materials, as well as individual and group coaching, can bring your  office up-to-speed in these crucial skills.

Research has shown that raising the overall level of EQ works better than just raising one person’s EQ.

For research data on emotional intelligence, go here:
The EQ-Map is one assessment:

© copyright, Susan Dunn, 2004

Other Articles by Susan Dunn

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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