Soft skills

soft (adj.) Old English softe, earlier sefte, "gentle, mild-natured; easeful, comfortable, calm, undisturbed; luxurious," from West Germanic *samfti, from Proto-Germanic *samftijaz "level, even, smooth, gentle, soft" (source also of Old Saxon safti, Old High German semfti, German sanft; and from a variant form with -ch- for -f-, Middle Dutch sachte, Dutch zacht, German sacht), from root *som- "fitting, agreeable."

skill (n.) late 12c., "power of discernment," from Old Norse skil "distinction, ability to make out, discernment, adjustment," related to skilja (v.) "to separate; discern, understand," from Proto-Germanic *skaljo- "divide, separate" (source also of Swedish skäl "reason," Danish skjel "a separation, boundary, limit," Middle Low German schillen "to differ," Middle Low German, Middle Dutch schele "separation, discrimination;" from PIE root *skel- (1) "to cut." Sense of "ability, cleverness" first recorded early 13c.

What to make of these etymological definitions?

Well, if you've hung around the workplace as long as me, not a lot.

It's all blah, f* blah.

"We need to up our game; your soft skills need improving."

As if it's like some workplace superstore or vending machine where you put in your search term or press F5 and, hey presto, out pops a suite of soft skills you can immediately ingest and then adopt to your heart's content.

I don't buy it. 

Not one little bit.

(If you could be misanthropic in the workplace, then I am it🤣🤣.)

I'll put it like this (and there's an echo of yesterday's post in what I'm about to say), there's a world of difference between knowing a bushel of soft skills and having learnt them by dint of doing the hard yards of listening, failing and relearning your humanness. Yes, that's what the term is an ode to; namely, how to be more human and not some robot that came of the management production line.

Sadly, I've met a few of those people and their lives have rarely, if ever, been anything other than linear and preordained by dint of their social status. On the other side of the coin — the equivalent of elders if you like — there are those who've come up the hard way, dealing with loss, grief and heartache. 

Of course, in these human-centric affairs, it's wrong to generalise (just in case someone looks to copy the secret formula!) — and I'm not intending to do so — but my soft skills elders have put down huge roots in the kindness, tolerance and respect departments, if only because it's what they expected from others and didn't get, and wish to make amends rather than assume another faux suite of management skills in which to corral their cohort to be more aligned with (mostly) a company out of whack with the Anthropocentric world.

I'm sure this isn't the only way to bring your true self to life and indeed, not to be misunderstood, I'm not saying that brokenness is a precursor to being able to offer your wisdom in the soft skills department but I wonder when you're dealing with people who, in a lot of cases, don't understand the ratio decidendi of the company's purpose, mission and values — especially those — being yourself qua manager or leader or whatever the hell you're called, is a heck of a lot better than being a clone intent on breaking your workers' spirit so that they fit in, only to be more easily managed. 

What am I saying?

I'm saying that soft skills, whatever they are, don't need another training programme save to the extent that everyone should be invited to turn up as their true self and express the full panoply of their dissatisfaction with the business as much as the owners think this disrespectful or whatever the hell else they're afraid of when someone speaks up. And this doesn't mean we need more workshops or reframing exercises. If anything, we need a cultural initiation but only if the new (work) culture you're seeking is worth claiming. 

To be honest, and as I said at the beginning of the year, I'm not sure why, again, I'm writing about the workplace. To my mind, and others can form their own view, it's a lost cause. It's lost in the sense that like so many issues affixed to the human condition, if we wanted to change the workplace we'd have done it a long time ago. But we don't (or won't?) — at least the Bosses have no intention of doing so. In fact, if it's going to change it will only do so by a revolution the likes of which we've never seen. Then again, who the hell is going to kill the Golden Goose in the midst of a pandemic? No one that I've met. This isn't to say I'm completely done with it but all I feel is I'm shouting into a black hole of nihilistic despair and that ain't good for me, you on the internet at large 😫.

Until tomorrow then...


— Ju

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