Soft skills in the workplace can be underrated. What do you bring to your company?

Every person brings not only his or her professional skill set, but also a set of soft skills, or personal skills, to the workplace. It is the combination of both skill sets that separates you from others in a professional environment and makes coworkers and management enjoy working with you. Companies want employees who not only do an outstanding job, but are pleasant to be around as well. That enjoyment can lead to great reviews and promotions.

What Is a Soft Skill?
While a “hard skill” is your ability to complete a task at work (proficiency with software, technical capabilities, etc.), a “soft skill” is a positive personal characteristic. This can be your great sense of humor, innate intelligence, motivation, patience, positivity, and/or ability to work well within a team. Think of the personality of the individual you really enjoy working with in your office — that colleague is applying effective soft skills in the workplace.

Improve Your Soft Skills
Are you an agreeable person in your work environment? Do coworkers enjoy working with you? You likely know the answers to both of those questions. If you answered “no” to either one (hey, no one’s judging you here!), it would be good for you to think about how to improve your soft skills. Your next promotion might depend on it.

One way to do this is to be careful of what you say and how you say it. While your colleague might pretend to laugh at your joke (whether you think it’s PC or not) or your references to political or religious affiliations, someone in your midst might very well be offended. If you are in a cube environment, take your personal calls in a private space so as not to expose those on the other side of the cubicle wall with your personal (“TMI”) information. And if you are the person listening in on the personal call, try not to judge or gossip. Your colleague may be going through something personal and hasn’t shared it with anyone. Don’t be the instigator of rumors or negativity.

Just as you continue to improve your technical skills throughout your career, it’s imperative that you also work to strengthen and build your soft skills. When two candidates for a position or promotion appear equal on paper, it’s the soft skills that distinguish you. Make sure that distinction is a genuine and positive one.

Which soft skills in the workplace have benefitted you the most? Which do you most appreciate in others? I welcome your thoughts below.