10 People Skills Every Government Employee Should Have

By on August 7, 2012 in Current Events, Leadership with 11 Comments

It’s estimated that there are now just over two million federal government employees. Despite how many there currently are, there are always more people looking to land a government position. Plus, those who are already working for the government can benefit from brushing up on their people skills in order to get ahead. Those with solid people skills will find that they are not only happier with their time spent on the job, but they will also be the ones in a position to be promoted as the opportunities arise.

The Skills

Whether someone has been on the job for years, or they are just considering applying for a government position, it’s never too late to take inventory on their people skills. There is usually room for improvement, and even making small changes can have a big impact on the job and in working around others.

Here’s a list of 10 people skills that every government employee should have:

  1. Open-mindedness. When working around so many other fellow employees, it is important to have an open mind. You are bound to hear many opinions and ideas. While you may not want to buy into each of them, even having an open mind to consider them will lead to people respecting you. Being receptive to other people’s opinions does not mean that you necessarily have to agree with them. It just means you can respect the opinion of others and consider it.
  2. Listening skills. We live in a world where we tend to talk more than we should, rather than listening to others. If we listen to others, we make them feel valued, and when they feel valued, they are going to be more dedicated to the team and mission. Active listening can be learned with practice, and includes making eye contact, asking meaningful questions, providing feedback, and avoiding being distracted or multi-tasking.
  3. Empathy. Having empathy means that you have the ability to understand someone else’s feelings. If you feel empathy for others, you are more likely to try to work out differences diplomatically. Most great leaders share the trait of having empathy. Caring about others, in turn, creates more people who care about you.
  4. Tolerance. Having tolerance means you will be able to accept the idea that others engage in other practices and beliefs that may not coincide with your own. We essentially live in a “melting pot,” where there are people from all walks of life. Chances are good that you will work around people who engage in different practices and have different beliefs, or you will work with the public that does.
  5. Self-awareness. When you have self-awareness, you know what it is that makes you tick. You know what makes you get worked up and what makes you get frustrated. Having self-awareness will help you to remain being a stronger person who is better able to perform their position. You will be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses and compensate for them where necessary.
  6. Patience. As the saying goes, patience is a virtue. In any type of career, government jobs included, having patience is a skill that everyone needs. It’s important to remember that good things come to those who wait, and sometimes there are delays in change and things can move slowly, especially when it comes to the government.
  7. Stress management. Any job, and especially those for the federal government, can become stressful. It’s important that employees know how to de-stress so that it doesn’t get the better of them. There are a lot of things that can be done to de-stress, such as doing yoga, Tai Chi, journaling, mediating, and practicing breathing exercises. Find out what works for you and then use it when you feel the stress of the job, or even your home life, growing.
  8. Leadership skills. Being a great leader means being able to bring out the best in others. Every good leader knows how to effectively motivate people, bring out their best skills, and have them contribute as a team. This is a skill that is invaluable, especially for those who want to be promoted to higher positions within the government.
  9. Negotiation skills. Being able to negotiate with others, whether it is fellow employees, the public, or for business-to-business transactions, can be a skill that can save the government money, as well as help people get along. Being able to negotiate effectively is a skill that takes practice, but can be learned in time.
  10. Courtesy. It’s never out of style to be respectful to others, even if many believe it is something we are losing in our society. Being courteous to others will help you gain respect in return. It also makes for a more peaceful and satisfying work environment for employees, as well as anyone in the public or business sector that you may work with.

Staying Focused

Perhaps it may seem like it’s a little too much to focus on all of these skills at once. That’s fine, you don’t have to try and become a super star employee overnight. Pick one or two of these skills to start with and make a point of working on them while at work. Notice the difference you feel in yourself and that you see in those around you as a result of your positive changes. Chances are, the more you focus on having these great people skills, the better and more valuable employee you will become.

There are many other skills that government employees can use as well, in order to further their position, or simply become more efficient and effective. But focusing on these 10 will make for an employee that is hard not to notice. When exhibiting these skills, those around the person will in turn begin to have them as well. Just like a cold, attitudes in the workplace are highly transmittable. Those who focus on being an employee that is easy to get along with and ready to help motivate others will soon become a star on the team.

© 2016 Jason Kay. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Jason Kay.

About the Author

Jason Kay is a professional resume writer and regular contributor to KSADoctor.com, a professional federal resume service and repository of sample KSA statements.

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  1. Trout says:

    Ridiculous – this has gotten us in the mess we are in.   We need  blunt, frank, assertive people. Open-mindedness means science/reality relativism which I (am in gov R&D) see all the time out there in the mangement side of agencies, i.e., data/conclusions to fit whatever is needed.  Cannot correct something or somebody that is wrong because all “opinions” have value or worth.  Imagine if todays’ bureaucrats ran the Manahattan Project or Apollo.   We’d be toiling under the Rising Sun flag and watching the commies on the moon.

    • GiGe says:

      You go Trout!!! I want someone to bring their issues to my face, not stab me in the back – which is standard operating procedure in the government. Only I can fix a problem not everyone else you are complaining to.

  2. susan317 says:

    I agree with many of the comments below, but the article was still an excellent one. The thing I try to remember is that I can only control my own behavior, not other people’s. The best I can do in a multi-person work environment is to give the annoying co-workers as much space as possible and focus on my own work.

  3. Msgrowan says:

    Where exactly will the government find the perfect beings who possess – or can readily and easily develop – this cornucopia of skills and attibutes listed?  Short answer: in some alternate universe.  In my decades-long career working for Uncle Sam, I have met with many who exhibit some – very occasionally many – of these traits, but none whom I would acknowledge as possesing all of them to the full (and my own limited “self-awareness” requires that I admit to being deficient in a number myself).  This is the kind of article that writers put out while on their version of cruise control or hyper-day dreaming.  A more complete list of platitudes would be hard to come by.  Indeed, someone who possessed all these shining qualities to the full would be virtually intolerable in the real world, as everyone else would be consumed by guilt, envy, or both.  Mr. Kay obviously is taking a mental stress day off.  Maybe the list should take the place of OPM’s ECQs used in assessing SES candidates (with which, to be fair, it overlaps in part); that would at least identify the more creative and imaginative writers among them.

  4. Steve Oppermann says:

    As a fellow author who has written on some of these issues for FedSmith.com, I found this to be an excellent article.  Except where a position requires a professional degree, for example, Civil Engineer, I think “people skills” are more important than any education or experience a candidate can demonstrate.  You can be the best HR Specialist, Contract Specialist, Budget Analyst, etc., from the standpoint of technical expertise but if you are difficult for other people to deal with, all of that expertise will likely go to waste.  Skills applicable to a specific job can often be learned by someone who is wiilling to do so, but it’s really hard to teach people skills to employees who don’t have them.

  5. ObservingTheProcess says:

    I would say Government employees need an Eleventh Skill: i.e. The ability to have “thick skin” when times are bad as you will be the scapegoat of all that is wrong and be blamed by both Congress and the White House.  We only follow their directions, but when things go arry, we are the ones that are downhill of the mess.

  6. grannybunny says:

    Heck, these are skills that would benefit everyone, anywhere, even FedSmith commenters!  🙂

  7. Guest says:

    I am sitting at my workstation and was just about to let my frustration about one of those job annoyances, that we all experience from time to time, build to the point where I could feel steam coming out of my ears. You know the kind of annoyance created by a situation over which you either have no control, or even if you did, there wouldn’t be much you could do anyway? I imagine that I was looking quite like one of those cartoon characters that felt the anvil hit his foot. Then, I read this article and, of course, got a big dose of “remember how you should be.” The “skills” indeed. Thanks Mr. Kay, good article. I’m printing it out and putting it on my posting it on my tack board as I type.

  8. William says:

    The author’s list of ten people skills is well-meaning. And yet so many of our supervisors and managers either lack such skills or lose site of them once promoted into a leadership position.  In an environment where those in charge lack people skills and instead take a “my way or the highway” approach, employees face a formidable challenge in applying the skills.  

  9. Serf in USA says:

    people skills are irrelevant in order to get ahead. Primarily, you need the
    right genes then the ability to manipulate others through flattery or fear.  Read “The Prince” by Machiavelli for a more
    realistic list of “people skills” being used in government service.