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Saint Vincent College Faculty Blog

What Makes a Good Employee?

Posted by Michael Urick on Mon, Oct 8, 2018 @ 09:10 AM

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 michael.urick@stvincent.edu, 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.


Topics: SVC, SVC faculty, saint vincent professor, Faculty Blog, Dr. Mike Urick, good employee

About the Authors

Michelle Gil-Montero is an associate professor of English and director of creative writing at Saint Vincent College. She runs the visiting writers series on campus, oversees the student literary magazine, and serves as guru to aspiring poets on campus. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2007, and she has been on the Saint Vincent faculty since that year. She is an active poet and literary translator from Spanish. She is spending part of the 2016-17 school year travelling to Argentina on a Howard Foundation fellowship and Fulbright grant. 

Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January 2008. Dr. Smetanka has taught courses in Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry and Geology as well as interdisciplinary seminars. He has published scientific research articles in physics and astrophysics journals, numerous conference proceedings and also works in science education reform and the interaction between science, technology and theology.

Jim Kellam is an associate professor of biology at Saint Vincent College and our resident ornithologist. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2003, and is taking this semester as a sabbatical. What does that mean? He'll explain in his blog posts.

Dr. Michael J. Urick is Graduate Director of the Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence program, and Associate Professor of Management and Operational Excellence at the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics, and Government. Dr. Urick teaches courses related to organizational behavior, human resources, culture, leadership, diversity, conflict, supply chain, operations and research methods. Professionally, Urick serves on the board of the Institute for Supply Management (Pittsburgh) and belongs to the Society for Human Resource Management and APICS. For fun, Urick enjoys music and, since 1998, has led and performed with Neon Swing X-perience, a jazz band that has released multiple albums and toured portions of the US. He enjoys watching movies, is an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and also likes to fence.

David Safin, C'00, has been a lecturer in the communication department since the Fall of 2003, and has served in a variety of administrative roles since the summer of 2004. Currently, he teaches multimedia in the communication department as an assistant professor. 

Dr. Michael Krom received his Doctorate in philosophy at Emory University in 2007 and is currently the chair of the philosophy department at Saint Vincent. He has authored a book on religion and politics and continues to publish works in Catholic moral and political thought. Dr. Krom also directs the Faith and Reason summer program every summer. 

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