How To

How to succeed with a robot coworker

Grace Sweeney

Grace Sweeney

  • Updated:

We might be on the verge of a robot revolution, but employers are increasingly looking for people who excel at, well, being human.

robot coworker

Sure, robots can do a lot of things better than we can: data entry, stocking shelves, even hard skills like coding or debugging.

But, bots lack the nuance, out of the box thinking, and creativity that humans do so well.

According to LinkedIn data, soft skills are high in demand.  And while things like cloud computing, coding, and cybersecurity top the list, communication, collaboration, and creative problem-solving stand to be the differentiating factors of industry 4.0.

Why the emphasis on the softer stuff?

The simple answer is, humans should focus on improving the skills that artificial intelligence will have trouble replacing.

AI is set to transform most “doing” jobs into “thinking” and “feeling” jobs. Experts say jobs composed of linear, repetitive tasks will be the first to go. These jobs include customer service, retail, fast food, accounting, manual labor, and more.

The World Economic Forum estimates that 65% of our children will end up in jobs that don’t exist today. Which certainly makes it a challenge to develop the training methods that set the youth of today up for success.

It seems the consensus is, young people should develop a skill set that they can transfer to multiple occupations. So, it’s going to be increasingly important that we move toward a culture that values lifelong learning, and that we treat people skills and creativity — intangibles — as top priorities, not “nice to have” qualities.

Here are some of the timeless skills you should start polishing now. You know, before the robots come for your job.

Skills to focus on for our robot-human future



Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s thoughts and feelings. It means you can place yourself in their shoes and that you consider others’ concerns.

This quality, often considered a personality trait, has significant impacts on productivity, engagement, and loyalty.

When you feel that you’re stuck with people who don’t care about you, teamwork suffers, there’s a lack of trust and culture of resentment. And in the future workplace, humans are going to have to band together and feel comfortable with throwing out new ideas — even if they might not work.

Improving your empathy has a lot to with taking a step back and thinking about how others might react to your words or actions. Ask questions and avoid making assumptions.

When you consistently approach coworker interactions with kindness and respect, the workplace becomes more compassionate.



A good leader is someone who can motivate, inspire, and empower others. Leaders are assertive and likable, someone we can all look up to. But, many people believe leaders are born that way.

It’s true that traits like agreeableness and emotional intelligence come more naturally to some people. But, there are ways anyone can level up their leadership skills.

Recognizing and acknowledging others’ accomplishments, focusing on collaboration over competition, and maintaining a positive attitude, are things you can work on without enrolling in an MBA program.

Still, aspiring leaders may want to look into more formal training. Classes in organizational or project management are solid choices, particularly if you don’t have experience in a management role.

Before you sign up for a college class, though, check with your company to see if they offer tuition reimbursement or access to training programs.



Adaptability and the willingness to learn something new on the fly are critical in an era where tech is evolving at a breakneck pace.

Cognitive flexibility is the ability to switch between one concept to another, or shift between ideas. It’s also a marker of what Harvard Business Review refers to as a growth mindset.

HBR reports that some people lean toward a belief that skills and interests are inherent — so someone might naturally be good at sports or is born with above-average intelligence. This is called a fixed mindset.

By contrast, a growth mindset stands to become a valued asset in a changing workplace.

One way to level up your flexibility is to think about yourself as this sort of package of skills. For example, you’re a project manager today, but you’re also an excellent communicator. You’ve got good writing skills, and you’re able to bring out the best results in your team by delegating.

These skills that you might use in your project management role today can help you in any position–whether that’s allocating robot labor to specific tasks or transitioning into a role that requires more writing and editing.

It’s that readiness to accept change and understand how your knowledge can apply to different areas that will serve as a backbone for reinvention.

Active listening

active listening

Listening should mean more than waiting for your next chance to talk. It’s a potent tool that can help you solve problems and build better relationships.

Active listening may come more naturally to someone who is genuinely curious about other people. Try to frame listening as a chance to learn something new or understand a different point of view.

Make an effort to understand where someone is coming from and why. This requires a great deal of focus, and you’ll need to get used to putting your phone down and looking at the person who is speaking—this indicates that you are treating someone with respect.

Listen to the words and pay attention to facial expressions and body language.

After someone finishes talking, let them know you understood what they said by reiterating the key points and asking for clarification on anything that didn’t make sense.

Final thoughts

People fear technology because they believe it destroys work. But that’s been the case for every significant shift we’ve faced as a population. Social media managers, app developers, and so on, didn’t exist until recently.

Skills like conversation, empathy, and problem-solving have always had value. But, up to this point, they haven’t been emphasized during the career training process. It might be time that changes.

Grace Sweeney

Grace Sweeney

Grace is a painter turned freelance writer who specializes in blogging, content strategy, and sales copy. She primarily lends her skills to SaaS, tech, and digital marketing companies.

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