12 People Skills to Succeed at Work

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Your ability to work well with others—or your people skills—are valuable abilities. Learn more about key people skills to feature on your CV.

[Featured image] A person waves to a woman onscreen in a video call.

Working with others—and working well with others—is often a key part of many jobs. People skills, sometimes called interpersonal skills, are important traits you can develop or strengthen to create stronger relationships and improve your work with others. As automation continues to escalate, “the need for finely tuned social and emotional skills will rapidly grow” by 2030, according to a recent skills report from McKinsey [1]. 

In this article, we’ll review several important people skills you can build or refine to succeed in your role. 

Why are people skills important?

People skills are typically used in social situations when working with others, be they colleagues, managers, clients, or some other type of work-related relationship. 

People skills are essential because most people work with others. Even though you may work independently at times, you likely have relationships at—or as part of—work. It’s vital to build and maintain these relationships. Refining your people skills throughout your career can bolster other valuable job skills, such as technical and workplace skills.    

12 people skills to help you succeed in the workplace

Most people's skills are based on emotional or social components. The list below gathers the top people skills with examples of what they look like in the workplace. 

1. Emotional intelligence 

Emotional intelligence is your ability to understand and manage your emotions and those of others. Developing greater emotional intelligence can be helpful when it comes to regulating how you feel at work and cultivating greater self-awareness, empathy, and social skills.  

Emotional intelligence looks like this: 

  • Thinking through situations carefully before reacting

  • Avoiding judging others 

  • Problem-solving in a way that benefits everyone

2. Communication

Workplace communication varies, often entailing an array of written and verbal efforts and understanding how to communicate clearly and effectively with your colleagues. Being strategic about communicating can lead to smoother interactions and better results. 

Communication looks like: 

  • Listening to and engaging with what others have to say

  • Asking questions to gather more information 

  • Being concise rather than over-explaining a message 

3. Collaboration 

Teamwork—or collaboration—is an essential people skill. Collaboration often means working towards a shared goal, which requires several abilities, including communicating, establishing responsibilities, and managing your time strategically. 

Collaboration looks like:

  • Making sure everyone understands the central goal 

  • Establishing communication preferences and methods 

  • Trusting colleagues to do their part

4. Active listening

In the workplace, listening to others and hearing what they’re saying is important. This skill is especially critical in facilitating strong relationships. With active listening, you should make eye contact, develop thoughtful body language, focus on what the other person is saying, and ask relevant questions.

Active listening looks like this: 

  • Concentrating on what someone has to say rather than thinking of your response

  • Smiling, making eye contact, or nodding to show engagement 

  • Paraphrasing what someone has said and asking questions to gather more information

5. Flexibility

When you work with others, it’s important to be flexible. Sometimes plans or projects change, and flexibility can help keep things on track and running smoothly. Being flexible may also mean reprioritising tasks. 

Flexibility looks like:

  • Approaching things with an open mind

  • Remaining calm when things change

  • Developing contingency plans to make pivoting easier

6. Supportiveness 

Being a supportive colleague, team member, or manager is crucial to building and developing relationships in the workplace. You can be supportive by offering encouraging words or helpful actions, like reorganising a project to distribute the workload more equitably.  

Support looks like:

  • Checking in with colleagues and seeing how they’re doing 

  • Offering advice to those open to hearing your perspective 

  • Being positive when listening to others 

7. Respectfulness

Respecting those you work with, ranging from your immediate colleagues to any outside vendors you may encounter, helps lead to stronger and more positive relationships. Listening to what others say and respecting their perspective, even if you don’t always agree, creates structured, safe workspaces.  

Respect looks like:

  • Responding to emails or messages in a timely fashion 

  • Saying “thank you”

  • Apologising if you do something that hurts or offends someone

8. Patience

Patience can help you do your work with less stress and contribute to teams and projects more smoothly. To cultivate patience, it’s helpful to recognise when you feel impatient and what may be causing that, and then take steps to develop better structures, organisation, or time management.  

Patience looks like:

  • Noticing what’s causing your impatience 

  • Letting things you can’t control go 

  • Establishing priorities so you can better manage your deadlines

9. Assertiveness

While you should aim to be respectful and supportive when working with others, there may be times you need to be assertive. This skill is more about cultivating confidence and calm so that you can strategically communicate your ideas to others and stand up for what you believe. 

Assertiveness looks like:

  • Speaking up when you have an idea, using “I think” or “I believe” statements

  • Making eye contact when speaking to others

  • Saying “no” when you can’t handle additional work requests

10. Negotiation

Like assertiveness, negotiating with others—which tends to involve active listening and compromise—is valuable. It can help avoid larger conflicts and is an excellent way to use valuable problem-solving skills.

Negotiation looks like:

  • Discussing to facilitate clear communication

  • Being honest about your needs or goals 

  • Thinking creatively about potential solutions

11. Conflict resolution 

When you work alongside others, conflict might arise. Listening to others, hearing what they’re saying, and identifying a solution to the problem will make for healthier, more long-lasting relationships.

Conflict resolution looks like this: 

  • Identifying your emotions 

  • Respecting the other person’s perspective and how it might differ from yours 

  • Letting things go once you’ve reached a resolution 

12. Leadership

No matter your role at work, whether an entry-level employee or a manager, developing leadership skills can help you work well with others. Leaders are dependable, organised individuals who listen to what others have to say and communicate clearly and effectively. 

Leadership looks like:

  • Approaching work and others positively

  • Communicating with others in a timely fashion 

  • Being dependable  

Explore further

Looking for a new skill to add to your CV? Develop critical employability skills with a course on communication from Wharton or interpersonal skills from IBM. Enrol in a free, 7-day trial today. 

You can also check out a Professional Certificate from Google, IBM, or Meta to develop job-ready skills in UX design, data science, project management, marketing analytics, and sales

Give your team access to a catalogue of 8,000+ engaging courses and hands-on Guided Projects to help them develop impactful skills. Learn more about Coursera for Business.


Article sources

  1. McKinsey and Company. “Skill shift: Automation and the future of the workforce, https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/skill-shift-automation-and-the-future-of-the-workforce.” Accessed March 20, 2024. 

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