3 Survival Skills for the Modern Workplace

The modern workplace is a jungle, and you have to have the necessary survival skills just to get through the day, if not to “live long and prosper”, as Spock would say.

Those skills include the ability to communicate, negotiate and educate.

Communicate to Succeed

The ability to communicate fluidly and fluently separates the weak from the strong in the modern workplace herd, and we all know what happens to the weak in the wild.

It also separates the successful from the almost-made-it, and the excellent from the just-getting-by folks. There are two types of communication, oral and written, and both of them are crucial to survival and success at work.

Even in our hyper-connected world, oral communication is still where the action is. We may stay in touch, exchange information, or tell the world great things through our electronic communication, but important decisions are made in person, not by text or e-mail.

You might get dumped by your girlfriend via text, but you are not likely going to get a promotion, or new clients, or make that big sale on Facebook.

So get off the social network for a while and do some in-person networking, so that you can practice and hone your communication skills.

But while you’re online, you might as well learn to improve your written communication as well. There is still a business etiquette that applies to all forms of written communication, including e-mail, text, and Twitter.

Cutesy emoticons are great for your family updates, but never at work. It’s a business, which means business attitudes and business styles. Find out what is acceptable within your business and stick to it.

Written communication at work should be professional at all times if you want to be taken seriously.

Negotiate to Win

Negotiation is a basic part of survival. We learn to negotiate at a very young age, and some people are very good at it. Think back to your kindergarten days when one kid would always trade their apple for cookies. That kid knew how to negotiate.

Flash forward to today, and that same kid is probably the CEO while you are still in the mid-level ranks clutching your apple. The fact is that almost everything we do at work is at least part negotiation, and if we figure out how to do it well then we have a better chance of getting ahead in the rat race.

The best negotiators are those who practice win-win strategies, where everybody gets something out of the transaction.

At work this means that we can’t trade off our poor sales accounts for better ones – although that would be nice – but we can exchange for others that may be closer to some of our existing accounts.

We shouldn’t be afraid to negotiate. Normally we don’t want to take the chance of losing something we already have, but if you don’t like what you have or you want to try and improve your situation, they why not negotiate?

It’s a risk, but have you noticed how well the risk-takers are doing in the modern workplace?

Educate to Learn

We all know how important having a good education is to having a successful career. Then why do we think that we should stop learning when we get that great first job?

Continuous or life-long learning is another attribute and survival technique of the most successful people in the new working world. They find ways to learn new skills and new techniques, or to expose themselves to new ideas and great thinkers on a regular basis.

If you want to ensure workplace survival and achieve your full potential, then you need to add ongoing education, both formal and informal, to your business repertoire.

Most of these same highly successful people are also teachers themselves. They might not call themselves that, but in reality they are always educating the people around them.

They become the vehicles to transfer knowledge, expertise, and great new ideas to their peers and staff and subordinates. Leaders like Steve Jobs or Jack Welsh they knew that they didn’t have all the ideas themselves, so they went out and found people who did. Then they made sure that everybody at Apple or General Electric would have this information as well.

The competition in the work world has grown tremendously with high jobless rates remaining the norm. It’s not just about getting ahead anymore, it’s about survival.

Mike Martin is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in workplace wellness and conflict resolution. He is the author of Change the Things You Can (Dealing with Difficult People). For more information about Mike please visit: Change the Things You Can


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