Even if you're already a good employee, there's always something you can do to get better. Whether that's gaining a skill, having a better attitude, or something less concrete, we can all strive to improve in the coming year.
There are, of course, hard skills you can gain that make you a better employee. Learning a new language or taking a coding class may benefit you and your employer. Here, three Motley Fool contributors are going to focus on ways you can be a better employee that's more about mindset.
Changing how you think about your job and how you approach work can pay big dividends. And even if it doesn't, making these three improvements will certainly make you a better co-worker, as well as a better employee.
A positive attitude
Selena Maranjian: A positive attitude may not seem like a skill, but for many people who aren't naturally born with one, it's a skill that's well worth developing. Imagine, for a moment, the opposite of it -- a bad attitude. Few people enjoy working with a cranky, negative, glass-half-empty kind of person. Sure, a little snarkiness might be amusing, but too much of it can make a toxic workplace.
So imagine instead having a positive attitude. It's very helpful in a workplace setting, as it can be contagious. If you and your colleagues have a task to accomplish, seeing it as doable can help others see it that way, too. Being enthusiastic about your work and your workplace can make your job more enjoyable and can have others enjoying working with you.
A positive attitude when dealing with customers is helpful, too, improving their experience with you and your company. Bosses also like to see positive attitudes, and having one can enhance your performance evaluations and may even lead to your being seen as promotion material.
What if you're more of a doubter and nay-sayer, though? Well, aim to turn your attitude around by thinking in a different way. If you're annoyed by some co-workers, think more generously about them. Remember that they may be dealing with troubles in their life and may be doing the best they can.
If you're given a challenging task, instead of focusing on how hard it is and how you may not be able to get it done well or on time, think about what's needed in order to succeed. If you're given a task you feel is beneath you, resolve to do it extremely well instead of just grumbling about it. Focusing on things that are going well and things that you're grateful for can also help improve your outlook, as can maintaining a healthy sense of humor.
Maurie Backman: No matter your line of work, it's easy to find yourself with too much on your plate, and not enough time to get everything done. That's why learning how to get organized is essential to being more productive and making better use of your limited time in the office.
While being organized might come naturally to some people, for others, it's very much a work-in-progress. If you fall into the latter category, why not cheat a little? There are a host of apps out there that can help you remain focused on key tasks and stay on track with deadlines. Todoist, for example, is good for quick reminders, while Trello can help you pull off a project with multiple moving parts. And one of my personal favorites is Google Keep, which allows you to organize various thoughts, tasks, and lists, whether it's groceries or the things you need to do at work.
There's a physical component to being organized on the job, too. Avoid clutter at your desk, and maintain a filing system so you don't end up tossing essential documents or paperwork. A well-ordered workspace can set the tone for a more focused approach to getting your job done, and that's a skill that will help you stand out in any working environment.
Being a team player
Daniel B. Kline: In my younger days, I was good at getting my job done, but I was a lousy team player. It's not that I worked poorly with others; it's that I valued my own success (or perceived success) over the idea of seeing everybody do well. In thinking that way, I may have pushed my own agenda ahead, but it was sometimes by sacrificing the overall success of the team.
Being a team player means putting the success of the team ahead of personal goals. That sounds easy, but sometimes it involves sacrifice.
To put things in sports terms, a team player will sacrifice-bunt instead of swinging for the fences or be willing to sit on the bunch when a situation calls for another player to step in. Doing that may worsen your individual statistics, but it can help your team win.
The same is true in the working world, though the situations may not be as obvious. Maybe you step aside so a colleague can gain needed experience, or perhaps you ask for help in a situation you could probably handle, but a colleague definitely can.
Putting the team first isn't always rewarded by employers, at least in the short term. In the long run, however, focusing on group success is likely to get noticed -- and it will certainly make you a more popular co-worker. Eventually, most bosses should notice as well, and everyone should benefit from your efforts to be more of a team player.