Organizations are making a huge shift from a compliance-driven approach to a more respectful method that uses soft skills when instructing and reprimanding employees. Managers learn these skills and practice them to form stronger connections with their teams. Leading your team in a calm and healthy manner using soft skills creates an environment of effective communication and improves workplace safety compliance.

What are Soft Skills in the Workplace?

Soft skills affect how people interact with each other. Here are a few soft skills known to impact the workplace positively:

  •   Adaptability
  •   Communication
  •   Creative Thinking
  •   Dependability
  •   Work Ethic
  •   Teamwork 
  •   Empathy
  •   Listening
  •   Positivity
  •   Motivation
  •   Problem-Solving
  •   Time Management
  •   Critical Thinking
  •   Conflict Resolution

Soft skills are tougher to learn than hard skills because they relate to emotional control and insights through empathy. Most managers have used soft skills when working in team environments or helping unhappy employees find resolutions. The key to success is continuing to use them to replace hard skill responses at every opportunity.

Developing Essential Soft Skills for Positive Leadership

Children are taught to “treat others how we want to be treated.” It should be carried into adulthood and used as a reminder to keep leaders accountable for attitudes and actions. 

Too often, we see managers reprimand their employees through aggressive manners when they should be administering rules from a place of peace and genuine desire to help them improve. It is important to remember that discipline is not punishment, but a way to uplift employees through accomplishment.

To be a great leader, a manager must learn these four essential soft skills:

  1. Conflict Management
  2. Problem-Solving
  3. Maintaining Professional Integrity
  4. Communication

Conflict management creates awareness about how people respond to aggressive tones and actions. It is only normal for managers to come across conflict at some point in their careers. The biggest takeaway when learning the soft skill of conflict management is never reacting with heightened emotion. Instead, a great leader responds with effective and calm dialogue. They may need to take a few minutes to gain control of their behavior, which is perfectly fine, as long as they come back to resolve the conflict rationally.

Problem-solving comes down to a manager’s ability to leave their comfort zones to find the solution that makes the most sense for everyone affected. When managers develop problem-solving soft skills, they learn to admit when they do not have the answer and when to seek outside assistance. Managers should take the time to assess problems systematically and approach them in steps.

Professional integrity is where managers purposefully adopt and consistently apply knowledge, values, and skills within their profession. This soft skill lets safety managers maintain professionalism when approaching employees with new processes and helps them walk the proper path of change in the workplace.

Communication is the most important soft skill an OSH professional can practice. Managers should learn to speak to their employees the way they prefer to be addressed – with mutual respect. It can make a manager’s job challenging, but this soft skill can make or break the ability to assess workplace hazards and communicate them to all levels of management.

Handling Workplace Non-Compliance Using Soft Skills

When it comes to employing soft skills and dealing with workplace non-compliance, managers should consider the following:

  •   Employees are the organization’s greatest asset.
  •   There are alternative approaches to aggressive discipline.
  •   Consistency is critical in the corrective method chosen.
  •   We must treat others with respect regardless of the severity of the violation.

When we think more about employees as the greatest asset available to us, we realize how much they offer our organization as a whole. If they are fired or quit, the company loses valuable expertise, knowledge, and skills that a diverse group of employees offers.

There are other ways a manager can approach discipline than through a negative lens. Some alternatives include providing an employee with training, performance coaching, facilitating resolutions, and informally advising the employee.

For a manager to keep their credibility, they must maintain consistent approaches across the board with every employee. Consistency builds respect between a manager and an employee as everyone learns what to expect in potentially uncomfortable situations.

Managers who learn to treat others with respect during reprimand boost their chances of changing workplace habits for the better. Respect is the foundation for all four essential soft skills.

Employing Soft Skills in Management Today

Learning the four essential soft skills of conflict management, problem-solving, maintaining professional integrity, and communication is key to moving away from aggressive, compliance-driven approaches to expressing genuine concern and respect for employees.

Managers need to remind themselves that how they treat employees ultimately impacts their compliance with safety initiatives. There are positive alternatives a manager can use to pursue change in the workplace. It begins with a transformation in leadership skills to form stronger connections through effective communication.


Doyle, A., The Balance Careers, What are Soft Skills?

Grimmer, C., Professional Safety, Employing Soft Skills to Drive Change