The Importance of a Handshake: Why Every Employee Needs Soft Skills

Career Advice

Over the past decade there has been a growing movement toward placing a higher value on interpersonal or “soft skills” in the workplace.

Soft skills is a sociological term relating to a person’s "EQ" (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills (part of a person’s IQ), which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities. – Wikipedia

A detail as small as the quality of a person’s handshake can make a huge impression, as noted in  “What your handshake says about you”, which asks the question: “It’s the first impression; the best chance to make a statement without an utterance.” and even gives tips on the best method.

Common consensus among business etiquette experts is that a good handshake:

  • Is firm, but not bone-crushing
  • Lasts about three seconds
  • May be ‘pumped’ once or twice from the elbow; and
  • Should be released after the shake, even if the introduction continues.

Each year, corporations, companies, and the federal government spend millions of dollars on interpersonal and soft skill training for employees. Some of the areas which have shown to yield benefits are:

  • Business Etiquette Training
  • Communication Training
  • Creativity and Critical Thinking Training
  • Cross-Cultural Diversity Training
  • Diversity Training
  • Leadership Training and Management Training
  • Negotiation Training

Through training and mentoring, employees are encouraged to work on their interpersonal skills, and improve co-worker relations by learning to treat co- workers with respect and proper interaction.

A person who has been trained to be a more thoughtful co-worker, whether senior management or entry-level, can make the difference between a productive and agreeable environment, and a hostile and unproductive workplace. Management and leadership should work closely with staff to ensure all employees are encouraged and rewarded for working well with others.

There has always been debate in the hiring profession – who would you rather have on your team, the smart guy with the know-how and not so great people skills, or the team player who may need a bit of technical fine tuning. In today’s more competitive hiring environment, those who possess both the technical prowess and the ability to work well with others will have the advantage.

Who would you put on your team – the individual who fosters a respectful, polite and civil atmosphere, or the individual with the best specialized skills?

Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who currently works as a professional writer, blogger, social media expert, commentator, editor and public affairs practitioner. Diana previously worked as an editor and senior communications analyst for the Department of Defense.

Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.

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