12 Most Essential Traits to Thrive at Work

12 Most Essential Traits to Thrive at Work

Any job in the modern economy – where brains trump brawn – have some things in common. These days, we all need these 12 traits to thrive at work:

1. Persistence

The devastating effects of the Great Recession on employment continue to hover over job seekers like storm clouds. It takes almost limitless persistence to find a job. That attribute, though, continues to be critical on the job, as well. Being persistent often leads to a new project, a promotion or other opportunities. Keep at it!

2. Humor

No, work is not the place for bawdy stand-up comedy. And we’ve all worked with, or heard about, a guy or gal who couldn’t resist sharing inappropriate jokes. That’s not humor, that’s harassment. The idea with this one is that a jovial comment, a lighthearted remark or well-timed laugh at work tends to make the place, and the people there, happier.

3. Discretion

Be the person a colleague can confide in, with trust. It shows you have integrity. You just might also end up hearing more of the goings on at work precisely because you’re not a tattler. If you can’t help yourself from gossiping, make sure you stop yourself from blasting the boss in the office or on social media, outside of work hours. Not. Smart.

4. Common sense

So very essential. And yet, not nearly common enough.

5. Maturity

This doesn’t refer to age, but behavior and mannerisms. Remember Ron Burgundy from the movie Anchorman? So, this is the opposite of that.

6. Independence

An independent employee who’s effective also collaborates. Independence, in this case, doesn’t mean being a loner or a know-it-all. What it does mean is someone who knows when to proceed on task with his or her ample skills and talent.

7. Confidence

Nuance matters here. Confidence is not arrogance. Confident people take risks and forge ahead. But they also are self-assured enough to know when they don’t know the best way. And then they seek input from others.

8. Reliability

On the job, those who do what they’re supposed to, when they are supposed to do it, move up. Those who don’t get moved out.

9. Flexibility

Employees are humans, not robots. The best bosses and workers have the flexibility to grant an exception or rebalance the load, depending on circumstances. Colleagues who give others some slack will often get it when they need it, too.

10. Purpose

Finding purpose through and in your work is vital. If that isn’t present for you, it’s probably a sign you’re not in the right place or field. Enjoyable work has a sense of purpose woven into it.

11. Grace

Grace enhances just about any situation. Make a mistake? Get an award? Notice a colleague is having a bad day? Act with grace.

12. Perception

Observe with skill and listen closely. Sure, speaking up has its place. But all of us at work should hone our ability to perceive. Paying attention yields all kinds of dividends.

How many of these traits do you think you already have? And which ones could use some more practice?
I’m interested to hear the attributes you think we all need on the job. Let me know your suggestions.

Featured image courtesy of  sebastien.barr via  Creative Commons.

Becky Gaylord


Becky worked as a reporter for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C.; Sydney, Australia; and Cleveland, Ohio for major publications including the New York Times, Salon.com, Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, and was Associate Editor of the Plain Dealer's Editorial Page before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC. The company helps clients improve their external relations and communication and increase their influence and impact. Becky blogs about that (a few other things) at Framing What Works.

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Brian, thanks for the endorsements of several of these. I think many of these traits are hard to display consistently. But I do think that practicing them regularly makes them easier to tap when needed. (Except maybe for humor?) Oh, and yep, as kooky as it is, I am a fan of Anchorman. 


First, I will admit to something - I still have not seen Anchorman! Gotta rectify that someday. Now back to your post - I enjoyed it immensely. There is a reason why Reader's Digest had Laughter is the Best Medicine. A smile and an easy laugh goes a long way to helping out company morale. I also like the recent T-shirt/bumper sticker slogan: Common Sense is so rare these days that it should be considered a super-power! No amount of intelligence or work ethic can consistently succeed without common sense. Finally, Integrity is one of my favorite virtues that I dedicated an entire blog post to that virtue. And Grace is something that is always in short supply. Some come by that gift naturally, and others need to have grace extended to them before they "get it".

Martin D Redmond
Martin D Redmond

Nice post. It's always great to have reminders in an article such as this.