Is Being a Good Employee Out of Style?

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out of styleRemember your first real job? The one of which you were proud? The career defining moment when you knew you wanted to be….whatever it is you are?

I do. I remember the first time a manager gave me praise, my first killer performance review and the first time I nailed a project right on the nose. Being a great employee is not as valued as it once was. As unemployment wobbles back to pre-2008 figures, startups start poking up with more frequency, and jobs slowly morph into roles, the art of being a great employee can at times get lost in the headlines.

But whether you consider your employer the client, the candidate, the hiring manager or some amalgamation of all of the above, the traits that make a fantastic employee are valuable in all aspects of business. Here’s how you can become employee of the month, every month.

Research conducted by Time magazine in 2010 indicated that less than half of American workers (45%) are satisfied with their jobs. This is the lowest percentage since 1987 and is an indication that U.S. employers have a lot of work ahead of them to undo the effects of the economic downturn and deteriorating employee attitudes.

  • Keep it professional. No matter how close you are to colleagues and clients, keep your mouth shut about politics, religion, sex, money and personal habits. This is an easy rule to keep once you set up a framework and ensures that your co-workers are comfortable.
  • Do your homework. You know that saying that there are no stupid questions? It is not true, particularly at the end of a long meeting or workday when you blurt out something pretty ridiculous. Asking a question just to contribute when it doesn’t further the purpose makes others exasperated and makes you look kind of ridiculous. By all means, do this if you want people to immediately tune you out.
  • Underpromise. Overdeliver. You hear this all the time but it never stops being true. Letting your clients, coworkers and yes, your boss know what they can expect from you is paramount but going that extra step almost never fails to delight everyone involved.
  • Learn to say “I Don’t Know”. If you don’t know, don’t pretend that you do. Have trouble admitting you have no clue about something? Think of it this way, every minute you spend hemming and hawing keeps your team from moving forward with the right information. Become an expert at getting the info and be an asset to everyone around you.
  • Negative Nellies Need Not Apply. Ugh. Are you that person? The one that says “It can’t be done and here’s why…” or “I see some serious issues in that…”? Don’t get discouraged, it’s not an all-bad thing. No one needs another “yes-man” but playing devil’s advocate can quickly veer into The Valley of the No’s, really quick-like.
  • Know how to handle sensitive topics. We all want employees to raise issues, but some problems are better handled one-on-one. Great employees often get more latitude to bring up controversial subjects because their performance allows greater freedom. The employee who comes to you after a meeting to discuss a sensitive issue that if brought up in a group setting would have set off a firestorm does you and the business a favor.
  • Wheels up!Everyone knows that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but in this case, being the squeaky wheel might get you a promotion in the short term, but long term is it really the best things for the company? Most likely it isn’t. Complaining, over delegation and chatting up all your cube mates might make you popular but it won’t make you effective.

In a world that is becoming increasingly more social and “engaged” learning how to interact with your team, your clients, your candidates and yes, your boss, is paramount. Not all interactions can be navigated online. Bring some pride back into your workplace and start becoming the employee of the month.

By Maren Hogan