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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  • anorkie - 2011-12-22 17:44

    By doing all this hopefully the company will recognise your effort and give you an above increase....NOT

      derekneilmaclachlan - 2011-12-23 08:44

      By doing all this THE BOSS DOES NOTICE!! And yes it would certainly be motivation for an increase or at the very least not having your name down for RETRENCHMENT!!!!

      mastersvoice - 2011-12-23 11:30

      Best way to get an increase is to ask for it. You must motivate it properly and this means indicate your benefit to the business. Hoping people will notice your efforts is not going to cut it, I'm afraid.

      ryan.quat - 2011-12-23 19:54

      Depends n the boss.

  • mastersvoice - 2011-12-23 08:02

    With the racist BEE and AA laws slowly killing our economy, the government is trying to replace Georgina's 10 "How-to's" with 1 - Be Black.

      russta101 - 2011-12-28 14:13

      I'm interested to know how you come to this conclusion? Well thought out and reasoned response, or typical racist knee-jerk rant?

  • Paul - 2011-12-23 08:14

    Buy working a 12 to 14 hour day you will get a bonus.... Not

      derekneilmaclachlan - 2011-12-23 08:45

      Read my comment above.....and yes I am a BOSS!!

  • Ilona - 2011-12-23 09:39

    Bla bla bla yawrn

  • Vaal-Donkie - 2011-12-23 12:19

    I was rewarded for my hard work and dedication by not being given an increase for three years. The excuse was that, because I was on a long-term contract (what the hell is that anyway?), I do not qualify for an automatic increase and there is no budget to negotiate one. Needless to say, I quit. I am starting at a new employer on the 3rd of january and will be getting what amounts to my 3 years' compounded increase PLUS a thirteenth cheque. I am willing to be as loyal to the company as they are to me.

      fragtion - 2011-12-24 05:48

      Amen to that one! From my experience, it's always the COMPANY that expects the employee to go the extra mile, from working overtime to doing work that falls outside of the employees designated job description. HOWEVER when it comes to leniency towards the employee, FORGET IT!!! Try arriving 10 minutes late or taking a day off without a doctor's note, and for many companies that will mean your job will be threatened to the fullest extent of the law - Pathetic! Say what you like, I don't believe life is about slaving away just about every hour of every weekday in a mindless routine for most of the years of your life under a CEO who rakes all the cash for your hard work. I will be employed in 2012, but purely for the business experience... I for one will certainly not work under the ego of a dictator boss for the rest of my life, and I suggest you plan your life so that you can do the same and succeed by being creative and innovative (in a honest manner) in your own right!

      Wikkie - 2011-12-24 09:29

      Vaal Donkie, let me guess - you are a non-Black? We have the same in our ortganisation. Blacks get good increases, buy new cars, smile from ear-to-ear. The non-Blacks get excuses and bullsh*t. Well done, I am glad you could make the break. You are also right - "loyalty is a two-way street!"

  • Wikkie - 2011-12-24 09:24

    Georgina, about two years ago you and I corresponded. I challenged you to do an article on SA's Patriotism and why it has gone down the tubes, or something similar. Do you remember? It seems you did not want to take that up. The subject is probably too difficult if one wants to be honest, but at the same time also be politically correct! I challenge you again! Let's make 2012 an honest year. Let's drop the pathetic political corectness. Let's call a spade a spade and start solving problems. If it is still possible..

  • ludlowdj - 2011-12-25 11:25

    While these suggestions most certainly work in a company where employee's are treated properly and the employers does have empathy towards his/her slaves.... I mean staff, in a poor working environment where the employer is only concerned with bottom line and profits and staff are given a like it or disappear type company philosophy one would do better to actively any actions which would foster the appearance of subservience. Here it would be better to actively obstruct the employer where ever legally possible and use the laws and courts to effect change, remember that even if you ultimately loose your job the odds are you will have made the working conditions better for the person or people replacing you. This is especially true in South Africa where we have a large proportion of international companies which have no interest in the welfare of its staff and which are in essence only here to exploit the local market to maximise profits for the international body.

  • Francois - 2011-12-26 06:39

    Ever heard of - Change your attitude and not your job? Most people should try it.

  • tbomelamsomi - 2011-12-27 06:56

    @wikkie "Blacks get good increases, buy new cars, smile from ear-to-ear" you must be joking right?you clearly dont have any black friends for if you did you wouldnt be talking such junk.we are all in the same boat.

  • Gail - 2012-01-04 12:31

    Georgina you have started a debate. Bad boss/ good employee. What about the good boss/ bad employeee. I work for someone, and in 2010, everyone got a double salary bonus. Not a thank you from any of the employees. Guess what, no bonus this year. And all of a sudden the boss sucks. Staff today are lucky to have a job and a bonus is in recognition of going over and above your job duties. Not for doing the job you are hired to do and are paid for.

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