Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, April 20, 1999

By Dean Sensui, Star-Bulletin
Ann Hisamoto, director of administration at Cades Schutte
Fleming & Wright, looks over some information that came
to the computer of legal secretary Sherry Potensky
via the Internet

skills key to office
of 2005


By Lori Tighe


THE scene: the workplace of 2005. Technology breeds and swallows those who fear it. Teams replace independent mavericks. More people commute from their bedroom to their home office. And success has more to do with how you communicate and techno-relate than who you know, according to Maureen Carrig, spokeswoman for OfficeTeam, an international staffing firm which does workplace research.

"Technology will be more pervasive than ever in 2005. It is also raising the bar on interpersonal and communication skills," said Carrig.

The company, based in Menlo Park, Calif., commissioned a study that interviewed 1,400 chief information officers, 150 executives from the nation's 1,000 largest companies, and 700 working men and women nationwide about the workplace in 2005.

"A lot has been written about 2000. We wanted to pick a date some years off, that people can use as a target so they can prepare," Carrig said.

How to prepare: find your weaknesses, bring them up to speed and keep accelerating, she said. (Take the People Skills Index: 2005 on page C4 to find out how prepared you are.)

The increased use of technology will require workers to communicate more effectively and articulately, according to 77 percent of CIOs polled.

Now called soft skills -- our body language, understanding personalities, timing, diplomacy, tact and professional decorum -- must get sharper.

This set of skills, known as office politics, are still based on principles dating back to "The Prince," Machiavelli's circa 1500 tome that outlined strategies for ruling and conquering one's enemies.

The book is as relevant today as it will be in the future, said Jeffrey Pheffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Business School.

"These issues are timeless. People are people," said Pheffer, who wrote "Managing with Power." "There's the formal power chain-of-command, and informal power. Secretaries in many organizations have more power than bosses."

Frequent ways people sabotage their careers include overestimating their power; underestimating the informal power of others; being impatient; letting emotions rule; and acting before thinking.

"Politics is a skill which can be learned by practice and observing people who are good at it, and by being conscious," he said. "Oftentimes, people don't think about it. They're not thoughtful."

This doesn't refer to the Hallmark card kind of thoughtfulness.

Instead, it means taking time to make sure the e-mail messages we fire off casually are clear, concise and professional. About 73 percent of executives in the OfficeTeam survey believe e-mail will be the leading form of business communication in 2005.

And remember, e-mail can be passed on, and on, and on -- sometimes to the sender's chagrin.

"With more frequent information exchange, people who lack communication, diplomacy and problem-solving skills will reveal their shortcomings to wider audiences," said Lynn Taylor, manager of the Office of the Future: 2005 research project for OfficeTeam.

"Even the most brilliant ideas may never materialize if the concept's creator can't explain them clearly or persuasively," Taylor said.

By 2005, no one will work in a vacuum, Carrig said. Self-managed work teams will increase productivity for U.S. companies, said 79 percent of executives polled.

"Businesses will take on more responsibilities and challenges, and rely on work teams to do it," she said. "That means people will have to work together and demonstrate superior interpersonal skills."

To upgrade your people skills, identify mentors in or out of the job and run ethical situations by them, Carrig suggested. Select successful people in the company and observe how they deal with issues.

"If you would like to develop a skill not available in your company, seek it elsewhere," through volunteer work or professional organizations, she added.

"The underlying element to succeed in the office of the future is to be proactive in learning."



Bullet SEMINAR: "Career Success in the Office of the Future," sponsored by OfficeTeam in recognition of Secretaries Day
Bullet WHEN: 4 to 6 p.m. tomorrow
Bullet WHERE: Grosvenor Center Conference Rooms, 1st Floor, 733 Bishop St.
Bullet COST: Free
Bullet CALL:: 531-0800


Test your PEOPLE skills

Tomorrow's workplace, according to OfficeTeam, will require strong PEOPLE skills, as in:

Problem-solving abilities; (organization, judgment, logic, creativity, conflict resolution); Ethics (diplomacy, courtesy, honesty, professionalism); Open-mindedness (flexibility, positive outlook); Persuasiveness (communication and listening skills); Leadership (accountability, management and motivational skills); Educational interests (continuous thirst for knowledge and skills development)

The following 15 questions will help you determine whether you have the people skills to be successful in the office of 2005.

You may agree with more than one answer, however, try to select the one you agree with most. Your score will be based on the number of correct answers.


Bullet 1. Your colleagues have been passed over for a promotion and you've been informed that you got it. But the announcement date becomes delayed due to your supervisor's other priorities. In the meantime, there is growing speculation among the staff, and one of your co-workers asks if you've heard anything about it. What approach do you take?

A. Tell the colleague that you got it, but ask that he or she be discreet about it.
B. Wait it out until your supervisor is ready.
C. Tell a few, select co-workers that you got it, but ask that they be discreet about it.
D. Tell all co-workers involved.
E. Tell you supervisor that there's growing discussion and you've been asked about it.

Bullet 2. Your primary method of organizing work is to:

A. Continually re-establish priorities as needed, based on the requirements of the day.
B. Before reviewing new assignments for the day, complete yesterday's priority list of work.
C. Try as best as you can to complete one project before accepting another one.
D. Prioritize each day's work and stick to it regardless of additional projects that may distract you.

Bullet 3. Which one of the following statements best describes your beliefs or approach?

A. I generally like to avoid conflict whenever possible.
B. Allowing emotions to enter into business decisions is unavoidable.
C. I'm good at logically thinking through a problem.
D. Making a relatively quick decision is always better than waiting to make a decision.

Bullet 4. Your supervisor has given you an assignment, but you're unfamiliar with certain aspects of the project in which others in the department have more experience. You:

A. Spend whatever time necessary on your own, getting at least a cursory knowledge of the unknown areas.
B. Seek the assistance of the other experts and, in turn, offer your expertise to them.
C. Tell your supervisor up-front that you are not familiar with those aspects.
D. Suggest to your supervisor that you handle only the familiar part.

Bullet 5. Which one of the following statements best reflects your beliefs or approach?

A. Success seems to come easier to some people than others.
B. If my closest friends and family agree on what's best for my career, I usually rely on their advice.
C. My employer is in the best position to decide which career path is best for me.
D. Career success is a direct result of my own efforts -- not that of others.

6. The best way to lead and manage people is to:

A. Make it very clear that you're in charge.
B. Solicit input from them before making major decisions.
C. Share your expertise by offering your direct supervision to as many people as possible.
D. Set your goals before you begin the project and communicate them loud and clear to the team before getting started.

Bullet 7. Which of the following statements best reflects you beliefs or approach?

A. When managing a project, I like all the team members to remain on task with the original approach.
B. People with greater seniority in a company are in the best position to generate useful ideas.
C. When managing a project, I encourage people to share differing opinions.
D. If the majority of people believe in a certain approach, it's probably the best one.

Bullet 8. Which of the following best describes the ingredients of effective persuasion?

A. Remaining steadfast in your beliefs and not wavering.
B. Being forceful and vocal in your opinions.
C. Being pleasant as much as possible.
D. Having strong listening skills.

Bullet 9. One of your close friends is in a business that you rely upon as one of several vendors to your company. When your supervisor asks you to start a bidding process with these vendors, you inadvertently give a little more information to your friend. You realize that you have now given her an unfair advantage. Do you:

A. Explain to your friend that you shouldn't have released this information and ask her not to make it a factor in her bid?
B. Take into consideration the fact that your friend had more information when evaluating the bids?
C. Give other vendors the same information and run the risk of appearing disorganized?
D. Give information you did not give to your friend to other vendors so they also benefit?

Bullet 10. Your supervisor praises you publicly on the results of a successful project. You received invaluable help on this assignment from a co-worker who wasn't named. Do you:

A. Approach the co-worker later and apologize.
B. Tell your boss that credit should also go to the co-worker.
C. Weigh how important it is to bring up the co-worker's involvement.
D. Write your co-worker a thank you note.

Bullet 11. Which statement most accurately reflects your beliefs:

A. Writing will become less important due to technological advancements.
B. Writing is a skill that is innate, not learned.
C. An experienced writer uses large words and long sentences.
D. An experienced writer tires to use fewer words.

Bullet 12. Describe your verbal communication abilities.

A. I'd rather walk on hot coals than speak to a large group, but do fine one-on-one.
B. I'm a much better verbal communicator than writer.
C. When I speak to a group, people seem to grasp my point quickly.
D. I'm relatively talkative and not shy.

Bullet 13. Which one of the following best describes your approach to brainstorm meetings?

A. I'm a risk taker and generally don't like to "follow the pack" in my thinking.
B. I'm good at building on the ideas of others.
C. I've always implemented ideas well and had good follow-up.
D. I'd rather offer a feasible, well thought-out idea than just any suggestion.

Bullet 14. Which one of the following statements best reflects your beliefs or approach?

A. I believe that my employer should provide me with the training I need.
B. I often use the Internet to research information during nonbusiness hours.
C. I believe that a person's college education will provide a comprehensive source of knowledge for the balance of his or her career.
D. If I rely heavily on my supervisor's expertise, I'll get the best training.

Bullet 15. Which one of the following best describes you or your beliefs?

A. When the going gets tough, I often make an effort to reduce tension through laughter.
B. Good-natured teasing of others creates a less tense environment and encourages camaraderie.
C. People who succeed in most companies tend to take their work very seriously.
D. I've always been a good joke-teller.


1. E. This is something your boss should be made aware of and be able to act upon to everyone's benefit. Measures diplomacy and discretion.

2. A. If new projects come in, you must evaluate their importance relative to existing priorities. Measures organization.

3. C. You have the ingredients of someone who can think clearly and analytically, which is beneficial as the pace of business increases. Measures problem-solving ability.

4. B. The ability to approach and help team members will be valuable because productivity depends on continuous information exchange. Measures team player skills.

5. D. Taking charge of your career, whether you're a full-time, part-time or project worker, will bring the greatest challenge and financial rewards. Measures accountability/initiative.

6. B. In an increasingly competitive business world, smart managers will encourage greater participation from team members. Measures leadership.

7. C. Not being threatened by this approach will give you the best thinking from your team. Measures open-mindedness/flexibility.

8. D. The most persuasive people are those who have taken on the challenge of actively listening to other individuals to best understand their perspectives and motives. Measures persuasion.

9. C. While this could be embarrassing, you'll know you've avoided giving preferential treatment to your friend. Measures ethics.

10. B. Your honesty and sense of team play will be appreciated more than ever in 2005 as employees work more closely in teams and are given more autonomy to make critical judgment calls. Measures honesty.

11. D. Keeping your writing concise will make it easier to understand and will have a greater impact. As e-mail becomes more pervasive, brevity will be valued; verbosity counterproductive. Measures written communication.

12. C. You're able to present a clear message verbally, an invaluable trait in 2005 when you must think on your feet, whether in a small or large group, or during a video conference. Measures verbal communication.

13. A. In 2005, risk takers with creative ideas will be highly valued as companies compete more fiercely to come to market with innovative products and services. Measures creativity.

14. B. You demonstrate the thirst for knowledge that will make you marketable in 2005. Measures educational interests.

15. A. You have an invaluable interpersonal skill that will help smooth tensions that may arise. Measures humor.


13-15 points: Congratulations! Your outstanding people skills will be an important contributor to your career success in 2005.

10-12: Great. You have solid "soft" skills that will facilitate you advancement in the office of the future.

6-9: Pretty good, but your interpersonal and communication skills may need some work.

3-5: Start concentrating on areas you missed. You still have time.

0-2: Now's the time to develop your people skills. Your career success will depend on them.

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