Top 3 Must-Have Workplace Behaviors

In career coaching, we talk alot about KSAs: knowledge, skills, and abilities. These are the traits that a job requires in order for you to do that function adequately. They’re absolutely essential to federal job applications, but you’ll see them on pretty much any job posting anywhere. And they are important, but I also consider a couple of other attributes when I’m coaching my clients. Let’s talk about workplace behaviors and habits.

This is more than just getting to work on time and being where you say you’ll be when you say you’ll be there. (Although those are important, too!) They can help address not just what you need to know, and be able to do in order to perform a job, but what traits make someone really successful at that, what sets them up to thrive in that work. When I’m hiring, and I’m faced with two equally capable and qualified candidates, sometimes I look next to the following behaviors to make the final call.

Team Orientation

No matter what I’m hiring you to do, you better be able to work as part of a team. I can’t think of a single line of work where you work exclusively on your own all of the time. If you’re an academic, I already know you work well independently. That is what you do in grad school! But how will you make the shift to working on a team? Are you cooperative? Collaborative? Ready to share wins as part of a team, or trying to claim glory for yourself?

Behavioral indicators for me that you’re team oriented are: you make eye contact with and give equal attention to everyone seated at the table. You are able to toss your own solution aside when someone suggests a better one. You stay within your lane and don’t try to take over or redo someone else’s task. And you listen (and not just speak).

Sharing Results

We all want to do a really good job at what we do, and produce high-quality work, especially academics. And that’s great! But what isn’t great is when perfect is the enemy of good. I can’t tell you how many academics struggle with needing something to be “perfect” before they share a draft of it for feedback or add it to the shared server.

As a manager, this hoarding drives me batty! There have been so many times where I have to just butt in and say let’s take a look at XYZ – so that I can coach and steer you back into the correct lane if you’re veering off course! When I first started managing, I would let my staff work on something in a silo and check in only close to the deadline. Boy was that a mistake! I would find that what I needed wasn’t quite what they were making, or that what they were working on was SO much more detailed or complicated than what I needed. Or really far off the mark.

I think the willingness to share what you’re working on – and be okay with it being in a draft state, or a bit of a “mess” – is definitely a behavior that indicates you are willing to be coached, receptive to feedback, and flexible.


This probably isn’t surprising, given my coaching orientation. But I really need my staff to be coachable. Even if you come in to a job on my team knowing the field, and the tool kit, and have the skills, I still need you to learn the ways of my team, and be willing to learn and conform to the organizational culture. You should be confident, but not arrogant. Possess expertise, but never be condescending. Lead by example by following our processes and procedures. And having the patience – and a wide enough lens – to realize that just because you have mad academic credentials doesn’t guarantee you a certain salary, promotion, or level of authority.

What would make your top 3 list of Key Workplace Behaviors? Let me know!

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