In march I am starting to work for 20 hours. My contract is a kind of freelancer contract. This is my first "real" work and basically I am doing this, because on the one hand I have to finance my life besides studying and on the other hand I really want to work in that industry later on.

However, my (future) chief made clear in the interview that if I am really good at my job there will be eventually an opportunity to work fulltime later. I definitely want to do the job as good as I can!

However, for me the question comes up: So what what makes a good worker good? Which qualities does such a person have? Please share your experiences on what I should focus in my position?

I appreciate your replies!


I am starting to work in operational risk management in a bank.

  • A good worker causes his employer's business to rise. – user11026 Feb 5 '14 at 20:08
  • You might want to have a discussion with this future manager, and ask them about exactly what is necessary for you to get the full-time offer. Only this person knows what will make you "good" in this situation. The rest of us can only offer generalities, and guess. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Feb 5 '14 at 20:50

I would say the things to look out for are reliability, attitude, professionalism and achievements.

When you are junior, reliability and attitude are most important. This means you need to show up on time and stay as long as you are expected to be there. This means you do not create problems for your boss by not filling in timesheets, leaving and not letting him know, taking the day off without prior approval (unless you are genuinely sick and even then you let him know) and doing the tasks you are given on time and as correct as you can make them. It also means, that if other circumstances might prevent you from being on time in a deliverable, that you let him know as soon as possible and what is causing the problem (it is his job to clear roadblocks).

It generally means that you should ask questions rather than make assumptions. And it defintely means you consider what he wants as much more important than anything your peers tell you. It means no off-color jokes. It means no surfing the internet for fun when you have work overdue. It means you communicate with your boss rather than leaving him in the dark. It means you never give flip answers like "I've got it covered" when he asks for status.

It means that you learn first (and have a reputation for delivering the goods) before trying to suggest improvements. Concentrate first and formost on doing the tasks you are given and the freedom to influence the workplace will come after you have a track record.

As you get more experienced, more is expected and more freedom of action is often allowed. Then you need to have a solid record of achievements. You also need to show professional behavior and dress so that he would not be ashamed for a client to be in a meeting with you. It also means that you start to genuine expertise in both the profession you are in and the business domain.

If you want to be a good worker you also tend to go the extra mile and do a bit more than you are tasked to do. Now you have to use judgement and not do anything you were specifically told not to do. As you progress through your career, you will learn what kinds of things are ones that you can show initiative on and what are not. This varies from organization to organization as well and you need to learn to watch and listen and judge what the organizational culture expects form a good worker. However, this is somethign you develop over time, no one expects this from a junior part-time employee before offering a full-time job.

It also means you need to learn to pay at least minimal office politics. Your boss doesn't know you are a good worker if you never let him know what you have done. If you don't communicate your successes, all he will hear about are your failures (and we all have some of those.) It is even better if other people tell him what a good job you are doing. So when you do something for someone outside your immediate boss, make sure they tell him if they are happy with it. Smart employees build up a bank of favors so that when they need one, someone is always willing to help them out because they were helped out first.

Another thing you need to do is leave your personal negative opinions of people at the door. It doesn't matter if you dislike someone on your team, you are expected to work with them and get along. You won't be seen as a good worker if you express a lot of negativelity at work or if you can't work well with anyone not just people your own age or that you like.

Each workplace wil be somewhat differnt is what is expected. The best way to know what your boss wants is to talk to him about it.


So what what makes a good worker good? Which qualities does such a person have? Please share your experiences on what I should focus in my position?

This is certainly something you want to discuss with your new boss. While there are attributes that generally make a worker "good" in many contexts, what makes you good to your boss, your company, and ultimately your profession is very context-dependent.

In general, I value

  • Punctuality
  • Honesty
  • Strong work ethic
  • Willingness to do more than asked
  • Actually caring about the work (I think this is very important)
  • Working well with others

But your position may have other attributes that are most important.

  • Thx for your answer! What do you mean by Strong work ethic? – Kare Feb 5 '14 at 20:26
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    Let me give you an example. Your boss gives you a task that he expects to take a week. You finish it in 20 hours. The person with the strong work ethic goes to the boss and asks for more work, the one without plays for the next 20 hours until the task is due. – HLGEM Feb 5 '14 at 21:13
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    Good answer. I'll add one more item: Do your work well enough that your colleagues see you as a source of solutions, not a source of difficulty. Make it easy to work with you. – Wesley Long Feb 5 '14 at 22:01

There are some basics like being on time to work, performing tasks as asked and sometimes getting stuff done before being asked in some cases, being respectful to the people around you, and remembering what paperwork has to be done. Being enthusiastic and responsible are often good qualities.

Communicate expectations so that you know where the bar is in terms of what is expected of you. When are deadlines for various tasks? Learn about the work and how it helps the company do better which while that may sound simple, it can vary as different roles will do different things. For example, someone in an Information Systems department may be responsible for making sure the systems run well while someone in Sales may be responsible for finding new leads and generating revenue.


Enthusiasm. Just being happy and interested in what you are doing will help massively.

Also, try to agree a 1 to 1 meeting with your manager every month or so. This way you will know what you are doing well and what you can improve. Don't fight the negatives too hard, just try to improve on them and your boss will appreciate it.

  • I talk to my boss daily, wating for onece a month is a recipe for disaster. – HLGEM Feb 5 '14 at 21:14
  • Yes I also talk to my boss daily, but having a specific 1 on 1 meeting to discuss performance, targets etc is what I mean. – Fiona - myaccessible.website Feb 5 '14 at 21:15
  • I bring this up becasue I have seen many junior people who don't talk to their boss at all if they can help it and this is a major mistake. – HLGEM Feb 5 '14 at 21:16

It is based on your ability to find out what your boss thinks is good. They may tell you, but you can't believe it. They say just get more customers, but bury you in report requests. You can ask, but they'll continue to tell you to get more customers followed by an update on the report request. You really have to pay attention to what they say and what they do so you learn what is truly important.

When you learn this, you prioritize what you need to do and then get it done.

Example: Your boss tells you to fill out a time-sheet. Wouldn't it be great to know that your boss compiles the data from his team's time-sheets and has a Monday morning meeting with his boss and has to defend the billable-hours. Unfortunately, the team is wasting too much time itemizing their entire day instead of doing more work for clients.

It seems obvious most bosses would focus on what's important, but everybody has many tasks come their way and no boss is going to plan your entire day every day. It can become a complex matrix of different things to do, at different times, requested by a hierarchy of people. Pay attention and try to follow their Rule of thumb. It's not easy.

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