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Good Employee, Bad Employee
By Tom Dennis – President, Effective
a recent e-Newsletter I discussed the characteristics of good bosses and bad
Good Boss, Bad Boss), primarily from an employee’s perspective.
Since turnabout is fair play, it is only fair to discuss the characteristics
of good and bad employees, from both a boss’ perspective, and from fellow
employees’ perspectives. So let’s look at a variety of important employee
attributes, and for each, the notable characteristics shown by good
employees and bad employees associated with these attributes.
[It may also be useful in this regard to take a look at my Herding
Cats series of e-Newsletters. These examine a wide variety of
employee personality types.
Cats: The Art of "Managing" Knowledge Workers, Herding
Cats 2: Problem Child & Elitist Bastard, Herding
Cats 3: Boss Wannabe & Social Butterfly, Herding
Cats 4: "Wally" & Prima Donna, Herding
Cats 5: Solid Citizen, Valued Expert & Rising Star, and Herding
Cats 6: Complainer/Whiner, Eternal Optimist, Chesire Cat, Loner, Credit
Taker/Thief & A$$hole]
good employee has the capability to carry out assigned jobs and to
complete them satisfactorily and completely.
A bad employee does not have this capability,
and won’t inform his boss of this fact. This wastes time to properly
complete the activity, and requires additional competent people to be
assigned, adversely affecting their assigned tasks. Therefore, a bad
employee affects not only themselves, but others as well, jeopardizing the
A good employee has the intellectual curiosity to examine the
job assigned, identify the work required, and to go beyond that to identify
potential problems or issues that need to be addressed by them or others to
properly and successfully complete the job. This employee proactively
analyzes not only the job at hand, but helps to address observations or
concerns beyond his/her immediate needs.
A bad employee looks solely at the job assigned, doesn’t
think about the issues it may raise or its impact on himself or others. This
person may carry out the job assigned, but the impact on others or on the
overall project may cause significant problems that could have been
addressed much earlier and more effectively.
good employee takes the initiative to examine the overall project,
his/her assignment as part of that project, and the assignments of others,
to identify potential issues that should be addressed early to help ensure
the success of the overall project. He/she then raises these issues with
his/her boss early in the process before changes would be difficult to
A bad employee simply takes the assignment given,
and works on his/her part without consideration of how or if his/her part
fits into the whole, or of problems that could impact overall project
good employee carries out his/her assignment without unnecessarily
drawing away from the time and efforts of others, in order to keep the
project on target and on time. Still, when necessary, he/she will raise
questions and issues that are essential to the successful completion of the
assignment and to the overall project.
A bad employee is so dependent on his/her boss or
the help of others to carry out the assignment, that he/she constantly
questions and interrupts the work of others, adversely impacting their work
in order to complete his/her work. This jeopardizes the success of the
good employee can be counted on to carry out his/her assignment
dependably, without question or concern.
A bad employee cannot be counted on to carry out
his/her assignment without continual oversight and prodding.
Working Well With Others (the Team)
good employee understands fully that he/she is part of a team, and
that overall success cannot be achieved unless the entire team succeeds.
He/she will do everything in his/her power to make sure this happens (see
Pigasus – When Pigs Fly!)
A bad employee concentrates solely or primarily
on himself/herself, and not on the team as a whole. Such an attitude can
undermine the success of the team and of the project.
Listening to Management
A good employee really listens to his manager and management
chain to understand what his/her assignment is and what it is not, and
carries out his/her assignment per management’s direction. This does not
mean that he/she cannot question these directions, but once discussed and
agreed to, he/she does the work assigned and agreed to.
A bad employee tends to view the
directions from management as ‘suggestions’, not orders, and does
what he/she thinks best, rather than what is best for the project as a
whole. This is not a good way to keep a job.
Many other employee characteristics can be considered, but this is a good
start. What characterizes good employees versus bad employees can generally
be inferred from the above examples. Good employees go above
and beyond what is expected (and required). Bad employees
don’t. To be successful in the workplace, and enjoy your work at the same
time, requires a good work ethic, a strong sense of responsibility, and
being involved in work that you enjoy. Applying the characteristics of good
employees to your job can help you achieve that success and enjoyment.
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