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6 Managerial Soft Skills that Foster a Happy Workplace

November 15, 2019

In a recent survey, 44% of respondents stated that a boss has been the primary reason they have left a job. 

Inappropriate behavior, bad temper, and condescending attitude were cited among other reasons. This shows the importance of soft skills for managers and how the lack of them impacts employee turnover.

More often than not, bad management is just the result of inexperience or insufficient managerial soft skills training. Case in point, another recent manager retention survey revealed than one in four managers never received any management training at all. That’s a considerable percentage. 

Whatever the case, a lack of managerial soft skills has a negative effect on employee engagement. Sooner or later, disengaged employees start looking for a workplace where they are respected, can work harmoniously, and are given opportunities to grow. Companies with a history of bad management also have trouble attracting top talent.

What managerial soft skills do your managers need?

The manager soft skill list is long—perhaps frighteningly so. Today, let’s focus on the managerial soft skills that contribute to creating a workplace your employees will happily go to every morning. 

1. Positivity

No one likes a moody manager who enters the office with a frown or one who scolds employees at the first mistake. It just ruins your whole day.

Positivity is a leadership skill all managers need to set the right tone in the workplace. It manifests in all interactions and situations, and it determines a leader’s management style. 

On a day-to-day basis, a positive attitude can impact employee mood and create a more relaxed working environment. And when things fall off track? A positive leader maintains their optimistic outlook and encourages their staff to keep going strong. 

A manager with a positive attitude celebrates small victories and doesn’t obsess over setbacks. They recognize not only achievements but also the effort employees put into their work. They reward overachievers and try to work out a solution with underperformers. When employees feel that their work is acknowledged and appreciated, they stay motivated and loyal.

Another aspect of business in which positivity is important is feedback. Managers receive a lot of feedback, both from coworkers and upper management. Positive managers view it as an opportunity to improve their management style and keep employees content. They encourage their staff to be honest and freely speak their minds. Promoting open communication means there are no piled-up issues and all great ideas are heard. It sounds refreshing, right?

2. Communication

The ability to communicate well is another important soft skill for managers. Managers have multiple interactions per day, and they also need to build strong relationships both inside and outside the company. 

Managers with strong communication skills get their ideas and opinions across with confidence and sincerity. They are inspiring and persuasive without sounding like they try too hard. Ineffective communication can sink deals and negotiations, escalate tensions, and cause friction in the workplace. 

The first step to becoming an effective communicator is to develop listening skills. Managers should actively engage in conversations and truly listen to what the other person is saying. That helps them read between the lines and give spot-on responses or solutions. 

Strong communication skills pay off the most during difficult conversations with employees. It’s not uncommon to sound condescending, judgmental, or blunt without realizing it, especially when a manager has to break bad news or refuse a request. Even standard processes like performance appraisals can be a cause for misunderstanding. Strong communicators frame their words under a positive light and address other people in the most suitable manner.

TIP: HR software can help your company avoid miscommunications. Browse your options on G2. 

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3. Delegation

Delegation is a fundamental soft skill in the workplace for managers. Task delegation is easier said than done, though. We told you—soft skills aren’t easy! Managers should be impartial and observant so that they assign tasks and authority to the right people. That means their criteria should be nothing other than employee skills and potential. 

There are many reasons delegation is one of the top management soft skills. For starters, smart delegation maximizes workplace efficiency and contributes to company growth. At the same time, managers use delegation to avoid micromanaging and be less stressed. That leaves them more time to listen to their employees’ concerns and handle urgent tasks.

Proper task delegation means assigning tasks that employees not only enjoy but also find challenging. That enables them to explore their capabilities, find fulfillment in their job, and grow their potential. Poor task delegation, on the flip side, can leave employees feeling wronged and unappreciated. It can also cause confusion, as well as productivity and time management issues. 

4. Problem-solving

Problem-solving is the number one quality people want in a manager. Apparently, employees need a hero-manager who helps them overcome setbacks and emergencies—someone they can confidently rely on.

Did we mention that managerial soft skills are complicated? Likewise, problem-solving has several components. These include analytical thinking, negotiation, assertiveness, and decision-making, among others.

A manager with strong problem-solving skills observes and analyzes a situation taking into consideration all possible complications and consequences. They also have a contingency plan in place in case the first one doesn’t work out. 

A crucial part of problem-solving is the ability to adapt or innovate in order to bring positive change in the workplace. Allowing one day of remote work per week or establishing a 4-day workweek are examples of innovative problem-solving solutions to combat low productivity and employee burnout. 

Employee satisfaction is greater in workplaces with a strong leader who maintains their composure is a quick thinker, and shifts their course of action to keep their coworkers happy. If a manager can’t rise above challenges and bring balance back to the workplace, maybe they’re just not cut for it.

5. Empathy

Have you ever heard of the fundamental attribution error? It’s when you see a car going at full speed, and you think, “What an idiot!” You’re attributing an action to a personality trait without considering potential external factors, e.g. an emergency. 

In the workplace, fundamental attribution error is when a manager decides an employee is a slacker or incompetent if their performance drops. What should they do instead? Give the employee a chance to explain, then show them some empathy.

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and view a situation from their point of view. By all means, managers should cultivate empathy through soft skills training to better connect with their coworkers.

The notion that fear inspires respect is of the past. Ultimately, fear only makes a person more creative in making excuses to avoid the repercussions of their actions. In the workplace, fear sooner or later leads to turnover. Employers have finally realized that employees thrive in workplaces that treat them as humans, which makes empathy one of the most highly regarded managerial soft skills.

It doesn’t take much effort to use empathy in the workplace. An empathic manager listens to and respects everyone’s opinion, and shows genuine concern and support. These seemingly small gestures have a huge impact on an employee’s day and their overall happiness.

6. Strong ethics

Imagine having a manager who has formed a group of “trusted” employees and keeps only them informed about what’s going on around the office. Or a manager who openly favors certain employees and grants them promotions they’re not qualified for. Managers like that, or worse, are quite commonplace—and they wreak havoc in the workplace.

Like the phrase goes, “the fish rots from the head down.” Very often, employees imitate their manager’s behavior. And what happens to the rest of the lot? They are marginalized and left with no motivation to work in an unfair or hostile workplace.

That’s why strong ethics are another must-have leadership soft skill for managers. Ethics goes beyond condemning favoritism and similar practices. Managers should first and foremost show a strong sense of integrity and accountability. This starts by honoring their promises and taking responsibility for their decisions. 

Though they should be approachable, managers also need to be cautious about not overstepping boundaries. It’s important that they find a balance between being rigid and too flexible. 

However, all other managerial soft skills combined can’t make up for a manager who allows inappropriate behavior. Managers should encourage employees to report incidents of bullying or harassment so that they can remedy the situation with discretion.

A leader with strong ethics inspires trust in their colleagues and fosters a culture of transparency and fairness. Most importantly, they serve as role models and mentors. Employees have someone to aspire to and feel more motivated to make improvements at their jobs and as people.

Start promoting happiness

Your employees are the touchstone of your business, yet, bad management can send them heading for the exit and jeopardize your company’s future. Leadership training can help you reinforce future leaders with strong managerial soft skills. That way, you’ll be setting the foundations of a more efficient and happier workplace. 

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