Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Good Employee, Bad Employee

In a recent blog post, I discussed the characteristics of good bosses and bad bosses (see 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 blog posts. These examine a wide variety of employee personality types. [See Herding 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]

  A 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 project.

Intellectual Curiosity
  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.

  A 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 incorporate.
  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 success.

  A 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 overall project.

  A 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)
  A 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.

Copyright 2013 Workplace Insanity, All Rights Reserved


  1. You would have fun looking at school districts, public education at the elementary school level. High schools and middle schools are NOT like elementary. Enjoyed your posts; elementary school teacher in TX

    1. To Anonymous - Thank you for your kind comment. I have no doubt that the work experiences in elementary public schools would be epic, including both the experiences with the children, and among teachers and management. Could be time to think about writing a blog with some of these stories? I bet people would enjoy them.

      Best Regards - Tom Dennis


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