In my last blog, I asked the question “what makes a good manager/boss?” and received a lot of great feedback. In fact, I received the most comments and responses to that post than any others that I have written.
Among suggestions for what readers would add (or revise) from my list of good manager/boss attributes, a few people wrote to me asking me to write a complementary “sequel” post on “what makes a good employee.” I had not thought initially to write about this topic, but I’ve been reflecting over the past month about my list of behaviors and attributes that I might include.
In my opinion, not surprisingly and fundamentally, is that an employee needs to fulfill the job requirements for which she or he is hired. If this person cannot do that initially after their hire (whether because of lack of experience or unfamiliarity with the role or culture), they must take it upon themselves to find development opportunities to grow in order to be able to fulfill their job description. Every job in an organization (non-profit, business, religious organization, school, government entity, etc.) should directly or indirectly help to accomplish that group’s strategy, and so it is crucial that each employee do their job. This is the bare minimum of what each employee should do.
Beyond that, though, below are a few items that I view make truly exceptional employees and I am interested to hear your thoughts on what should be added to or deleted from this list:
- Maintain a positive attitude. Robert Sutton is an organizational researcher who published a famous book whose title I shouldn’t repeat here (it includes a not-so-nice synonym for “jerk”). In much of his work (Sutton, 2007 for example), Sutton discusses the need for civility in the workplace. In other words, people need to respect each other and come to work each day with a positive attitude. Similarly, the Rule of Saint Benedict which is fundamental to Saint Vincent’s culture warns against “grumbling” or complaining to the detriment of the task at hand. Yes, people can get angry and should express concerns and frustrations, but they should never engage in actions in ways that are demeaning, offensive, counterproductive, overly emotional or create a toxic workplace environment.
- Go the extra mile. A year ago, I wrote a blog on Saint Vincent’s website about engaging in citizenship behaviors, activities that that are optional (i.e. not formally expected of a person’s job role) but positive in nature. In it, I noted the benefits that organizations will experience as a result of these activities as well as the positives that those who engage in them will likely encounter. Being a good employee is not just about showing up and doing the minimum – it’s about volunteering, providing insights, helping others and facilitating the transfer of information. Truly exceptional employees make these activities part of their daily routine.
- Continuously improve. Employees need to give their organizations a push. Continuous improvement is about one’s responsibility to constantly develop the knowledge, skills and abilities in oneself as well as to help organizations become more effective, good stewards, positive cultures and ethical workplaces. As famed leadership scholar Robert Greenleaf would suggest, individuals have a responsibility to create positive change in organizations as insiders (Greenleaf, 2002) not outsiders. Thus, the statement of “being the change you want to see” applies here. Employees are responsible to try and constantly make themselves and their organizations better so that they will sustainably be able to provide product and services that help make the world a better place.
What would you add to, take away from or revise in the above? Looking forward to hearing from you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, message me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/urickmj/) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-urick-05b775a3/) or leave me a comment here.
Dr. Mike Urick
Greenleaf, R. K. (2002). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. Paulist Press.
Sutton, R. (2007). Building the civilized workplace. McKinsey Quarterly, 2, 47-55.