12 April 2022

8 Life Skills That Every Employee Should Possess


Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell worked in Ciphr's marketing team from 2012-2020.


Career development


Most vacancy adverts will have a list or description of the required relevant skills that an applicant should possess. There are, however, certain skills and attributes that we should naturally pick up throughout our lives (life skills) that are equally as important as academic qualifications. These are the skills required to get through life in the office and the different situations that work can throw at us.

1) Self awareness

It sounds obvious but being aware of others working around you, that you may need to make allowances for or, is an important attribute you should possess for a successful, productive work life. You’ll potentially be in an office with a number of personalities for eight and a half hours a day, five days a week (or more), if you’re unable to adapt to this type of environment then you’ll not only disrupt your own work routine, but that of those colleagues sitting near you.


Knowing our imperfections is the beginning to rectifying them. There may be little things that we all do or say that can get on others nerves, rather than become defensive if someone points them out, take it as an opportunity to stop doing or saying whatever it is that’s annoying. This may be something as insignificant as a particular word which you say too much, often without even realising. Over time this can really grate on others around you.

2) Self motivation and inspiration

‘The ability to work without supervision’ is a term that most people would regard as an obvious thing that everyone could do, however, this is not always the case. Being able to maintain focus and remain productive all day is not as easy as it sounds. Our bodies have a natural lull at certain points during the day, what we eat can impact on our concentration, mood and productivity, and even the weather has it’s effects on how we feel about working through the day.
As well as self motivation/inspiration it’s also  a great advantage if you can inspire and motivate others. There are sometimes situations where a colleague may need to be motivated or inspired in their work, being able to offer this to them will help to build relationships and also improve the productivity of your department.

3) Positivity, even in difficult situations

Not an easy task for anyone to complete, being positive all the time isn’t something that comes naturally to anyone as we all feel a bit down sometimes. Being seen to be upbeat, cheerful and ready for the day ahead will inspire others to follow suit. Positive thinking can benefit you in a number of other ways, including:

  • Positive work environments outperform negative work environments
  • Positive, optimistic sales people sell more than pessimistic sales people
  • Positive leaders are able to make better decisions under pressure
  • Positive people who regularly express positive emotions are more resilient when facing stress, challenges and adversity
  • Positive people are able to maintain a broader perspective and see the big picture which helps them identify solutions where as negative people maintain a narrower perspective and tend to focus on problems
  • Positive thoughts and emotions counter the negative effects of stress

Source ’11 Benefits of Being Positive’

4) Emotional Intelligence

Sometimes just knowing when to agree to disagree with someone, at the right time, will avoid a full blown argument. You don’t need to be psychic to be able to when someone wants to be left alone to get on with work, might need cheering up or is upset for one reason or another. Reacting empathetically in these situations will help to maintain a calm, happy and healthy environment to work in.
Some examples of visible signs of emotion include:

  • Crossed arms – an often defensive position
  • Standing very closely to someone your having a discussion with can be a sign of aggression
  • Not making eye contact is a sign of deceit or untrustworthiness
  • Standing with your hands on your hips is a sign of aggression
  • A brisk, erect walk is a sign of confidence
  • Pulling or tugging at one’s ear is a sign of indecision
  • Rubbing your hands together is a sign of anticipation

By recognising these signs, and others, it’s possible to change the way in which you interact with that individual to avoid awkward situations, and to reach an agreeable outcome. Realising that we may need to back off during a debate before it escalates into an argument or seeing that someone is becoming upset by a situation are other examples of emotional awareness and how problems can be avoided by interpreting the signs people naturally give off.

5) Listening skills

Being able to listen properly is a great skill. Many people may think that they possess listening skills, but they would often be wrong. Listening involves a number of individual elements and disciplines.
Not interrupting someone while they explain a situation, tell you how they feel or what they want you to do is one discipline that many may fail at, even without realising. Jumping in with your opinion, before the other person has fully explained their position, isn’t productive or likely to move the conversation forward positively and will increase the chances of you responding with an uninformed, incorrect answer or comment.
Allowing someone to finish what they’re saying will allow you to respond accordingly, knowing all the facts.
Making sure that you’ve fully understood the other party, even if this means relaying what they said back to them, shows that you’re fully engaged and keen to understand exactly what it is they want from the conversation. This may seem overkill but it can often save time, especially if instructions have not been understood and assumptions made, which are clarified by double checking.
Listening to how the person is talking will give you a clear understanding of how the content of the conversation affects them.

In order to understand how to really listen, we must first understand that communication can be broken down into three elements:

  • Words account for 7% of the overall message
  • Tone of voice accounts for 38% of the overall message
  • Body Language accounts for 55% of the overall message

Tone of voice accounts for 38% of their overall communication, knowing how to spot certain signs in someone’s tone is an important skill that employees should possess or work on improving.
Change of pitch, speed of talking and how loudly an individual is talking all portray emotion about what they are saying. Taking note of how people speak is as crucial as taking note of what they saying.

Research from Albert Mehrabian

6) Willingness to compromise

Working in any organisation or team will at some point involve compromise. Knowing when to accept that there’s an alternative solution to yours, and being willing to adapt in order to facilitate both resolutions, will create a strong team culture and a harmony. Other benefits of compromise are:

  • Everyone involved has a partial sense of satisfaction that their view and opinion has been taken into consideration.
  • Future working relationships often benefit from the knowledge that each party is willing to compromise
  • Compromise often resolves a disagreement quicker that debating over who’s idea/plan should be used
  • Compromising temporarily can provide a window which is used to find an alternative solution which is beneficial to everyone
  • Compromise reduces tension and stress within a team 


7) Generosity

This isn’t necessarily buying everyone lunch once a week, it can be your time, you expertise in a specific area or just a quick bit of friendly advice. Whatever you show you’re willing to share with your colleagues will be gratefully received and the chances of reciprocation will increase should you require assistance in the future. Teamwork and collaboration is all about working together, sharing knowledge and completing tasks as one entity, without generosity and the willingness to give your time and effort for the good of the team, achieving goals just isn’t possible.

Enabling employees to give their time, work with each other and achieve their goals as a team is the responsibility of any business as the benefits and rewards can be enjoyed by everyone. Online tools, areas within the office to  allow discussions to take place without distraction and an inspiring environment are all elements of a productive, healthy and collaborative brand.

8) Not taking yourself too seriously

Being too serious and not allowing yourself to join in office banter or the occasional joke are surefire ways to distance yourself from the rest of your team. Part of natural human interaction is humor, whether this is by making colleagues laugh or simply engaging in a humorous conversation. It may be that the occasional joke or bit of banter is aimed at you, as long as it’s not inappropriate then there’s no harm in this and it’s usually a sign of affection and friendship.


Office banter or humor can be used to achieve any of the following:

  • Form a stronger bond to each other. Your health and happiness depend, to a large degree, on the quality of your relationships—and laughter binds people together.
  • Smooth over differences. Using gentle humor often helps you address relationship issues
  • Diffuse tension. A well-timed joke can ease a tense situation and help you resolve disagreements.
  • Overcome problems and setbacks. A sense of humor is the key to resilience. It helps you take hardships in stride, weather disappointment, and bounce back from adversity and loss.
  • Put things into perspective. Most situations are not as bleak as they appear to be when looked at from a playful and humorous point of view. Humor can help you reframe problems that might otherwise seem overwhelming and damage a relationship.
  • Be more creative. Humor and playfulness can loosen you up, energize your thinking, and inspire creative problem solving

Based on ‘Fixing Relationship Problems with Humor

Most of the above attributes are learned naturally, as we grow up, but working in a confined space for eight and a half hours a day sometimes requires a little effort. Are there any missing that you feel are important or do you have an example of when a life skill has been used in your office to