Being the Best Employee

During our recent history of corporate downsizing and disappointing scandals, it has been hard for many people I speak with to avoid the urge to become cynical and negative about their work.  “Who can you trust anymore?”  “When companies put their shareholders before the well-being of their employees, they don’t deserve my loyalty.”  “I am better qualified than my boss [or some other co-worker] and I don’t get paid as much.”  These are just some of the comments I hear.

Yes, all these things happen and may be happening to you right now.   It is easy to let these “injustices” turn you into a bitter, angry person engaging in passive aggressive behavior.    Don’t give in to the dark side.   Here’s why.

These things can Define You.  Sure.  You may well be justified.  But when you become the critical condescending person who talks poorly about your boss or the company, the truth is that in the eyes of your coworkers – these negative behaviors are what DEFINES YOU.   You are probably too young to be an old curmudgeon anyway.  Your actions, attitude and behaviors are the lens through which others see and assess us.   They seldom stop to consider your circumstances, they just see you as a purveyor of negativity that no one (except other negativity purveyors) wants to be around.   Is that how you want to be?

These Acts Diminish You.  Sure, we all give in to our frustrations at times.   But the next time you do . . . and after you calm down a bit . . .  ask yourself how your spurt of negativity made you feel.   I doubt it really made you feel energized.  Instead, these selfish behaviors diminish us and drag us down to ultimately tarnish our own sense of self-worth.  Consider instead how you felt after solving a particularly difficult problem or after rendering assistance to help or support a colleague in need.   You should gravitate toward the things that feed your sense of worth and well-being.   All else is irrational.

These Acts Only Dig You a Deeper Hole.  When you act out in response to a feeling that you were disrespected or wronged, what you are really doing is reinforcing all those negative images in the face of others (especially those who may have disrespected you).  The more negativity others see in you, the more sure they become that you are not a worthy employee.   You gradually are “branded” as not being committed or worthy of consideration for future promotions.    Doesn’t that just make your situation worse?

So instead of allowing these things impact you, isn’t a healthier posture to be the kind of employee everyone wants – no matter what?

  1. Say “No problem, I’ll get right on that.  No matter what, we all appreciate a can-do attitude.  Both our bosses and our co-workers are likely to respond to it, and admire our energy and drive.
  2. Accept that one of your jobs is to make your boss look good.   No matter what you think of your boss, helping him or her to look good IS part of your job.  The good work you do should rub off on those around you, and people tend to appreciate it.  If you don’t like your boss and your good efforts help get him or her transferred or promoted – you still potentially win.  If you prefer the strategy of trying to make your boss look bad, you had better be REALLY good at it.  Wounded creatures are prone to attack and you just might come up on the short end.   Even if you succeed in unseating your boss, you risk being seen as a manipulative back-stabber, an image that is likely to retard your upward mobility.
  3. Don’t take the bad things personally.  Companies sometimes have to do some bad things like cut budgets, lay people off, and cancel programs.   It happens and the choices about them are often not easy ones.   Sometimes these things seem aimed at us.   Get over it.   Don’t take it personally.   We all appreciate employees who can see a bigger picture – a prerequisite for being promoted.
  4. Understand company mission and Goals – asking how YOU can support them.   In addition to making your boss look good, your job IS to help your company achieve its mission.   You should be asking what portion of the mission objectives you can influence from where you sit.  Make sure your people know what things are important and how their actions can be better aligned.   These things are admired by co-workers and senior executives.
  5. Offer to reach out and share your abilities and knowledge with others – and share the credit. Generously.  Be seen as the one who is ALWAYS willing to drop everything to help others within your organization.  Do so generously – even if it means some extra work for you.  People become indebted to those who help them, and most will feel obliged to repay the service someday.  And when success comes, make sure it is not you who is seen as having helped only because you wanted the credit.

Now it is true that even if you are the model employee, you may not get promoted, a raise, or even a thank you.   In that case, you can decide that it is time to leave and should get yourself someplace where you are appreciated and excited about your work.    Until then, acting poorly doesn’t increase the odds of anything good happening to you.  It might even give rise to a poor reference.   So, think about it.  Staying on the high road is the more logical plan – for your own sense of well-being, and for your career.

Other related articles

Why Employees Hate Their Bosses, from

7 Things Great Employees Do, by Steve Tobak

7 traits managers find irresistible, by Steve Tobak

Are you sabotaging your own career? Probably, by Steve Tobak


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