Catherine's Career Corner
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May 10th, 2011
Are you a great employee or just an employee?

What exactly makes us a great employee and what makes an employee great? Most employers agree that good employees usually display qualities such as projecting a positive attitude, dependability, use of initiative, ability to get along well with others, flexibility, motivation, honesty, loyalty and the list goes on. So, are you a great employee or just an employee?By Catherine Adenle

Most individuals preparing to enter the workforce or already part of it would look at this list of expectations and find it reasonable too. Let’s face it, does anyone plan to start a job or career with a negative attitude, dishonesty, unmotivated, disorganized, and not get along with others? Of course not! The problem is that the qualities and behaviours listed above are automatically assumed by all employers. Why? Just because they constitute minimum expectations of what is required from a potential job seeker or any worker. Companies do not provide training for their employees on how to project a positive attitude, be honest, loyal, or show up to work each day. But then, why would they? Fresh graduates and employees are expected to possess these attributes and more, aren’t they?

Frequently, employers complain about the work ethic of new or present employees and are surprised at the degree to which they lack the basic skills and behaviours necessary to succeed in their jobs. Some employees are not willing to perform the tasks assigned to them, and not taking the initiative to look around and see what needs to be done. Often these same individuals have portrayed themselves in interviews as positive, creative, honest, dependable, flexible, and willing to use their own initiative.

Are you a great employee or just an employee? So how can you tell if YOU are a great employee? If you are currently employed, or have recently held a job, use the checklist below to answer the following list of questions based on your work behaviours:

1. Do I have a positive attitude?
 Am I enthusiastic at work?
 Do I exhibit a positive attitude at work and in all that I do there?
 Do I block ideas if they don’t come from me?
 Do I go out of my way to help others?
 Do others seem to enjoy working with me?
 Do I always see the glass as half full and not half empty?
 Do I speak positively to others?
 Do I ask questions and demonstrate interest?

2. Am I a dependable, loyal employee?
 Do I do what is expected of me?
 Do I show up on time for work each day?
 Do I do what I am asked to do right and on time?
 Do I do what I promise to do?
 If I am sick or unable to work, do I notify my employer as soon as I know there is a problem?
 Am I trusted to meet important deadlines?
 Am I able to lead?
 Do I have the interest of my team and company in mind at all times?

3. Do I use my own initiative?
Do I begin a new task before I am told?
 Do I look for work to fill out my free time at work?
 Do I get on with things and know what to do without being told?
 Do I look around to see what needs to be done and do it, or do I wait for duties to be assigned to me all the time?
 Do I make the right decision at all times or do I depend on someone else to always make decisions for me?
 Do I ignore situations until they get out of hand?
 Do I ask questions to try to learn more, or do I stick to what I already know and have been told?
 Do I lack good judgement on most issues at work?
 Do I demonstrate commitment to on the job self-development?

4. Am I a team player?
 Do I get on well with others in my team and department?
 Do I get involved in projects and team work?
 Do I partake in team activities?
 Am I cooperative?
 Do I help to achieve team goals?
 Do I help my team mates to accomplish their goals?
 Do I prefer working alone or with others in my team?
 Do I share the workload, supplies or equipment, workspace and information?
 Do I offer to help those who are busier or who I think need a hand?
 Do I Communicate directly and honestly while avoiding whining, complaining, or gossiping?
 Do I appreciate the efforts of my co-workers and opportunities that come their way?

5. Am I a flexible employee?
 Do I go into work with an attitude that I will try my best at whatever assignment I am given that day?
 Am I willing to take on new responsibilities?
 Do I stick with just what I have?
 Do I leave work at 5pm on the dot regardless of how important and urgent my project is?
 Do I just stick to what I know and not keen to know more?
 Do I see the possibilities and opportunities in new ideas?
 Do I see a change as a recipe for failure?

6. Am I a motivated employee?
 Am I eager to go to work?
 Do I try to learn new things/gain more knowledge about my job?
 Do I work to the best of my ability?
 If I were an employer–would I hire someone like me?
 Would I want to work with someone like myself?
 Do I think the sky is the limit at work?

So, are you a great employee?
At present, if you do not hold any type of job, you may want to ask similar questions about your behaviour as a student; after all, being a student is your most important “job” right now. Ask yourself such things as: Do I take initiative to learn more about the subject matter than is expected of me? Do I exhibit a positive attitude in lectures, by listening, and by contributing my own ideas and opinions when appropriate? Positive work behaviours do not magically “appear” at the time when a person starts a “real job.” Like most good things, a positive work ethic develops over time and with effort.

See the Top 5 Characteristics of Ideal Employees
A popular theory states that it takes 25/30 days to break a bad habit; so how long does it take to establish a good habit? That depends on both the habit and the person, but as it is pretty clear that good habits don’t develop overnight, it might be wise to start now. Go in to work today or tomorrow morning with the attitude that you are going to put forth the best possible effort in all that you do. Look at it as”training” for that great employee that you plan to become. If you already possess all the qualities a great employee should have, the sky is not your limit because there are footprints on the moon!

See Becoming a Great Employee – The 10 Top Traits

Fast growing organisations need employees who regularly demonstrate great characteristics and work habits. Management of such companies work diligently to recognize, identify and attract this type of employee during the recruitment process to assure a steady stream of the people with the “Right Stuff” to fuel growth of the venture. So, you better aim to be someone with the right stuff.

See The 11 Great Employee Skills: Do You Have Them?

Apart from the attributes stated above, how else would you describe a great employee?

Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.

5 thoughts on “Are you a great employee or just an employee?

  1. This is a great post for all employees to read. As the HR Director of a well known company in the UK, you will not believe the numbers of candidates (from all levels) who turn up for an interview in our organisation without knowing how to demonstrate any of these attributes. They are countless. In this day and age who needs just an employee? All forward thinking organisations are looking to recruit great employees. The competition is too fierce, so no organisation should employ just an employee. We want to be able to trust our staff and invest in them. In return, we want them to invest in themselves and be loyal to our organisation.

  2. Interesting stuff Catherine! On Radio 4 this morning there was a brief interview with the CEO of Starbucks who, when asked what was the single most important thing for running a successful business said, “If you want your company to exceed the expectations of your customers, you need to exceed the expectations of your employees.”
    I thought that was quite instructive as a motivational tool for making employees ‘great’.

  3. Yet another great post. The checklist is on point! I have copied and pasted it in Word for my staff to tick off. It is our topic of discussion this month. A bit of self reflection is good for all of us. It is an indirect way for me and my staff to know if we are doing a great job for the company or if we are just working. Catherine, keep up the good work and greetings from your blog’s fans in Toronto.

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