Life at Work

Staffers' Superhero Skills

By Amy Joyce
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 17, 2005

This is the final column in a series of four where you, dear readers, shed some light on the good, the bad and the ugly of the workplace. In the first column, you shared with us what you didn't like about your supervisors. The next column was about what you thought made a good manager. Two weeks ago, it was time for managers to point out common worker mistakes.

Now, for this week's column, we end on a good note. I asked you, as managers, to share your experiences with stellar employees and how their traits could perhaps teach all of us a little something.

It was refreshing to hear all the positive experiences floating around in the workplace.

Kate Premo in New York wrote to tell me about a worker who was lent to her from another executive to help with a project updating the Web site for Niermann Weeks, a high-end home furnishing company based in Annapolis.

"Dan definitely had the skills to handle this project, but he turned out to be a great employee on this project for three other reasons:

"1) He had the confidence to propose some new ideas, many of which worked out really well and helped advance our marketing program.

"2) He had the grace to accept when his ideas weren't right for the project. He never whined or complained, but instead would say, 'Hmm, okay, I'll try something else.'

"3) He never seemed to lose his sense of humor, but he was never disrespectful or snarky.

"The combination of skill, innovation, grace and humor really helped us make the most of this highly visible project. In fact, Dan did such an amazing job on this project that I felt comfortable recommending him to associates of mine for freelance work on the side!"

Then, Premo added, because he did such a smart, efficient job, she practiced her good manager moves and sent e-mails to Dan's boss, as well as the company's human resources director, president and chief executive "stressing how much he contributed to this project. These e-mails took only a couple of minutes, but they made a big difference for Dan -- and really, after all he did to help with this project, it was the least I could do."

Sure, Dan was doing what he was asked to do, but he took charge of his own work, he listened and he worked hard. And Premo was great to e-mail the higher-ups, something that shows not every good deed gets punished.

Sandra Slappey, a social worker at a human services consulting firm in Northern Virginia, has hired many college students. Through trying to help them, she has learned a few things she thinks are relevant for all employees, "including myself," she wrote.

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