Are you a star employee—an optimal performer in the workplace who stands out among industry colleagues? Everybody wants to shine at work, but not everyone does. Some workers have a natural knack for what it takes. But if you didn’t get the star gene, feel like your star is fading or are unsure what it takes, there are a number of things you can do to learn how to spit-shine and brighten your career.
4 Traits Of Star Employees
Initiative. Star employees tend to be highly invested in their careers. They have built-in initiative, consider work to be more than just a job and take initiative to go the extra mile. They put in more hours than needed. They enjoy both the process and outcome of working.
Collaboration. They are socially gregarious and have warm, outgoing relationships with co-workers and lend a helping hand to support colleagues who need it. They have a good collaborative sense and have mastered the art of delegating; whereas, fading stars have fewer friends, work best alone and sometimes have trouble working as a team.
Risk Taking. They are creative risk-takers willing to stretch beyond customary bounds to make a creative contribution to the team and organization; whereas, fading stars are motivated by fear and loss of status rather than high-level motivation and are reluctant to step outside their comfort zone and take the necessary risks to achieve positive, creative outcomes. Stars are masters of self-correction. When they make mistakes, they admit it and learn from them. Fading stars are unable to tolerate mistakes, and they try to avoid or cover them up.
Completion. Stars are intrinsically motivated, highly efficient and capable of seeing the big picture plus the details to see projects through to completion; whereas, fading stars tend to be inefficient, to get bogged down in details or fail to align with the company’s overall goals.
Implications From New Science-Backed Findings
A new study suggests thatThe Matthew Effect is alive and well in the workplace. This principle is based on the concept that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It says people who have an abundance of status are often placed in situations where they gain more, and those with status typically struggle to achieve more. In the new study, researchers at Cornell University found that when non-stars are paired with stars on what turns out to be a successful project, the non-stars tend to get less credit and less blame for their efforts than the stars. In other words, stars tend to overshadow non-stars—with both credit and blame—when they collaborate with non-stars.
"We look at what happens when you collaborate with a star in terms of whose getting credit when that collaboration is successful," said Dr. Rebecca Kehoe, lead author of the study. "What we find, and this is consistent with research on the Matthew effect and other work, is that if you collaborate with a star and that collaboration is successful, the star does get more of that credit and you benefit less than if you were working with somebody that wasn't a star. The silver lining here though is that if you collaborate with a star and that collaboration is not successful, the star takes the heat."
Another implication from this study is that non-stars are often accused of riding the coattails of stars which can reduce their status in the eyes of co-workers, managers and higher-ups. Thus, it might be prudent for non-star employees to hone the qualities of a star in their own right and aim for independent success. That way, their successes are less likely to be dampened by the advantaged employee, plus they position themselves to control their professional fate—either credit or blame for their individual contributions.
After all, that’s what turns an n0n-star into a star in the first place—as indicated by item three above—taking chances and sticking their necks out. The authors of the study conclude: “Therefore, we suggest that non-stars who can signal their competence with these independent status signals will achieve greater professional status attainment than will those lacking such signals following both collaborative success and collaborative failure with a star.”