America has a problem, says Bonnie Low-Kramen: Many of the country's CEOs are losing their sense of humanity.
The issue extends from mass layoffs by email and strict return-to-office policies to workers across the U.S. feeling underpaid and undervalued, says Low-Kramen, a workplace expert and author of the book "Staff Matters: People-Focused Solutions for the Ultimate New Workplace," published in February.
"Most people understand that business sometimes requires drastic measures," Low-Kramen tells CNBC Make It. "[That] doesn't mean it should be mean-spirited and traumatizing and humiliating."
Much of the problem stems from a lack of interpersonal skills, Low-Kramen says. Nearly one in five workers say they experience unkind remarks or personal attacks from their company's leadership, according to a 2022 Real Estate Witch survey of 1,000 full-time U.S. employees.
Low-Kramen's fix, for any level of the workplace: Develop your soft skills. Companies look for communication, teamwork, empathy and a positive attitude in their employees, and workers value the same traits in their bosses and managers.
Three soft skills — the "three Vs" — particularly matter in today's environment, Low-Kramen says. Here's what they are, and how to master them.
Sometimes, it's true that half the battle is showing up.
Being visible could mean showing up to the office when you aren't required to, raising your hand for projects or simply keeping your camera on for virtual meetings, Low-Kramen says.
It can mean supporting the people around you, especially during times of turmoil and uncertainty. Low-Kramen cites Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta's handling of the pandemic's early days as an example.
"[The Hilton] CEO got in front of his people and he said, 'Yep, hospitality is being hit in a huge way. But for right now, I'm telling you, no one's going to get laid off,'" she says.
The transparency didn't keep Hilton employees from feeling confused or unmoored at the time, but it helped provide them with a sense of stability, Low-Kramen says. People who exhibit this same behavior "really show what they're made of," she adds.
If being "vulnerable" at work seems daunting, look at it as being honest.
Opening up to your colleagues doesn't mean telling them every detail about your personal life, Low-Kramen explains. Sharing a little bit — enough to identify some common interests or experiences — can go a long way.
That's true for employees who need to build rapport with their bosses — and for CEOs and executives, who can sometimes come across as disconnected from the struggles of their workforce.
"During the pandemic, for the first time, we were seeing the inside of people's houses, and we were meeting their pets, and we were seeing their kids," says Low-Kramen. "And that made us vulnerable."
The next time you have a mishap with your babysitter, or you're dealing with a health complication, or a family situation is affecting your ability to focus, consider being honest about it, she says.
It's easy to stay in your bubble, whether you're in the office or working from home. Make time to talk with your colleagues anyway, Low-Kramen advises.
Quick conversations in passing, scheduled coffee chats, catching up with people before meetings and asking how someone's day is going are all great ways to build relationships, she says.
Networking is a core part of being successful: 85% of open jobs are filled through personal or professional connections, according to a February report from career website Zippia.
If you aren't naturally personable, getting more verbal may not happen overnight. "Acknowledging that there's room for improvement" is the first step, says Low-Kramen.
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