What an employer looks for in an employee

“There is no ‘try’”


As a small business owner, I classify employees in three categories:

  1. If employees have basic good qualities, I’d try to keep them through good times and bad.
  2. If they were “problem” employees I got rid of them very quickly.
  3. If employees had exceptional performance, they got the big raises, and I considered them as potential business partners.

Here’s a quick look at those three categories.

1) The basic good qualities

At a very basic level, a “good” employee is someone with these attributes:

  • They generally know how to do their job. (The level of supervision they need can vary depending on their experience.)
  • They show up for work every day.
  • There are no important problems with their personalities. In general they seem happy, and don’t spread discontent. (They’re not a “bad apple.”)
  • They seem to have a good work ethic, and will do what their boss asks of them.

If someone has these basic attributes, I’d consider them a decent employee, and they’ll get good (if not great) raises.

2) Problem employees

On the other end of the spectrum there are the “problem employees.” These employees have some of the following bad attributes that will get them fired, or will make them the first person to be laid off in a bad economy:

  • Some part of their personality is a problem. They don't fit in, they’re antisocial, constantly argumentative, they lead the gossip pool, they have a “can't-do, the sky is falling” attitude, etc.
  • They don't give you an eight-hour workday. They either take a lot of breaks, spend a lot of time socializing, or sneaking around doing personal things that don't pertain to work while they're being paid to work, or have other issues in their personal lives.
  • They don't know how to do their job, or get things done. I’ve fired several seemingly smart people who interview very well, but who just don’t deliver work.

3) The employees who get big raises and promotions

My final list shows the attributes of employees that get better raises and promotions than everyone else:

  • They have a positive, can-do, team-oriented personality and work ethic.
  • They get their work done with little or no supervision.
  • They proactively suggest ways to improve how things are done.
  • They may be the best at what they do.
  • They’re capable of leading or managing other people.

In my opinion, people who are problem solvers, team players, and generally seem to be happy will always be able to find a job.

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