Georgina Guedes

How to be a great employee

2011-12-22 12:40

Last week, I wrote about how to be a better boss, and judging from the response, this is an area in which a lot of criticism is levelled and a lot of improvement needed in the South African workspace.

Although this is the last thing that most of you are thinking about right now, this week, I'm tackling how to be a better employee. Perhaps the impending turnover of the New Year will find you in a contemplative mood, ready to tackle new challenges in a more positive manner. Remember that being a better employee won't just change how others see you, it will improve how you feel about yourself.

1. Start how you mean to go on
This is something most of us are guilty of doing badly. We start out brilliantly, then get bored and start to slack off. I'm not suggesting that instead, you should start by slacking off, but rather that you work out what you believe your reasonable output should be, start that way and stick to it.

2. Work like you do need the money
There's one of those trite sayings "work like you don't need the money", and while I get the sentiment, I also believe that money is a good motivator and that we should appreciate our  employment for providing it. So, work like you're pleased you have your job.

3. Don't be a clock watcher
As difficult as this point is to stick to at the end of a long day when there are kids to be fetched and dinner to be made, you will be remembered for sticking around to finish a job rather than dashing out the door as soon as the little hand hits 5. Make each day about completing tasks rather than counting the hours.

4. Be friendly
Don't just rock up, put your head down and bolt for your desk. Establishing a good rapport with your fellow workers will go a long way to making a more pleasant working environment for all.

5. Help others
There is no such thing as "it's not my job"' unless you're being asked to perform brain surgery or fly a plane. Do whatever you can to help others, especially if you have the expertise or experience to do so.

6. Help the company
Just because you are only an employee doesn't mean you shouldn't think like management. Do what you can do conserve office supplies like paper or teabags or electricity. Don't turn a blind eye to the misdemeanours of others. Think of ideas for generating new business. Your company will be profitable and your job more secure if you work together to make it a success.

7. Don't gossip
Don't share hallway gossip about other employees, your boss or the company. Gossip is destructive, and often unfounded. If information is relevant to you or your team, schedule a time to address it with your manager.

8. Deal with issues
When issues do arise - be they to do with work politics or interpersonal relationships - address them with the intention of putting them to rest. Don't let them fester and lead to bitterness or resentment.

9. Take pride in your work
Obviously, while the impression you create and the relationships you build are important, the best advertisement for your contribution is the work that you do. Imagine that everything you do is going into a portfolio for your next appraisal or job opportunity, and make it a reflection of the best you have to offer.

10. Be indispensable
When things are tight and retrenchments loom, it's those employees who contribute so much more than what's in their job description whose positions are secure. Every day, do everything that you can to make yourself a valued employee who can be counted on.  

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer and corporate communicator. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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