Professionalism, a strong work ethic, enthusiasm, and a team-first attitude are among the most desirable employee traits.
Whether you’re working at a large international corporation, an emerging startup, or a small business, exhibiting great work habits is key to impressing your business manager and boosting your career. Regardless of how long you have been in your field, the overarching principles are the same: Act professionally, show interest, and work hard.
Here are eight work habits that can help you gain the attention and appreciation of business management at your organization:
1. Be punctual and professional.
Few things frustrate a boss more than chronically late employees. Come to work dressed professionally and on time (10 minutes early is even better!). Don’t watch the clock. Stay late when projects or assignments call for it.1,2 Research shows that business managers view employees that arrive early to work as more conscientious and give them better scores on performance reviews. Meanwhile, arriving later and staying later doesn’t make the same impression.3
2. Respect and achieve deadlines.
Adhering to deadlines might be the most critical habit you can cultivate in your career. It shows professionalism and a mastery of your work, as well as respect for your organization, leadership, and teammates. When managers can trust you to complete your work well and within deadlines, you boost their reputations.4 When you fail to meet expectations and deadlines, you embarrass leadership, making business managers look ineffective and you a target for dismissal.2
3. Proactively learn skills.
One of the most effective ways to impress your boss is to proactively seek out and gain new skills and professional certifications. While keeping abreast of trends in your field is useful for maintaining the job you have, if you want to move ahead in your career, you should attain the skills you’ll need for your next position. Pay attention to the skills your talented colleagues have and, perhaps more importantly, those you see in the personnel in the managerial positions to which you aspire. You might also consider studying subjects that are knowledge gaps within your department and ones your manager praises and admires on a regular basis.5
4. Anticipate needs.
If you foresee imminent issues or needs for your department or team, speak up and share them with your manager. You’ll not only demonstrate your valuable insight, but also showcase your understanding of “big picture” business strategy, both of which are key managerial traits. Sharing this information also helps cement your reputation as a team player.6
5. Take initiative on projects.
After a need has been identified, you can strengthen your manager’s impression of you by taking initiative on related assignments and projects. This may include volunteering for assignments during less busy periods, or starting work on upcoming tasks that may eventually be allocated to you anyway. Other times, it might mean pitching a project of personal interest that will allow you to gain new skills or subject matter expertise. Regardless, your enthusiasm to create work for yourself will go above and beyond your job description and command your boss’s attention.4,6
6. Ask smart questions.
Asking intelligent questions is another great way to demonstrate your worth at work. When you ask questions, you not only learn more about your company, field, and industry, but you show that you’re learning and interested in your work.
Try to avoid asking too many questions, however. Bosses tire of answering the same questions repeatedly, so it is helpful to note the answers you receive so you can refer back to them later. Asking too many questions also gives the appearance of lacking confidence in your work or, even worse, ineptitude. Also, be cognizant of your manager’s time. An effective way to handle questions is to ask urgent ones when they arise and keep others batched on a notepad or in a document to refer to when there’s time to ask them.1
7. Admit mistakes.
One of the strongest ways an employee can show his or her worth is by owning up to mistakes. Everyone makes them, but the difference is how you deal with them moving forward. Let your boss know when you’ve made a mistake, and devise a plan to handle it and avoid a similar situation in the future. And don’t forget to apologize, but only once—there’s no reason to dwell on the error.4,7
8. Communicate effectively.
Managers appreciate employees with excellent communication skills. Whether it’s by engaging at appropriate times in meetings, regularly reporting progress on assignments, or reading social cues to choose an ideal time to talk, you will likely catch the eye of managers with these valuable soft skills.6 Your ability to communicate with many types of audiences, especially executives, is particularly respected.4