People & Human Resources

The 15 traits of ideal co-workers: How many do you know?

Eve Ash /

Ahh, the ideal co-worker. How many do you know?

The good news is we’re all likely to encounter one or two such paragons somewhere along the line.

In reality, most people are nearing perfection when they make the effort to exercise several or more of the following traits.

1. Pride in their workplace

They pick up items lying around, they tidy things that are out of place, they put things away after use. This makes for a welcoming, serviceable office, but it’s better still when everyone is tasked with the responsibility of keeping the place clean.

2. Offer you things at right times

Beverages and food when you are frantic, running errands when you are exhausted. They are intuitive and thoughtful  no more needs be said. Just be sure you return the favours as they will need pick-me-ups on occasion.

3. Help you when you’re stuck

Sometimes you cannot solve a problem, no matter how hard you try — luckily an ideal co-worker will reach out and offer practical help. As the old saying goes, ‘two heads are better than on’. Sometimes you just need someone to listen while you think aloud. The ideal co-worker gets it and is willing to contribute however they can.

4. Calming influence

They know what to say and do to make you feel peaceful rather than more stressed. Such people are observant and compassionate. They have spent years experiencing different work climates and seeing where the multiple pressure points are. They know what to say, and when, and their calm aura radiates to the extent you end up seeking these special people out when you are feeling overloaded.

5. Take on extra

While others disappear or leave as the clock strikes, they stay back to help. These enlightened types know the glow of giving and you will frequently see them going the extra mile to make sure projects and products are safely delivered. Reward them by ensuring that the workload is shared, and properly.

6. Communicate clearly

This makes them a pleasure to deal with. The person who speaks plainly and with clarity is invariably appreciated, compared to someone long-winded. When they also deploy tact and consideration, they are someone you always respect and want to work with every day.

7. Open to change

Even with bad news or a sudden change of direction, they get on with it without complaining.  Alright, they might grumble a little, but grumbling, if it’s not excessive or habitual, is quite reasonable.

Humans can find big change overwhelming; incremental changes are easier to deal with. The ideal co-worker instinctively knows this, and in managing their own reactions, helps set the pace for others.

8. Honest and ethical

They’re prepared to occasionally dish unpalatable truths, particularly if others are being slack with responsibilities or making things up as they go. The ideal co-worker is not going to go along with any charade and may call out dishonesty when they see it. Don’t shoot the messenger; pay heed to their message.

9. Don’t gossip and run people down

They recognise the big trap a gossip is setting for themselves. They may raise their eyebrows at someone’s shenanigans, and they may perfect the well-timed shrug when an exhibitionist colleague tells an off-colour joke, but they resist the lure of ganging up on others.

10. Reliable and punctual

The ideal co-worker gets what’s required to keep office admin, processes and relationships well-lubricated. Being late and inconsistent is the best way to soon be overlooked don’t reward such behaviour.

11. Problem-solvers

They make suggestions for how to fix things innovate. This trait is not always apparent because no colleague has all 15 traits, but the problem-solvers among us are definitely superstars. The key is to spot those with that aptitude, encourage them to speak up more, and give them tasks from the ‘too-hard’ basket.

12. Fun and energised

They are not moody, lethargic and they don’t drag people down. Many would agree with this, simply because life is hard enough without grouches and whiners. They bring their own energy to the team and this rubs off on others who feel uplifted and themselves get energised.

13. Self-directed (but a team player)

Initiative and autonomy are praiseworthy qualities and more is always needed in busy, complex workplaces. Be careful though, as some ‘self-directed’ types do not like taking direction from others and may need to be reminded they are part of a team. Self-direction combined with flexibility and a team mindset gets an A-plus.

14. Attention to detail

They like to get it right and can be relied on to check their work. However, if attention to detail becomes obsessive, this positive trait can become a negative one. The ideal co-worker has attention to detail but doesn’t get emotional and angry with those who are less inclined.

15. Show passion and enthusiasm for work and life

They treasure enthusiasm and help co-workers to harness passion.

Enthusiasm is desirable in the work environment. It’s contagious when people tackle things with gusto and enjoyment.

Are you an ideal co-worker?

As well as thinking about how those around you fare against this list, have a think about yourself too. Do you tick some or all of these boxes? How can you improve?

This article was originally published on May 16, 2016.

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Eve Ash

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.

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