Since we just did a post on qualities of a good manager, it only seems appropriate to look at that relationship the other way around and consider the qualities of a good employee.
They’re remarkably similar to the manager. I think my top three are: Communication, Transparency, and Self-motivating.
If you can’t tell by now, I personally believe that good communication is the key to just about everything positive. Very rarely does something good come from a failure to effectively communicate, and when it does it’s usually a lucky mistake.
We discussed it in the managerial post, but communication is a two-way street. Sometimes as a manager I can’t be everywhere at once, so I rely on my employees to reach out when they need something. I need to know what is going on, and especially need to know what’s going on that will impact your ability to do work. Can I help? Maybe, maybe not. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to know. I can’t help, or try to help, if I don’t know. Even if the limit of my helping is to offload some work and make life a little easier for a few days.
It relates heavily to communication, but if I’m going to be an effective leader, I need to know what you’re working on. I don’t need deep dark details, or heavy technical intel, just enough to get a feeling of what your workload looks like. I can’t fix problems that I don’t know are there, so if other people are giving you work it should be documented in a way that I can see it and re-assign to balance the team.
Good employees are capable of walking the fine line between asking for guidance, or being told what to do, and being able to self-motivate and self-initiate new tasks and projects. This also lends back to transparency — I need to know what you’re working on.
I expect my employees to know their role and their responsibilities. I expect my employees to do the work they find hard or they don’t like, in addition to the work they enjoy or find easy. I also expect this to be done without constant prodding or reminding.
If you’ve come up with a new project or idea to develop, that’s fine. It needs to be in your scheduled tasks list, and it needs to be worked on as a priority behind other work I, as your manager, have deemed higher priority — most likely work that has a customer- or management-imposed deadline. I also expect that you will respect a managerial decision to shelve that project.
I will also put in here, a good employee is aware of his surroundings, and of his impact on them. A good employee will recognize when he is assisting others in getting their work done, or when he is detrimental to their productivity. He will also take steps to correct his own behavior as much as possible on that basis.
A good employee understands and respects the goals set by upper and middle management for the direction of the company, of the team, and of the employee. The good employee will work their best towards meeting those goals.
A good employee will take steps to ensure their manager and co-workers are aware of what they are working on, and the progress that is being made. They will reach out for help or guidance when needed, and they will listen to input from their manager and their peers.
A good employee will also reach out to management to discuss personal issues, and keep them “in the loop” as much as possible and as much as relevant to their work life.
Most of all, a good employee will recognize the efforts of a good manager or employer, and respond in kind. They’ll recognize a poor employer, and still take effort to show respect and, if the relationship cannot be turned around, they will move on and find a new location that will give them greater respect.