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From Worst to First – Which Type of Worker Are You?

I once heard a speaker talk about the differing work ethics people have and it has stuck with me to this day. Through experience, I subtly developed my own classifications of workers in an effort to grow professionally. It’s self-improvement at its core – we should always be trying to better ourselves at home, work, and anywhere else.

Something I’ll never forget from that speaker was the moment I learned I wasn’t a #1 type of worker (yet!). He taped a hidden $100 bill to the bottom of a crushed soda can and set it down next to a garbage can near the hall entrance. No one, and especially not me, took the effort to pick up the can and toss it. Later on in the speech, he presented the can and asked how many people noticed it (almost everyone) before asking why no one took the effort to properly dispose of it.

The 4 Types of Workers

He went on to show everyone the $100 bill hiding on the bottom that they could have earned if they had simply just picked up the can to throw it away. Of all the lessons that could be learned from this, finding out which type of worker you are ranks near the top.

Everyone approaches work in a different way, and we’re about to find out what kind of worker you are. Don’t feel bad if you don’t measure up to Dave over there in Accounting. Like I said, you can always improve. If you’re an employer, this might help you determine who your best people are.

#4 – The Phantom

The Phantom is the worst kind of worker. I call them The Phantom because they are often nowhere to be found – here one minute, gone the next. This is the type of worker that actively hides from work. These people have you wondering frustratingly how they could possibly still have a job. They definitely do not take their job seriously and tend to disappear when work presents itself.

The Phantom misses deadlines and doesn’t responsibly call in, no matter what the reason is. Worse still, they usually take advantage of company perks the most and demand fair or special treatment simply for being present. They are oblivious to the efforts their coworkers put in and think what they contribute is acceptable. The Phantom almost never lasts very long in their job – and good riddance.

#3 – The Minimalist

The Minimalist is an improvement over The Phantom, but is still not the ideal type of worker. They do what they are told, but show no signs of initiative. The Minimalist doesn’t work much unless specifically told to. They learn and follow the easiest and most important rules, but ignore the rest in order to avoid being inconvenienced. They tend to fly just above the watchful radar of management, but a good manager still recognizes them for what they are.

Minimalist workers tend to require praise from co-workers and management to keep working at a level they consider decent enough to grow. They do meet the most important deadlines, but drop the ball on most others, hoping they go unnoticed. Minimalists get work done, though it’s sometimes prioritized incorrectly or completed with minimal effort. I am not afraid to admit that I was once a Minimalist during my earliest working years.

#2 – The Model Citizen

Far and away the most common type of worker is The Model Citizen. The Model Citizen shows up to the office each morning and gets to work. This type often asks what needs to be done and completes it. They are competent and meet most deadlines. When asked, they will help. It’s not uncommon that they sometimes seek recognition for accomplishments. The Model Citizen participates in projects and company events, but a small amount of them do so for the benefits of being noticed by coworkers and higher-ups.

The Model Citizen represents the standard, expected work ethic of our day. These are the types of workers that can really excel if the company culture and conditions are right. However, they are also the type that can become a Minimalist or Phantom after a prolonged period of frustration. Immediate managers have a lot to do with how The Model Citizen progresses in their job.

#1 – The Conqueror

Now the absolute best type of worker – The Conqueror. The Conqueror does not have to be told what to do on a regular basis. They always take the initiative and don’t have to ask for work. A Conqueror will find work and do it, often exceeding expectations. They find problems and take steps to solve them, sometimes before the problem is even noticed by anyone else.

The Conqueror follows all rules and processes and speaks up when something does not make sense. Help or assistance is offered to their coworkers whenever necessary. They try to understand how others work. They have a vision of success for themselves, their team, and their company. The Conqueror does not seek recognition for anything and humbly accepts it when given.

Remember the soda can lesson? A Conqueror picks up trash and cleans up messes, even if it’s not theirs or in their immediate office/workspace. They do “chores” without ever having to be asked. How many times have you picked up a piece of trash lying next to the garbage can near the entrance of your building? How many times have you wiped out the microwave or cleaned the counter?

Most CEOs, managers, and successful business people got where they are because they are a Conqueror.

Wrapping Up

Which one are you? Answer honestly and you’re more likely to grow in the future.

It’s important to note that the number of hours worked has nothing to do with each categorization. Conquerors may work less hours because they are efficient at what they do. The Phantom might be on the clock (note: not working) for extra hours to get a bigger paycheck or create an illusion of effort.

This list also transcends generations. The specific types of workers are not unique to just Boomers, Gen X’ers, Millennials, or any other. Each generation produces every kind of worker.

Finally, realize that no one is perfect. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but a good attitude is critical in becoming the #1 type of worker. Management can even play a role in cultivating great workers, especially within a strong and inclusive culture.

Can you imagine how successful your company could be if they were packed full of Conquerors?

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