9 ways to be a better employee in 2019

Your manager may not ever divulge any of these strategies, but they can help make you one of the most indispensable people in the office.

9 ways to be a better employee in 2019
[Photo: Flickr user Creativity103]

By the time you read this, you may have already resolved to get fit, quit a bad habit, and be an all-around better person in 2019. But experts tell us that few of these resolutions will stick, in part because we humans tend to make sweeping statements rather than real commitments rooted in values, interests, and beliefs.


But what if those resolutions were tied to your paycheck? Resolving to be a better employee might make all the difference in your level of engagement, simply because they might play a big role in that promotion or raise you’re gunning for this new year. With that in mind, we polled leaders across industries to hear their wisdom on how we can make effective change that will cast our work in the best light in 2019. Here’s what they told us:

Be the CEO of your career

“Take ownership of your role and your development. Be the CEO of your career. Where to start? Look to your peers and ask yourself what are the best, most talented people in your role doing and how do your skills stack up? Make a list (an actual, literal list) of those skills and then answer these questions for yourself:

  • Where do I want to improve?
  • What actionable steps can I take to make that improvement?
  • Where do I need my manager’s help?

Then take your list and your answers to your manager and ask her what she thinks. Expect a conversation about what’s possible in the context of the broader business. That might sound scary, but any boss worth her salt would love it if you do this.”


–Cheryl Roubian, head of people at Greenhouse 

Up your emotional intelligence quotient

“Everybody has the ability to become an expert in their field; the key is to master the ability to work with people and find comfort in uncertainty. These are the athletic abilities that I think you need to be successful.”

–Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm


Embrace an innovation mindset

“Embrace an innovation mindset, which means being able to think about the work you do with fresh eyes and a willingness to reinvent yourself through a strong commitment to continuous learning. It also means living a commitment to inclusion and diversity, because innovation requires diversity of thought and experience–and makes everyone stronger.”

–Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture North America

Acknowledge failure up front

“Failure can be a good thing. Acknowledging it can provide valuable learning opportunities that in turn drive growth and innovation. As an employee, don’t be afraid to try something that hasn’t been done before–to look critically at the tools and processes in place and challenge what they are and what they could be. I realize this may be easier said than done, especially in a culture where it may not be as safe to fail. But in that case, do what you can to push the envelope in your organization, on your team. Take the initiative to try something new while acknowledging the risk of failure up front. Doing so will not only help you improve as an individual employee, but it will also elevate your team and organization.”


–Vijay Sankaran, CIO at TD Ameritrade

Make sure you get enough rest

“Try to get eight hours of sleep each night. Even if you come up a little short, you’ll still be doing better than most. While it’s been well documented how little sleep executives get, that can be toxic for both them and their workforce. Sleep sharpens our memory, helps us learn more and make better decisions, and even prevents longer-term health risks like Alzheimer’s disease. So do yourself a favor–put your phone down and get to bed. You’ll be more productive at work and on your way to living a longer, healthier life.”

–Roger Crandall, CEO of MassMutual


Make the open office work for you

“If your office is an open concept, you need to make it work for you by figuring out how, when, and where you can be most productive in this environment. For instance, if you’re a morning person, consider coming into the office an hour early to get some work done, or talk to your manager about working from home once a week if that will lead to increased productivity for you. Also consider using noise-canceling headphones to tune out the chaos–no matter how your office is laid out. Headphones help with concentration while serving as “do not disturb” signals to coworkers. Finally, to be a better team player–and save your sanity–in 2019, consider taking advantage of phone rooms or other private areas to avoid the pitfalls of the open office.”

–Andee Harris, president of YouEarnedIt/HighGround

Give yourself a performance review

“You can’t change what you don’t see. We all have blind spots, so developing a practice of asking your colleagues for feedback can be a great way to better understand how you might be getting in your own way.”


–Shonna Waters, regional vice president of Behavioral Science at BetterUp

Remote workers: make communication your top priority

“Clear, regular communication with your colleagues and your manager will define you as a reliable, effective remote worker, and it gives you the chance to tell people what you’re accomplishing and advocate for yourself, including promotions or raises. Get into the habit of regularly communicating what you’re working on to your manager and colleagues who might need to know, AND asking them what you can help them with. The remote companies we’ve interviewed all say that communication is critical for high-performance remote workers and teams.”

–Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs and


Make meetings more inclusive

“Make sure each person has a chance to speak up without interruption. If one person has been silent, for example, find a way to draw him or her into the conversation. You could also consider a rotating meeting facilitator so every team member has an opportunity to take the lead. Think about your icebreakers, too. Not everyone will relate to football or kids. Before meetings, I try to think of one thing the whole group has in common, like upcoming travel plans or favorite meals, so everyone can contribute.”

–Pratima Arora, head of Confluence at Atlassian


About the author

Lydia Dishman is a staff editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. She has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.