Transparency and Accountability:
The Non-Negotiable Traits of a Successful Employee

See also: Self-Motivation

Making yourself indispensable to an employer is the best way to enjoy job security and to make progress in your career.

This is easy to assert, but tougher to achieve unless you know what businesses value in their workers. As such, it’s important to think about the traits you should foster and aspire to in order to excel.

There are lots of attributes that are common across all successful employees, some of which are more impactful than others. So, let’s take a look at the qualities that are absolutely non-negotiable.

Three young women employees

The power of being transparent

At many times it can feel easier to obfuscate and twist the truth, usually to hide an issue that you hope will resolve itself, or for fear that honesty might put you at a disadvantage.

However, transparency is a valuable character trait in the workplace, coming into its own in all sorts of contexts.

Honest employees will not shy away from asking questions when the processes, procedures and policies of a business are falling short. This should lead to revisions and improvements.

Likewise, if you let your manager know that you are struggling to cope with the current work-life balance that your role presents you with, or you are finding it difficult to meet deadlines, action can be taken. The alternative is much worse; keeping quiet about concerns until it is too late, because something has to give, whether it is in your professional or personal life.

Then there is the opportunity to be truthful when feeding back on your employer and your experiences there. This might be as part of an internal performance review, or it could be when providing a JobSage rating for prospective new hires to read. The point in all of this is that transparency will get results and catalyze change, while internalizing issues will hamper your development and also affect others.

The role of accountability

Transparency is one thing, but accountability as an employee is the other side of the same coin. Just as you need to be capable of calling out the conundrums you encounter, it also pays to be accountable for your own actions.

This of course means making sure that the responsibilities that come with your role are fulfilled wherever possible, and that if you fall short you own up to your mistakes rather than trying to blame anything else.

It also means recognizing how your actions impact others, and being big enough to admit that your behavior might not always be in line with your own values and ideals, or those of the organization.

This is definitely a fine line to tread. Successful employees are not obstinate, but neither are they pushovers. When problems and conflicts arise, they need to listen to others and look for a mature resolution, while holding their ground where it matters.

As suggested, this transparency and accountability must also come from the employer. If management has a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach, then this is a real red flag. And as you climb the corporate ladder, you have to remember the lessons you learned early in your career and carry them forward with you, rather than passing the buck because it is within your remit to do so.

The crucial capability of collaboration

Working with others is common across every business, and even if you have sky-high ambitions for your career, you will not make progress if you are not able to collaborate as part of a team.

Being a team player requires a few sub-traits and skills that should go together to improve productivity, including:

  • Delegation without interference - giving others tasks to take care of and resisting the urge to micromanage their every move.

  • Effective communication – talking to colleagues about the goals you have for a given project, and how you can achieve them together.

  • Constructive criticismgiving and receiving feedback in a sensitive, positive way that will move a project in the right direction without causing upset.

  • Employee recognition – singling out the successes and achievements of individuals within a team, as well as of the team as a whole, rather than allowing milestones and breakthroughs to fly by uncelebrated.

Of course, you probably already have something on your resume about working well as part of a team. This may feel like a bit of a throwaway inclusion, but it is also an aspect that employers might actually call you on in an interview. It makes sense to have examples of how your collaborative capabilities have been put through their paces in the past to back this up.

The traction provided by good time management

It is perfectly possible to clock on in the morning, spend eight hours in the office and then go home at the end of the day without really having made optimal use of your time at work.

If you are content to while away your working life in this way, go ahead. Just don’t expect your career trajectory to ever go parabolic.

Employers all want to hire people who have excellent time management skills. The more you can do with the hours you work in a day, the more valuable you are.

This flies in the face of the idea that you need to spend late nights and early mornings at your desk to show that you are working ‘hard’. In reality this might be more of a sign that you are making inefficient use of your time.

Another advantage of employees that are able to master time management is that this has a knock-on effect for the entire organization. Just as inefficient individuals can bring otherwise on-schedule projects to a grinding halt, so too the most productive members can catalyze projects and help others do their jobs better.

Time management is not just about squeezing as many tasks into as short a period as possible; it is also reliant on your ability to prioritize responsibilities effectively. Organizing your day so that you fulfill the most important responsibilities on your plate is better than tackling tasks with no rhyme or reason.

The appeal of ambition

Every successful person, no matter their field, is ambitious. You need that spark that drives you to do better every day, and moreover you have to be unafraid to show it, especially in a business setting.

So long as your ambition does not get the better of you and negatively impact others, it should be cherished. Indeed, it is attractive to employers because they will benefit from hiring ambitious individuals, so long as they also give them the support they need to thrive and progress over time.

Setting goals and striving to achieve them, without expecting to be handed anything on a plate by your employer, will put you ahead of lots of other candidates.

Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Further Reading from Skills You Need

Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Learn more about emotional intelligence and how to effectively manage personal relationships at home, at work and socially.

Our eBooks are ideal for anyone who wants to learn about or develop their interpersonal skills and are full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

Final thoughts

While all of the aspects of successful employees discussed are usually referred to as ‘soft skills’, you should not be complacent about their significance because of how wishy-washy this term makes them sound.

Education, training and on-the-job experience relevant to your chosen career path all count for a lot. But if you have all this on top of these traits, your ascent will happen all the quicker.

About the Author

Cristina Par is a content specialist with a passion for writing articles that bridge the gap between brands and their audiences. She believes that high-quality content plus the right link building strategies can turn the tables for businesses small and large.