Social awareness and cues: A priority number one?

social awareness, social cue, social cues, hr, human resources, employee relations, company culture, workplace, toxic workplace, manager, management, leadership, leading others, employee,

“The outer world is a reflection of the inner world. Other people’s perception of you is a reflection of them; your response to them is an awareness of you.”
― Roy T. Bennett

One of the most interesting aspects of my career flow thus far is the ever-present fact that much depends on the social cues and awareness in terms of desires and positive outcomes. The interaction between humans is very complex and the manner in which we behave determines the effect we have on other people and incidentally the situations or activities as well. That also applies to workplace and to a quite intense level, might I add. HR professionals and managers shouldn’t sleep on this underrated skill but should rather hone it and use it to their advantage. As much as the importance of this should be highlighted, the same could be said about how hard it is to master because emotions play a huge role in how we act and react. There are ways of learning to tie all of it into a pragmatic behavior but the most prevalent way to do it is by trial and error. Usually the context is a precursor to all of the misunderstanding that happens after the fact but let’s try to decipher some situations/activities in different perspectives and why this matters greatly to HR and any managing party.

How it impacts HR/management and vice-versa

HR and social awareness should be a no-brainer to most of the audience interested in these kinds of topics. I recently wrote an article in which I talk about how HR doesn’t take sides between business and employees but rather strategically pinpoints itself so the best possible outcome for both parties is achieved. Social awareness is the instrument which should be used to make that happen. It’s what makes the advisory role that HR takes that much more efficient and effective in the end. If we take everything at face value and just react as a direct cause, it would diminish or completely ignore the context and thus make us completely oblivious to what people actually need, and in turn, what the situation needs for the best outcome in both cases. Managers are not that different because the same leadership that HR has to portray at all times applies to them as well. In a more negative light, it means that sometimes HR/management have to be double agents in order to act, not only in their own best interest, but others’ interests as well, even though it usually doesn’t seem like it at all. It may also seem like a Machiavellian approach, which is again a dark description of an activity, but to preserve the right path, so to speak, of employees and business outcomes, it’s necessary.

social awareness, social cue, social cues, hr, human resources, employee relations, company culture, workplace, toxic workplace, manager, management, leadership, leading others, employee,
Social awareness – observance of others

Social awareness definition

Social awareness has a couple of variations of what it represents but I would chalk it up to understanding others’ behavior in different situations. That behavior is strongly linked to cultural and environmental circumstances and being aware of those factors significantly improves the predictability in general which then helps in managing everything we have mentioned thus far. To simplify it and to mention an example, a manager should well know the difference in character with two of their subordinates who work on the same project but are also in some kind of conflict. Obviously they can’t react in the same manner with each of them because of the differences so some sort of controlled communication/behavior is expected from the manager to reach the same positive outcome for both of the subordinates. Another example is projecting empathy and opening eyesight, so to speak, to an employee who is seemingly disappointed or disillusioned with their current career progress or expectations. The way the manager is communicating their understanding and incidentally letting them know what expectations can become a reality through a period of time can make a night and day difference in reviving that motivation. There are many more examples but the message is clear, especially of how difficult this all is.

social awareness, social cue, social cues, hr, human resources, employee relations, company culture, workplace, toxic workplace, manager, management, leadership, leading others, employee,
Higher consciousness – understanding others

Possible risks of not being aware

There’s a multitude of issues which can arise without paying attention to this, most notably the fact that you could lose an employee over something seemingly trivial, but in the end very powerful. When one is in control over the social cues, they can project whatever feeling they want to the prospect employee and have at least some effect to influencing the outcome. Without it, you’re shooting the blanks, so to speak, and often backfire. Being observant and cognizant of others’ feelings and wants is a crucial part of modern leadership so HR professionals and managers alike would do well to remember that. Social awareness also builds a company culture which spreads like wildfire in terms of reputation so not taking care of this aspect in general can hurt the company in the long run.


The 2020s have taken a turn to higher demand for leadership which is behaviorally effective and social awareness with its cues is a king when it comes to it because of its wide relevance in the workplace in general. Effective HR professionals and managers know how to lead in a manner which helps both the business and the employees with the „silent“ but useful guidance unbeknownst to them. The detailed visibility of its effect doesn’t have to be noticed by others but only recognized in the bigger picture of either complete performance or through any KPIs set by the board. Social awareness is only going to get more important because of the rapid Gen Z era-like mindsets and companies should do well to remember how important it is for their HR and management to have such a skill at a high level.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *