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The Unwritten Laws of Engineering: With Revisions and Additions

By
James G. Skakoon
James G. Skakoon
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W. J. King
W. J. King
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ISBN-10:
0791801624
No. of Pages:
60
Publisher:
ASME Press
Publication date:
2001

A number of empirical studies of on-the-job excellence have clearly and repeatedly established that emotional competencies — communication, interpersonal skills, self-control, and so on — “play a far larger role in superior job performance than do cognitive abilities and technical expertise” (Goleman, p. 320). Yet most of the emphasis in the education and training of engineers is placed upon purely technical education.

Notwithstanding some brilliant exceptions, intelligence, academic training, technical knowledge, and circumstantial expertise alone are not major determinants in the success or failure of engineers in the workplace. For the most part, engineers are or can quickly become adequately capable in these areas. If technically incapable, they almost certainly would have been discharged from the system, either by themselves or by others, long before they became employed engineers. Generally, such skills and traits as communication, confidence, group and interpersonal effectiveness, motivation, pride in accomplishments, adaptability, leadership potential, inquisitiveness, integrity, and emotional control are exhibited by the most successful employees, just as with the most successful among engineers.

It should be obvious enough that a highly trained technical expert with a good character and personality is necessarily a better engineer and a great deal more valuable as an employee than a sociological freak or misfit with the same technical training. This is largely a consequence of the elementary observation that in a normal organization one cannot get very far in accomplishing anything worthwhile without the voluntary cooperation of one's associates; and the quantity and quality of such cooperation is determined by the “personality factor” as much as anything else. Added to this need for one-on-one cooperation are all sorts of “soft” characteristics from understanding contemporary society to following ethical behavior — all of which can add up to benefits for yourself and your employer far beyond ordinary technical contributions.

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