How to be a good employee

There are few employees who wake up in the morning with the thought “I can’t wait to get to work and make everyone miserable!” Whether this it true or not, I believe it to be true, and believing that makes my life A LOT easier.  Sure, there are those people that always cc your boss and maybe another employee to cover their butt but if you talk to them they will usually tell you “that is how you get things done.”  They don’t see another way.  I wonder if they realize how much damage their actions do, or maybe they just don’t care.

The good employees worry they will be fired, the bad employees are always surprised when they are.

If you ask most people I bet they will tell you that they are good at their job.  Or at the very least they have a litany of excuses as to why not.  Yet we all know people who are “bad” employees.  OK, maybe “bad” it too harsh.  But I know I have been a bad employee before, I just didn’t realize it at the time.

Be a little early

I can’t tell you how many times I have talked to people about being late.  Unfortunately some companies have rules that are quite inflexible while others are more apt to treat you like an adult.  Either way, if you know the rules, follow them.  Actually, do a little more than the minimum.

You don’t even really necessarily need to be at work all that early.  Just start your day earlier.  Being a little early allows you to do several things:

  • Plan your day:  Tim Ferriss and many others start their day journaling and setting daily / weekly goals.  If you fail to plan then I guarantee you won’t succeed!
  • Ease into your day:  I don’t think anyone likes coming into work only to be hit in the face with emails that piled up overnight.  If you are able to, I advise checking email briefly before bed and/or when you wake up.  That way you know what you are in for that day.  It is also not a bad idea to reply to the urgent ones with something like “Thank you for the email, when do you need the information?  Would by noon tomorrow work?”
  • Review deadlines:  One thing that backs up a lot of people is not having or not updating time-frames.  A to-do list is one thing, a to-do list with deadlines is on another level.

Be conscious of your brand

There is a lot of talk about branding these days.  Companies have a brand that they promote and so should you.  To me your brand is what people think of when they think of you.  Your brand should emote feelings and adjectives.  When people think of you does it bring a smile to their face or a frown?  What word would others use to describe you?  These all speak to your brand.

Your brand needs to be authentic.  If you are very casual then you probably don’t want to dress at the top end of the dress code every day but that doesn’t mean you have to dress at the bottom either.  A bow tie (hand-tied, clip-ons are for cops and kids) can set you apart from the crowd.  An ascot or a bolo tie… it would be much tougher to pull those off and it could be seen as disingenuous.

Help others

I know this may shock some people but this is generally seen as a good thing to do in life.  No really, it is.  Many people see helping others as a sign of weakness.  It is actually a sign of strength.  But there are limits.  If you help others while neglecting your own work it will not work out well for you.  Even something as little as holding doors for others will help set you apart.  How about picking up trash you see in the office?  Unless you work in a Union environment, helping others will go a long way.

You can also be a resource for others.  This can be as simple as telling people about a good quote you heard or as focused as setting up a Google Alert.  Let’s say you want to move up in the marketing department.  Maybe set a Google Alert for “Social Media Marketing” and/or other related terms.  Then you can receive daily or weekly news straight to your inbox.  That is an easy way to stay on top of trends.

Learn to say no tactfully

I am trying to do what Derek Sivers suggests… it is either “HELL YES!” or it should be no.  True, there are many times that saying no is not an option but you need take control of your to-do list.  Now that you have a deadline for everything, when one of your bosses comes to you and asks you to re-design the cover sheet for the TPS Report you can say “sounds good, where would you like me to put it in my to-do list?”  Then you can walk them through your task list in order of importance.

Be a life long learner

Whether your “thing” is podcasts, books, movies, TV or radio be sure you are taking in some things that actually help you.  Don’t like learning new information?  Learn to like it.  You may first need to do some habit/task bundling.  That is where you “bundle” one thing you need to do with something you like to do.  Or come up with a reward program for yourself.  Maybe you only get one hour of your favorite show after listening to one hour of a professional development audio book.

Life is not as difficult as some make it out to be.
Al Pollard

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