What are the Characteristics of a Good Employee?

What are the characteristics of a good employee? We’re all working at the jobs we have today. And if we’re smart, we’re doing the very best we can. Before you start planning your career change, ask yourself if you’re a good employee right now. Would your boss agree?

Take our quiz to find out what kind of employee you may be, and why it matters for your long-term goals.

You notice that something is wrong on your company’s website, but the website is not your responsibility. You next move is to:

  1. Immediately report the error to your boss
  2. Try to fix it yourself
  3. Ignore it
  4. Contact someone on the web development team

On a regular business day, you call it quits whenever…

  1. Your boss stops working
  2. Your spouse calls to complain that you are working late again
  3. The clock strikes quittin’ time
  4. All your priority items are complete

After an epic fail, your department needs to complete a long and tedious do-over project. Everyone on the team is asked to spend five hours per day counting widgets. Needless to say, everyone on the team is very annoyed. You plan to…

  1. Count widgets for 20 hours straight, getting your share done well ahead of everyone else
  2. Get your share done quickly; then volunteer to help others finish their counting
  3. Count slowly, since there is no possible way your boss can confirm how fast widgets should be counted. Plus, this is a ridiculous waste of your time.
  4. Count as many widgets as you can in five hours. Take a break for your other projects, and count again for five hours the next day

When a new employee is hired at your company, your gut reaction is to feel…

  1. Threatened
  2. Excited
  3. Indifferent
  4. Curious

The company picnic is planned for a date when you’ll be on vacation in Aruba. You decide to…

  1. Set up a webcam in your hotel room, and ask IT to help you watch the picnic events via Skype
  2. Volunteer to bake anyway.  Make cookies a week in advance, and leave them in the office freezer.
  3. Text your coworkers amazing beach photos from Aruba with insincere regrets (e.g. “So sorry I’m missing the picnic…”)
  4. Remind your boss about your trip; ask folks how it went when you get home

When you use email at work, what might prompt you to hit “reply all”?

  1. When anybody asks for suggestions/opinions
  2.  You never hit “reply all” because you are afraid of wasting important people’s time
  3. You never hit “reply all” because it’s annoying and it clutters your inbox
  4. When someone poses a question to a group, and everyone in the group needs to know your answer

On the morning of an important presentation, you wake up violently ill. You decide to…

  1. Text your boss at four a.m. and describe your symptoms so she is sure to believe that you are actually sick.
  2. Drink a double dose of Pepto, and crawl into work so you can give the presentation for as long as your body will allow you to stand.
  3. Go back to sleep. Explain later.
  4. Email your boss with an explanation and an apology. Forward any files your team may need to conduct the presentation without you.

When you get dressed for work, you try to choose clothes that…

  1. Look polished, professional, and expensive
  2. Match the styles and accessories you’ve seen your coworkers wearing
  3. Are comfortable
  4. Suit your personal taste and your body type

 The newly hired supervisor loves panda bears. You…

  1. Join his LinkedIn group for panda enthusiasts
  2. Let him talk entirely about panda bears during your introductory meeting
  3. Couldn’t care less
  4. View this information as a sign he has a caring side, and feel more comfortable around him

Your workplace is always running out of break room lollipops because some employees take extra lollipops home. You decide to…

  1. Email the executive management team; copy HR and your boss
  2. Buy your own supply of lollipops. When the break room supply runs out, send an email that coworkers can find more at your desk. 
  3. Do nothing. You are the one taking fistfuls of lollipops home at night. So what? Big deal.
  4. Do nothing. You think it’s petty that people would take advantage of free candy, but you are too busy to spend much time thinking about this problem.

You finally finish an enormous work project. When you show it to her, your boss hates it. Your next move is to…

  1. Shop it around with other managers and department heads, hoping someone will like it and argue in your defense.
  2. Head straight back to the drawing board.
  3. Send it to your coworkers, and ask how they would fix it.
  4. Schedule a meeting with your boss to go over the key objectives and necessary components.

You are asked to write an employee profile (a mini autobiography) about yourself, which will be included in the company’s handbook or website. You know that everyone in the company will read this. So you make sure to emphasize…

  1. Your education, grades, academic honors, career history, career accomplishments
  2. Your appreciation for your coworkers and the people who hired you
  3. That you found your current role randomly, without ever meaning to work in this industry
  4. A and B, plus a bit about your personal life outside of work

You are sometimes guilty of wasting time at work by…

  1. Sprucing up your LinkedIn profile with new competencies and career info
  2. Listening to coworkers complain and gossip
  3. Visiting Facebook or shopping online
  4. Developing side projects that haven’t been approved yet

Are these Characteristics of a Good Employee?

If You Chose a Lot of A’s, You Might Be a Grandstander

There’s nothing wrong with trying to impress people—especially your boss and other colleagues who may be in a position to help your career. But if praise and acclaim are your first priority, you’re probably not doing your actual job as well as you could be.

Grandstanding doesn’t always take the form of bragging.  Constantly inserting your voice and correcting your coworkers is another form of grandstanding. In truth, you may be more concerned about getting noticed than about getting good work done. What you call “participation,” others may call obnoxious and self-centered behavior. Generally, your managers want to hear from you when have important ideas, problems, or questions.  If they hear from you every day, and in endless levels of detail, your so-called participation can start to become exhausting for them.

More importantly, it’s not always the people above you who will define your career. If you spend all your time preening for the higher-ups, you may become unpopular with the folks around you—colleagues with similar job titles and job functions. These are the people who can help you do your job better, offering experience, advice and ground floor information. Learn to be a team player, and career wins may come easier for you.

If You Chose a Lot of B’s, You Might Be a Pushover

There is such a thing as being “too nice.” And it’s not a positive attribute in the business world. Even if you work in highly altruistic field—like teaching, nursing, or social work—pushovers are at risk for getting burnt out and walked over.

Let’s face it: you work harder than you have to—not just when it’s really important, but all the time. You don’t take credit where credit is due. You don’t refuse grunt work. And while you may view your behavior as dedication, bosses sometimes label you as a good “support person,” assuming you don’t have the skills to negotiate, delegate, or visualize big picture projects.

If you like playing the role of den mother, and you don’t mind watching new people move ahead, then keep doing what you’re doing. But if you want to be seen as someone who is dedicated and capable, you might try exercising your assertive muscles.  Pull rank if you’re getting the same deal as a less-seasoned employee. Ask for bigger assignments. Politely decline coworker requests for help that haven’t been documented or sanctioned by your supervisor.  You will still find opportunities to shine and share—but this way, they will be on someone’s radar.

If You Chose a Lot of C’s, You Might Be a Shirker

Sorry to inform you, but you’re not in high school anymore. Employers are not guidance counselors, and they don’t usually have much patience for boredom, apathy, moodiness, and unproductive workers. There may be many reasons why you’re not such a great employee… Maybe your job is too easy for you. Maybe you were never properly trained. Maybe you have too much work on your plate.

Whatever the problem, the answer can’t be sitting around and doing the bare minimum—unless you’re actively trying to get fired.  Even then, you won’t be making many friends or long-term supporters if you don’t care how your performance affects others. So, if you hate your job, talk to someone about it right now. By approaching the issue professionally and focusing on realistic solutions (more training, varied duties, better compensation), you’ll find that most managers will be willing to listen.

On the other hand, if find that you fall into these same patterns no matter where you work, you may need to do some professional soul searching. There’s truth to the saying that no one gets paid for the work that’s fun to do. Even pro athletes aren’t getting paid to play games. Their salaries are paid for the effort they have to demonstrate in off-season training, practice, weight management, etc. No matter where you work, there will always be un-fun assignments. Find a career that excites you, and you won’t notice them so much.

If You Chose a Lot of D’s, You Might Be a… A Pretty Good Employee, Actually

Most of your answers indicate that you are a level-headed, conscientious employee. You can follow instructions, take criticism, and take initiative when necessary. You don’t feel the constant need to prove yourself or gain acceptance. And you have enough work ethic to avoid typical bad employee behavior. Keep this up, and you’ll be irreplaceable… wherever work takes you.

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