Bridging the gap between Management, Soft-Skills and Negotiations


Have you, or any person in your entourage changed jobs recently? You might have noticed how radically the job description might have changed since the last time you were on the hunt for a job.

As a matter of fact, new names, denominations took more often than not the primacy over more “technical skills” – i.e., your experience, the kind of diploma you hold, your proficiency in a language, your capabilities in a specific IT program, your knowledge on a peculiar domain, etc. You get the gist.

Suddenly, those pre-requisites are, of course, of importance but will not determine your aptitude to do a job. You’re now being asked to develop the team spirit; to implement and have a strategic vision, or even to be able to solve conflicts and be aware of the multicultural setting you evolve in.

In your job too you might feel you are now pushed more and more by your management to develop what entrepreneurs-guru from the late 90’s called “soft-skills”. Suddenly, this very term seems central to the way a team-manager will be assessed. Companies, public services and organisations are not looking for technical experts only anymore but people who would be able to comprehend dynamics within a group; people able to spot how the strengths and weaknesses of each member of a team could be best used; or capable of ensuring the articulation between what the strategic vision of the organization and the work made by the collaborators on a day-to-day basis is effectively assured.

In sum, organisations are not only looking for senior experts in a field, but also that experts in team management. Soft skills are now a must-have and, what’s more, are not seen as an innate capacity one possesses de facto when graduating from College or University anymore. It has to be learnt and trained during a career.


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Bringing back the three complexities

Just like in negotiations, the skills required to be an effective manager can be cut-out in three different complexities, inspired by the model of Lewicki, Barry and Sanders: the social complexity – referring to the who you’re interacting with -, the procedural complexity – referring to the what, the issue at hand – and the computational complexity – referring to the how, the setting in which a matter is discussed with a set of interlocutors.

If you’ve followed our previous monthly series on digital negotiations, you’re already acquainted with the theoretical model we have developed at EIPA. If you have not, first, feel free to read our year-long analysis of how the pandemic impacted multilateral negotiations and secondly, here’s a brief summary of our model: Much like a Rubik’s Cube with its three-axis, multilateral communications – negotiations, for instance, or teamwork – have to be understood as the conjecture between three axes. Only by mastering the three axes can communications be effective, and your goal reached – and the Rubik’s Cube’s colours aligned. Don’t get us wrong, there is no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to effective team management, and this is what makes the good articulation between the different axis complex to find. It has to be ad hoc.

Right, how will this model help understand the increasing use of soft-skills in the workplace?

In this new series of monthly blog post, we’ll dive deeper into the different soft skills a manager ought to master. We will offer you a monthly opportunity to reflect on those different sets of skills and how to effectively work with the three axes to further develop your generic skills.

For instance, we’ll reflect on how biases impact our work, how to recognize them and work with them so as to alleviate the hinder they can represent in your social setting. We’ll also analyse how multiculturality plays a role and impacts your work within your team by asking: how do the models that have been developed by Hofstede, Rosinski or Lewis hold in practice? We’ll also see how the negotiation skills known as “issue framing” can be helpful for conflict resolution. Later on, we’ll dive into the computational complexity by analyzing the new management models developed in the past decades: can we make a case for the famous “liberated companies”? What about compromises and the trendy idea of horizontal management? How can we ensure agility in the workplace, and will that help a manager? How can one develop its leadership when the requests for an always greater autonomy from the collaborators is flourishing? Can the NWOW and the rapid development of ICT help a manager find a balance between remote working and the need for control? Eventually, we’ll also wonder how informal dynamics play a role in a team and how a manager can use techniques from the negotiations domain to target the right individuals to smoothly implement changes within a team.


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As you can see, we have a lot to discuss in the upcoming months and are looking forward to sharing our thoughts and research with you. New management practices and negotiations are, at the end of the day, very close and we believe bridging the gap between those two domains are an interesting perspective that will help you further develop both your management, leadership, and negotiation skills. Of course, feel free to reach out to us to share your input on our posts or even to request tailor-made trainings in leadership and team management. See you next month!

We’d love to hear your feedback, comments, questions or suggestions on this series so far! Contact our Negotiations Team directly at

This blog is written by Frank Lavadoux and Mathias Delmeire.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and not necessarily those of EIPA.

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