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"Social skills" in the workplace

I am curious, what do people mean by social skills?  I realize one might answer, "If you don't know, you don't have it."  Well, the thing is that a smart friend of mine who read Peopleware hated it because it seemed very antisocial -- it was all about being elite and better than others.  So being social is a relative concept.  Here's what come to mind:

- friendly but not obnoxiously so
- not rocking the boat much (until you're politically unbeatable)
- making people feel interesting
- in the same "reality" as everyone else
- eye contact
- good speaker
- changing clothes/shaving, unlike college during exams

What do you think on this subject?

necessarily anon
Friday, June 27, 2003

You also have to blend in, talk to various people, get to know them, and get them to tell you what they are planning behind your back.

Then, it's payback time!

ThunderZone
Friday, June 27, 2003

It's difficult to describe. People socialise better with some people than others.

You have to listen to ideas but not design by committee. You have to be helpful but not patronising. You have to be enthusiastic but not so much everyone hates you for being a soulless "yes" person.

I get on with most people, but then again there are some people I just get on with because it's professional to do so, otherwise I wouldn't touch them with a barge pole.

Better Than Being Unemployed...
Friday, June 27, 2003


Personally, I like co-workers who:

1) Aren't afraid to admit mistakes (collective or otherwise) and try to make sure they don't happen again.

2) Aren't afraid to challenge "conventional wisdom" and can do it in a polite way.

3) Won't hold a grudge if their technical solution isn't acted on.

4) Don't have to be constantly goaded into participating in group discussions, brainstorming, etc.

How's that for a start?

DingBat
Friday, June 27, 2003

The friend of necessarily anon who didn't like Peopleware should have said it was antisocialist or antiegalitarian, not that it was antisocial.  (Although, some people might equate them).

I don't think there is any need to make a list of details.  Mostly it is being able to communicate with people.  This is useful when trying to work out requirements.  It is also good to follow a few social conventions, like taking a shower once in a while.

mackinac
Friday, June 27, 2003

Mackinac, not that I want to get too offtopic, but we had a long, fun argument about it, and he really did mean "antisocial."  Peopleware believes you should feel like you're ahead on the bell curve, smarter than people not in your group.  I countered by saying that most workplaces are dehumanizing, and Peopleware is an attempt to counter this, even if it does preach elitism.  But for the community he lives in, he's absolutely right, Peopleware has less value than in mine.

These different senses of "social" is what prompted me to try to peg what it means to people here.

necessarily anon
Friday, June 27, 2003

Wear lycra and scratch your private parts.

Mrs. Robinson
Friday, June 27, 2003

Social skill:  Determining what people really want and giving it to them.  This varies quite a bit from person to person.  Some wants:

- Acceptance
- Need for control
- Wanting to be perceived as interesting
- Wanting to be perceived as a decent human
- Wanting to be perceived as an overachiever
- Wanting to be perceived as fundamentally superior to others
- Wanting "social status" within a group
- Wanting to perceive themselves as any of the above
- Respect for ones ideas
- Public recognition in front of peers
- To be left alone
- A "warm" communication style
- A "cold" communication style
- Micro-management
- Freedom from supervision

People can seldom identify their "wants" specifically.  If you can identify their wants and fill them, you can ask quite a bit in return.  Other than fear, this is really the only way to motivate and influence people.

People without social skills are always asking "why does Joe do such-and-such".  Those with social skills know why and how to cope/influence/etc.

Bill Carlson
Friday, June 27, 2003

Social skills are a bit of a furphy. Sometimes the alleged need for them reflects something else entirely, such as managers resenting programmers knowing more than them ,and sometimes being arrogant about it.

Sometimes it reflects the fact that programmers perform concentrated work in environments where others will interupt them randomly. In such circumstances, programmers may not be inclined to enter into the idle chit chat that others expect.


Friday, June 27, 2003

That is an interesting question!

First of all, what is the goal of having these "social skills" in the first place? Is it to make it easier for others to deal with you, or is it about *you* getting from others what you want and what you need without making them feel used?

Overall, trying to please everybody else out there is a loser game. Some might claim then that you lack social skills but so what? There is too much cr#p out there, and if you put up with all of that for too long you'll degrade yourself. Unless you like being a politician, and then you can make a career out of that.

Alternatively, if it is *you* that is the focus of the "social skills", then the rules change. It might be actually quite "socially acceptable" for you to say "no" to your boss and your coworkers. Creating a good working environment for yourself by using your skills is a great social skill.

Mr Curiousity
Saturday, June 28, 2003

There's an interesting corollary of someone having good "social skills" too. It means they're more likely to be hired over someone more capable at the specific task, but not as skilled at communicating.

This is reminiscent of a theme popular in business magazines in the 90's - about dressing well.

If nice suits and dressing well were likely to give you an advantage in landing a job, then the corollary was that better dressed people were less capable than others.

Hey ...

.
Saturday, June 28, 2003

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